Interview with the co-founder of the business that put streaming live webcams in bars
Cristian: Hi Michael. When you first contacted me I thought, WOW this is a great idea, too bad wasn’t mine! So what is it about?
Michael: Well, our initial idea was to put live webcams in bars so bar goers would have a Real-Time tool for finding hot spots. We quickly realized there was a great opportunity to provide a more complete service so we set out to create a ‘complete marketing suite’ for venues.
Cristian: I ask everybody how did they come up with the idea and get all sorts of answers, but really your idea seems so obvious! But still, how did you come up with the idea?
Michael: My Co-Founder, Peter Viviani, was trying to rally his friends to go down town on a Wednesday night and thought to himself how cool it’d be if they could check in via live cam to see what the crowd looked like. Since then we’ve incorporated mobile coupons so bar goers can get hooked up for their loyalty to local venues.
Cristian: What are the main benefits for the bar owners?
Michael: The Live bar cams act as a beacon that drives traffic not only online but on premise as well. Real-Time knowledge is growing by the day and people want the best tools to make decisions with. We aim to be THE tool for avid bar goers. These cams also double up as 24/7 security straight to the bar owners mobile phone, a sweet extra perk.
Cristian: You mentioned there are some additional marketing benefits “complete marketing suite” – what are these and how do they actually work?
Michael: Yes, bar owners extremely busy and know they need social media marketing and are always looking for an effective, easy tool to make it work harder for them. Through our platform venues are able to create and manage email, text message, Facebook, Twitter and Daily Deal campaigns. In essence we’ve taken all the industry standard tools, put them in one place and provided a ton of automation to make their lives easier.
Our mobile coupon platform is one feature we’re most proud of. With this customers are prompted to ‘opt-in’ for a drink deal. The deal is sent to them via text which they then redeem with the server and at the same time their number is automatically added to that venues’ Barspace Phone Book for receipt of future deals and announcements. Essentially we’re giving bars an incredible way to gain access to and reach bar goers in the format in which they want to be reached.. via text message.
Cristian: What about the bar customers. How does your system help them?
Michael: Our customers use the Live bar cams to make Real-Time decisions on where to go for the night. Its awesome to be out at a bar and see people scrolling through cams on our iPhone App to see which bar to hit next. Again, to reiterate an earlier comment, they customer also benefits from our mobile coupons as well as real-time announcements sent to them from venues via text message, Facebook and Twitter.
Cristian: I remember 10 years ago I was going from bar to bar to find the perfect location for the evening. Sometimes this was annoying, but sometimes was part of the charm of going out with your friends. What do you think?
Michael: Oh definitely, ‘the bar-hop’ if you will. We think our app is making people more social by driving more bar goers down to the scene. People at home are being spurred by a busy cam or an impromptu drink deal or band invite to leave their computers and head out for the night. We’re enhancing the nightlife, not stripping it of its charm.
Cristian: I bet some wives will think about using your system to check on their husbands 🙂
Michael: Haha.. yea we always get the classic wife/husband ‘checking in’ comment. For this very point we purposely choose high vantage points, degrade the quality of the video, slow the frame rate and don’t include audio. We’re really focused on checking out the scene, not checking in on who’s there. Besides, we’re finding that Facebook and Foursquare checkins are busting more people than our live webcams. Great question though, its’ something we put a lot of thought into.
Cristian: What about privacy? Are bar customers thinking about this?
Michael: Sure, like any new emerging technology site customers are talking about what we’re doing that’s’ new and although I answered most of this on the question above, one point worth noting is that initially this was more of a topic and has significantly subsided as we’ve grown and as other Real-Time sites have emerged (Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla).
Cristian: How can bars join in your system?
Michael: Easy. They can call us anytime at 1-866-68 BAR TV (682-2788) or email us firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our plans page at http://barspace.tv/plans – We’re growing like crazy right now and we’d love to show them how we can help their business as well!
Cristian: What regions are you covering?
Michael: We’re primarily focused on the San Francisco Bay Area but also have a presence in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Boston and New York
Cristian: How did you get your first customer?
Michael: Great story actually. Peter and I walked into our first meeting, a local Irish Pub in Cotati, CA, a small college town and were asked if we were Bible salesman. Shrugging this comment off and disregarding the fact that we wouldn’t actually launch for over a year we sold the owner with little more than a screen shot and a dream of what we hoped to become. She had faith in us and we never looked back!
Cristian: How did you actually start up? You probably needed some technical developments, business plan, legal stuff, marketing and sales.
Michael: We jumped into the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster (http://sonomamountainbusinesscluster.com/) where we got amazing mentorship in finding the right team members, legal stuff and business planning. One thing that’d I pass onto fellow startups is go straight into developing a ‘pitch deck’ and spend less time on a 30 page biz plan.. from our experience the deck is the only way to go. See details on Venture Hacks (http://venturehacks.com/articles/deck)
Cristian: What is the worst thing when having your own business? Asking because people tend to think only about the nice parts.
Michael: Haha.. great question! All the upside and sometimes people forget about the hardships. I’d say the worst thing for me is living bootstrapped month to month… hoping and praying the investor deals you just closed actually result in the checks your handshakes ‘sealed.’ We’ve gotten pretty used to this fact of life and I’d say the upside far outweighs the downside. When you have entrepreneurship in you, it’s hard to imagine doing anything but… I’m sure your readers will attest to that.
Cristian: And what was the most difficult?
Michael: Tough to say… every time we hit a moment when feel like ‘wow this is extremely difficult’ we’ve gotten past it and then months down the road we don’t even remember that difficult feat. It’s all about problem solving and determination to continue on!
Cristian: Now, talking about the future, what are your plans?
Michael: We’re currently working closely with advisors and investors to secure a seed round. We’re also developing great partnerships with brands looking to engage our customer base. So really just keep steady with our progress and develop our strategy for scaling to a national platform.
Cristian: I bet you already had some happy customers. Can you name a few?
Michael: Sure. We’re currently working with over 200 bars and have an assortment of brands like Southern Comfort, Svedka, Devotion Vodka and Redbull. We’re looking to work with more bars and brands alike and define ourselves as THE Network for bar goers, bars and brands alike.
Cristian: Would you still go on the entrepreneurial path knowing what you know now about starting and running your own business?
Michael: Most definitely! Despite the tireless workdays, ramen, soda and sleepless nights the goal is still clear and achievable. I aspire to find my own way in life and have a team of partners all committed just the same. I love this path and wouldn’t have it any other way.