2011 finally ended. It went by faster and slower than I expected. Slower because so many things happened in this year and we got so much done, and faster because it felt like an instant and there were still so much more that we wanted to do!
This is an email that shares a bit on the journey we took, what led us to where we are today, and why we are doing what we are doing. When our company becomes so big that employees no longer recognize the names of everyone in the company, there is something that everyone can trace back to and see what happened among the Founding Members that built the kingdom together through hard work, persistence, faith, and loyalty towards each other.
And this is the story that will be remembered as books and movies are made about us 🙂
Now that you are all excited and ready, here is the Life of RewardMe in 2011 (I omit some names for privacy and confidentiality considerations):
Having conceptualized the idea RewardMe and pivoted from Viralogy 3 months ago, we finally launched our first QR Code Phone app product. We raised about $50K in the past year and are fighting hard to spread our product everywhere and raise more funding.
We were quickly implemented in 50 stores in Mountain View and Palo Alto with our QR Code product. We got relatively few signups and check-ins (looking back) but we were all excited about it and a small base of iPhone/Android users loved us. We made the mistake of scaling up too quickly before making 100% sure there is product/market fit, especially with the merchants. It was also by impressive fate that Adam Gervin, an Entrepreneur with $1B in exits and now our dear teammate, saw RewardMe at the store that was actually classified as a “lost cause” between Jun and Me due to poor check-ins, and liked it enough to approach us about working together. Vincent Ng, our sales helper in Vancouver, also decided to invest his own money in the company to push us forward.
We got our first 2000 check-ins! Adam also officially joined us. However, we were still tight on fundraising, especially after a particular investor giving us a blank check literally that got us into financial trouble. We pitched at many places and met with many investors, and most did the classic “show me more” or “come back later” stuff (and most of them regretted it heavily too…I’ve met a few of them 😉 )
Ashwin our intern joined us. Earlier he turned down a full-time offer from Goldman Sachs after graduating from Northwestern University, and became an Intern on our team. Now he is our designer and doing a great job. Ashwin’s first day here was our huge discussion on whether we should abandon our QR Code product and transition to a “tablet” solution that fulfills the same value proposition in a MUCH better way. This solution would allow 1. EVERYONE to take advantage of RewardMe, not just iPhone/Android users, and 2. Stores to reward people based on order value instead of frequency. It would also open a whole world of Online-to-Offline to our platform. Excitingly, we raised $200K from Investor A and $20K Investor B, right when funding was getting really tight.
We went to our first customer conference, the Multi-Unit Franchise Conference in Las Vegas! With our Chief Product Officer Steve’s demo with Brand A, we attracted many franchise brands, including Brand B and Brand C, with one being fully deployed with us right now and the other in deep discussions. We also officially moved in our new office, which was actually a 4-bedroom house that the team worked out of. It was an amazing upgrade from our subleased small office and the 2 Bedroom we worked out of and made the team extremely productive and working together. We also reiceived another investors’ $200K, as well as met with eventual investors like TeleNav, Auqeo, Investor C, and Investor D. Also, Patrick officially joins RewardMe and starts working on my.rewardme.com (now just regular RewardMe.com), and Gerald Fong (intern) joins us part-time and starts to work on Freshbook invoicing.
Justin Warmkessel, a developer that worked out of the other startup that we were subleasing from, officially left that startup and joined us! We now have a pretty complete Dev team to pump out a bunch of new features! We also won 1st place at the AlwaysOn OnMobile conference, eventually giving us the title of “Top 10 Private Companies to Watch in 2011”. At this point we started to work with a product designer from Taiwan to create our customer stands. We also started to work with POS Hero to see how powerful our product can be when it is fully integrated. Also Investor C puts in $25K.
Our team did a Root Beer Float + Worse Movie Competition Night, which was the best and agonizing night of our lives. We pitched many more franchises, including Brand D and Brand E. TeleNav gets onboard as an $250K investor, as well as received another $50K from Investor D. At this point, we started working on Cohiba the cigar shop in Santanna Row and completed our Data Warehouse and lossless communication within our product.
We launched the first tablet product at Cohiba with full POS Hero integration! We also made a connection to Brand F, which introduced us to Brand G (the 5th largest theater chain in the US), and had our first meeting with a Brand H, which is a national chain and a public company. We received our first batch of triangle stands from the designer in Taiwan, which is the ones we used for Brand A. Two more investors also joined in the company with $80K, one of which had deep connections into our customer space! At this time, we completed our patent-pending technology that allows us to have a tremendous edge, shrinking a process of 10-20 months to just a few hours. Sadly, our intern Gerald started school and leaves the company 🙁
Our Oaklahoma developer Patrick came to work locally in California for 3 weeks! Brand A, #1 in Fast Casuals “Top 100 Movers and Shakers”, decided to move forward with us. We also finished the Brand G Demo, which they liked a lot. This month we were mostly busy working on Brand A and settling stability issues with Cohiba.
First Brand A locations setup (as well as a Quickly store)! Our product showed amazing numbers and we prove to achieve product market fit. After a few days of piloting, Brand A wanted us to implement at ALL their locations. Brand C signed a 5-year contract with all their locations too! We also got our meeting with the national coffee chain Brand H. Both Brand B and G wanted to move forward. We became a Top 3 Finalist as Best Commercial App at the first LBS Awards called The Locals. October was a very good month with flying colors.
All our Brand A locations got implemented! Brand I the Frozen Yogurt store also signed. We also met with a few VC firms and a potential acquirer. We Moved forward with other locations, especially Brand G and Brand I. Brand H gave us a soft commitment to do a pilot. This month was mainly on making our product more stable for all the Brand A Locations, including the support work involved. Our product became a ton better and we created more systems.
We recruited 3 more interns into the company! Arica, Raj, and Shine. We moved forward with Brand G and especially and a sub-brand. We streamlined our implementation, support, and product stability, and added many more useful functionalities. Now we have a ton of users/check-ins everyday (20% of a store’s daily customers are checking into RewardMe). We also have many investors and customers setup for Q1 of 2012.
2012 and beyond!
As you can see, we’ve done so much in 2011. I believe we will accomplish exponentially more in 2012. We no longer need to pivot. We’ve done most of the preparation, trial & error, and foundational work. 2012 is the year where we take that foundation and grow. It’s the time to make that mark in the industry and finally bring online services into the store.
I’m blessed to have such a great team, and I’m excited to work with everyone to create legacy together.