Saving Detroit: Grand Circus Is One Of Many Startups Hoping To Reinvigorate Detroit’s Economy

GrandCircus, DVP, Detroit startup,startups, startup interview

When we think of startups, tech, and entrepreneurs we don’t usually think of the industrial revolution, or the invention of things like the automobile. We don’t often equate names like Henry Ford, William C Durant, Charles Stewart Mott, or even Berry Gordy. Decades ago these were the innovators and entrepreneurs that bucked the system, created companies and created jobs. Henry Ford created Ford Motor Company, Durant and Mott were behind General Motors, and Gordy is the king of the R&B music we know today, the founder of MoTown.

All we think, when we hear Detroit today, is $10,000 mansions in foreclosure and a city government that’s filed for bankruptcy. Now it’s up to the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators to refuel the city that was once a thriving mecca of modern day technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  Detroit startups are at the foreground now of breathing life back into one of America’s industrial beacons.

One of those startups is Grand Circus. While Grand Circus is a startup itself, they are on the ground floor of Detroit’s technological revolution. Grand Circus is 15,000 square feet of tech training space. But we’re not talking about traditional certificate-based classroom learning.

“…we dismiss that true skill comes with a certificate. We focus instead on outcomes that matter. With project based instruction our training delivers real world expertise. We call it training with a purpose. Our curriculum is based on the latest in technology, business, and design, and we have partnered with the best and brightest. Our instructors are real world practitioners who are at the top of their field and committed to the success of their students. [We’ll offer] More than 30 different classes this fall – including Build an iPhone App, The Design Process, and Digital Marketing,” Grand Circus’ Kelly LaPierre told Nibletz in an interview.

Michigan, and Detroit specifically, already have a handful of great startups, that if successful will continue to create jobs in the Motor City. But this time instead of motors they’re using keyboards, computers, laptops, the internet and iPhones. We’ve recently covered myfab5, a Detroit startup making restaurant reviews and decision making much easier. Two weeks ago we reported on UpTo, a Detroit shared calendar startup that raised a $2 million series A. DVP (Detroit Venture Partners) has also graced the pages of Nibletz quite a bit over the last year.  So there’s no doubt that people in Detroit are stepping up.

Grand Circus is making it even easier for people to step up by learning the skills that they really need to create the next wave of startup companies. They will also play an instrumental part in grooming the next generation of employees for these startups.

We got a chance to interview the team behind Grand Circus. Check out the interview below:

What is your startup called?

Grand Circus – named after Detroit’s historic Grand Circus Park that our new space overlooks in downtown Detroit. We are located in 15,000 square feet of space in the newly renovated Broderick Tower.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

Grand Circus was kick-started when co-founders Damien Rocchi and Brad Hoos met while working at Detroit’s collaborative tech space in the M@dison building. “We saw the opportunity and quickly converged on a mission to create an amazing home for tech training in Detroit, a city with immeasurable talent that is just starting to reach its full potential,” said Rocchi.

What’s the startup scene like in Detroit?

Detroit startup scene is booming – SA Today names Detroit one of the “10 Great Places to be Inspire by Innovation” Fast Company’s piece “How A Young Community of Entrepreneurs is Rebuilding Detroit” called the city a “refuge for techies looking to tackle real problems.” The New York Times also spotlighted Detroit’s tech scene, nothing that hiring in the city’s tech sector is pulling developers from the coasts. Detroit has seen a 10 percent year-over-year increase in tech job listings, which makes the city the fourth in the nation for total employment in the tech industry.

What problem do you solve?

There is an ever-growing need for tech professionals in Detroit’s burgeoning digital hub. “As Detroit continues to grow and evolve its technology core, developing creative and talented technology professionals is critical. We are excited about the important role Grand Circus will play in the city’s continued revolution,” said Josh Linkner, Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners.

Why now?

“Detroit’s tech scene is dynamic and there’s a certain vibe and feel that exists here that you just have to experience,” said Hoos, COO and Co-Founder of Grand Circus. “We’re excited to be at the epicenter of Detroit’s tech earthquake just as it’s making waves.”

