We talked with Utah startup CrowdHall a few weeks back. They had been selected for the Brandery incubator in Cincinnati which is one of the most popular incubators in the United States. We got to talk with co-founder Jordan Menzel right before the crew packed it up to move east for three months.
The Brandery’s 2012 session started on July 2nd and last week was their first full week in. CrowdHall has agreed to check in periodically throughout their experience in Cincinnati and at the Brandery. Their first check-in was a little late. Not only has the CrowdHall crew been working around the clock, but they were also busy competing in the BunBury festival’s TechBury pitch wars.
CrowdHall faced off against Brandery alumni VenturePax which we’ve also covered here at nibletz.com. The CrowdHall team rode their bikes through a seedy section of town at nearly midnight, back to their apartment with a $1,000 check,emerging as the winners of the pitch wars.
This is how we described CrowdHall earlier:
Imagine if you could mix a social network, reddit,crowdsourced answers and a town hall meeting into one platform that wasn’t an absolute train wreck. Now imagine if you could use that platform to host virtual conferences, discussions with elected officials, or even with your blog audience (yeah we can’t wait to try it). Now stop imagining because that’s what the founders of CrowdHall are doing.
Here’s what the team has to say after being at the Brandery since July 2
So give us a little insight how was your first full week at the Brandery?
We’re kids in a candy store. As a startup, you learn to get by with limited support, limited resources, and having to fight for mentors’ time. So when we showed up to the Brandery, we were able to turn on fire hose and start drinking. We’ve loved being around the fellow startups, working with fascinating mentors, and of course taking advantage of the nitty gritty legal help. The collaborative office space is great too, and is a vast improvement to our last corporate office (the public library). We’ve quickly seen that workshops, pitches, BBQ’s, ball games, late nights of coding, and 14 hour work days will be our lives for the next few months.
Now that you’re finally at the Brandery what’s one thing that has surprised you guys about CrowdHall?
We are all blown away with how much more we can get done when we are all working in the same space. Early in our development, our team was in DC, NYC, and San Diego. With us all together, the increase in productivity and turn-around is insane. After having worked for government agencies and big companies, nothing is more fun than having an idea in the morning, a team brainstorming session on it over lunch, and testing it out live on the site at night, with no layers of bureaucracy in between.
What’s the best piece of honest feedback you’ve received from either the Brandery folks or a mentor?
With the technology we’ve built, there are literally a hundred different applications and features that we have brainstormed. In addition, every time we talk to somebody new they get excited about some new way they can see themselves using the platform.
When we sat down with our mentor Tim Schigel (Founder of ShareThis and Head of Digital Strategy for the Republican Party), he really pushed us to focus in on one application at a time, and prioritize the development based on working out one functionality, then going to market with that. We can’t try to do everything at once.
Have you pivoted yet?
There is a lot of grey area in that question. We have always been aware of various applications for our large audience moderating features and have generally had a clear strategy on which applications we wanted to focus on first. However, now that we have
met with mentors from Twitter, Anaheiser Busch, ShareThis etc…. we have definitely taken a step back to revisit our development priorities. But in terms of the core product, we are still about allowing crowds to communicate in a democratic and organized manner. Talk to us next week, we’ll probably give you a totally different answer.
What’s on the agenda for next week?
Organization!! With new interns, new mentors, new ideas, and new resources, we are about to dive into improving our teams structure and flow. Nick, our developer, is probably tired of getting pulled away from the code with every single thought/idea/recommendation. While it’s fun to be all in the space, it’s not always the most efficient.
In terms of our product, we are getting ready for a pretty sweet soft beta launch coming up soon so keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook to see what we are scheming.
Is there anything the public can help you guys with?
CrowdHall is coming! Sign up for our beta launch at www.crowdhall.com. Once we launch, you’ll be able to communicate with those already on the site, and also recommend any people/organizations of interest you’d like to have a conversation with. We’ll reach out to them to join CrowdHall as your recommendations draw support.
Has your experience at the Brandery been what you expected so far? Harder? Easier?
It has been more all-consuming than we expected, but in a way, it’s actually easier. We are so excited to be working on the company and seeing how much it progresses with the time we put in, that none of us wants to be doing anything else. So even though the commitment is crazy, it’s only like that because that’s the way we want it. One hilarious experience was competing in the Techbury Pitch Wars at the Bunbury Music Festival, after 5 rounds of pitching against great companies we were stoked to have won, and that meant biking home with a giant novelty check and an unnecessarily large trophy.
See what the talk is all about at CrowdHall’s site here
Here are more Brandery stories from nibletz.com
We really need help with the next leg of the sneaker-strapped startup road trip you can help here