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The August Breakfast Buzz drew an exuberant crowd for the fifth annual NWEN Idol Breakfast Buzz.  Three Idolists pitched their startups to the celebrity judge panel of Deb Hay (Altitude 7 Group), Jason Stoffer (Maveron LLC) and Erik Benson (Voyager Capital).


First Up.... Jeremy Luby, Talk to the Manager

Talk to the Manager lets independent restaurants interact with their patrons by allowing patrons to anonymously text the restaurant management and staff in real time.  Typically, restaurant patrons who are dissatisfied won’t confront the management or staff, but will go home and post a tirade on the Internet.  The problem is these online reviews, such as those on Yelp, can hurt small businesses by posting negative comments.  Talk to the Manager gives the restaurant management and staff a chance to respond before the patron leaves the restaurant.  Talk to the Manager costs $29 per month, went live in March and has over 40 locations.


Deb Hay:  What is the go to market strategy? 

A:  Talk to the Manager has used the press and social media.  The startup is now attempting to work through channels.  For example, it is trying to get Sysco to offer the service to restaurants.

Erik Benson:  Talk to the Manager should check out net promoter scores.  What is the benefit to the restaurant patron to tell someone at the restaurant what is happening?

A:  It gives the customer an immediate chance to express their dissatisfaction and to do it anonymously, instead of going home and putting something up on the web.

Jason Stoffer:  What kind of engagement are restaurants getting from their patrons?

A:  Pinocchio’s gets 2 to 3 texts a day.  Restaurants love engaging with their customers.


Second Up.... Chuks Onwuneme, Personify.it

Personify.it makes volunteering simple.  People would volunteer more if they knew what to do.  Currently, there is no way to connect people with similar interests in making a difference locally.  Personify.it connects you with people with similar interests and with opportunities around you.  It’s a mobile app, so you can find people and connect with them wherever you go. 


Jason Stoffer:  How are you building supply and demand?

A:  Personify.it is starting in Seattle, which is a good community to build this type of business.  There are many socially responsible businesses in Seattle.

Jason Stoffer:  What about the consumer side?

A:  Personify.it is using Pinterest and Facebook.

Erik Benson:  What is the business model?

A:  Personify.it has a tool to help businesses with corporate matching.  Companies pay a fee for Personify.it to host the platform.  The charge is based on the organization’s size.


Last Up.... Tiffany Reiss, TheHubEDU

TheHubEDU is an educational startup.  It fills a gap between current management systems and popular social networks.  The problem is disorganized information.  Relevant information is located in a number of different places.  Better organization leads to more engaged students and enhanced learning. 

Content wants to be collected and organized.  TheHubEDU uses a shelf system to organize content.  It has a mechanism for faculty and students to interact in a disciplined way.  TheHubEDU will charge an institutional subscriber rate.


Jason Stoffer:  What is your go to market strategy?

A:  They want to keep it free for faculty and students.  Long term, there will be an institutional subscription.  Short term, it will be an SaaS or freemium service.

Jason Stoffer:  What is the pain point of where the instructor says, “I need this”?

A:  The pain point is when the instructor needs to organize and put the information into context.

Erik Benson:  How do you get the user count up?  Yammer is a clear model.  How do you get network effects and viral effects?

A:  TheHubEDU is a great way to be interdisciplinary.  Students can follow faculty members from other disciplines.  The viral effects will be driven by the faculty.


The winner:  Personify.it! 

Thank you to the Idolists for their informative and fast-paced presentations!  Thank you to the celebrity judges for their time and expertise!


7 months ago