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

Grand Circus joins Detroit Venture Partners’ (DVP) portfolio, a venture capital firm formed by Detroit business leaders Dan Gilbert, Josh Linkner, and Brian Hermelin.

What are your next milestones?

Classes start this fall

Where can people find out more?  Any social media links you want to share? or or @grandcircusco

Join lot’s of Michigan and midwest startups at this huge, national  startup conference Sep 29-October 1 in Cincinnati. 


Teams, This Baltimore Startup Has The Answer To Sharing Passwords

TeamPassword, Baltimore startup, startup interview

When you’re collaborating remotely or even if you’re working in the same office, sometimes it’s necessary for teams to share passwords. Here at Nibletz our core team needs to share site passwords, social passwords, analytics passwords, and more.

There isn’t really an easy way to share passwords amongst your team.  If you’re a team with employees rather than just co-founders, there may be a risk in sharing a spreadsheet filled with all of your important passwords. If there is a great element of trust on your team it can just be cumbersome and inconvenient.

Well a Baltimore startup called, TeamPassword (see how easy that is to remember) has come up with a way to share passwords across your teammates and keep them safe and secure.

We got a chance to talk with Alex Zaremba about TeamPassword. Check out our interview below.


What does your company do?

We do collaborative password management, for teams that need to share and manage passwords in their company. Think 1password with sharing. Our mission is to replace that shared excel spreadsheet companies use to keep track of their accounts.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

TeamPassword was founded by a group of friends with decades of combined tech experience. Their combined experience covers every facet of product development, including deep experience with product design, programming, UI and UX, Marketing, Sales, and operations.

Where are you based?

Sunny Baltimore MD.

What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

It might be surprising, but Baltimore has a great community for start-ups. Since I’ve been on the scene, I’ve seen a huge growth in the number of institutions and programs focused on fostering and accelerating entrepreneurship. Additional, we have a great technology community with a huge Ruby on Rails and Javascript meetups, which is a huge advantage when it comes time to scale our team.

What problem do you solve?

We solve the password management and sharing issues for Companies, which really has two components: Productivity and Security.

Right now, the prevailing method of managing passwords is a spreadsheet, shared some way with all the employees on a need to know basis. There are a number of problems with this:

1) It’s really inconvenient to get to and update, which means

2) It’s usually out of date

3) There’s no great way to segment the data; meaning your marketing team sees your server credentials, and

4) If this document got into the wrong hands, or, leaves with a disgruntled employee, you’re in trouble.

Here’s how we solve these problems: when users interact with TeamPassword through their Chrome extension, they have instant access to the accounts that are shared with them, and only the accounts shared with them. They can fill the username and password directly into the password, making getting into the accounts they need to do their job easy. Additionally, since users don’t need to remember the password, you can use a long, secure, randomized string.

Why now?

Why not? If TeamPassword would have been around while I was working at my past 3 companies, I would have been the first in line to get signed up. Having a great shared password solution mirrors the trend in software being replaced by the web: servers, error tracking, social media, banking, invoicing, and all important business operations are handled online. Companies have great systems to manage finances, employees, paperwork, so it’s about time we have a system to manage the information that protects everything we do.

One piece of enabling technology is the proliferation of Javascript frameworks—all of the tricky encryption we do at the user level would of been really hard to do even a year or two ago, we’re riding the wave of pushing more intelligence to the browser.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

We launched at a Startup Weekend late last year, incorporated in January of this year, powered through our alpha, and just recently launched into open beta. We now have dozens of customers, growing daily.

What are your next milestones?

We’re working on increasing our user base by a large factor over the next few months, and we also have some very cool, top secret technology in the works that we think people will get excited about.

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share? and @teampassword are the places to go.

Now check out: Here’s how NOT to pitch nibletz, or any other site for that matter.


DC Startup Bracketeers Engages Customers With March Madness All Year Long

Bracketeers, DC startup, startup interviewContesting is one of the best ways to enhance customer engagement. People love to win prizes and are typically willing to give up their contact information and other data to get something free. The problem with this is that after the contest is over, the engagement is over as well.

Facebook and Twitter may seem like excellent forms of engagement, but they have one big drawback. The problem with engaging on these social media platforms is that you’re sending customers to other websites instead of keeping them engaged on your site. Social media is an amazing source of engagement, but there is risk that you could lose your audience.

Well DC-based serial entrepreneur Craig Zingerline, one of the cofounders of Barrel of Jobs, has launched a new startup called Bracketeers. They offer longer tail engaging contests, typically tournament style like March Madness. The goal: keep the customer engaged and coming back.

“All businesses want hardy, exciting relationships with customers and more potential to reach new ones. However, engagement and list building is challenging and costly. Existing social marketing and contest platforms are expensive – often starting over $5k/month – and businesses are at the same time sending users out to Facebook when they could be keeping them on their own websites. We provide a cost-effective, easy-to-use, and FUN way to enhance customer relationships,” Zingerline told us in an interview.

In addition to providing customers with a fun and engaging way to improve a customer relationship, the user, or  brand is getting valuable data from the experience itself.

We got a chance to talk with Zngerline about Bracketeers. Check out the interview below.

bracketeersscreenWhat is your startup called?


What does your company do?

Bracketeers is a SaaS web-based platform for connecting companies & brands to consumers through voting and list contests. We offer “March Madness” style tournament Prediction & Voting Brackets as well as matchup based voting. Our clients grow their audience and marketing list with high engagement contest tools, and have more fun while spending less money doing so.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

Craig Zingerline, Co-founder & CEO – Craig is a 15 year veteran of web technology and brings deep team building, product development and strategy to the team. Craig provides pragmatic leadership and direction to the company and started developing web-based applications while in college. He has been both founder and executive of multiple startups, and has also worked for and consulted with dozens of small to large firms. Craig earned his Bachelor of Science in Information Management and Technology from Syracuse University.

Stephen Phillips, Co-founder & CTO – Stephen’s career has spanned close to 20 years, building enterprise applications in a myriad of technologies for major brands. During that time he has held the role of CTO, Technical Architect, Consultant, Senior Software Engineer, and business owner. Prior to founding Bracketeers, Stephen held the role of Technical Architect for Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, working with major brands like Google, Motorola, Godiva, and Taylormade-Adidas-Ashworth. Prior to this, he founded Cardiff Creative, an interactive consulting firm, building an impressive portfolio of premier life science companies.

Where are you based?

We’re based in Washington, DC and San Diego, CA.

Why now?

We are the only company offering prediction & voting bracket contests that we know of. Our platform is getting great input from the market, and with all of the high profile enterprise acquisitions of social contest tools (i.e. Wildfire acquired by Google) there is an opportunity in the lower cost SMB segment to reach a huge number of clients who have been priced out of other platforms.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

We have multiple paying clients now, including monthly and yearly subscriptions and are just getting started! Our system has collected tens of thousands of leads for our clients, and we’ve seen over 1.6 million votes tallied so far.

What are your next milestones?

We’re looking to raise a seed round to continue building our team, refining our product, and ramping up marketing and sales efforts – we’ve been growing solely on word of mouth so far.

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

People can follow our updates at We’re on twitter @bracketeers and facebook

Bracketeers will be in the Startup Vilage at this huge startup conference.


Detroit Startup To Make The Dinner Decision Easier Beginning Thursday

MyFab5, Michigan startup, startups, startup interview

Many of you know that for a long time in a previous life I was involved in top 40 radio in medium and major markets. As a music director and program director at several stations, I had access to very expensive, all-consuming research tools. Focus groups, call out research trade reports, and more were designed to make “picking the hits” much easier. What I found, though. was a little concept a few of us had come up with called “3 favorite songs.” Go to events, go to the mall, and ask the people, what are your three favorite songs.

What the heck does this have to do with a startup in Detroit? Well our best research, the research that led to great ratings was just asking what are your three favorite songs, without clutter and all this excess meat and fat.

Clutter, and fat, are what clogs up the arteries of what would be good recommendation engines and apps for discovering things like restaurants. On our sneaker strapped road trip a few weeks ago, I got invited to a brain picking. A funded startup wanted to bounce some ideas off me and offered to take me to any restaurant in Chicago at any cost for the time. I started Googling, yelping, urban spooning and every other -ing I could think of to pick a restaurant. I came across the restaurant I ultimately picked, but this was maybe 2 hours after I got the invitation call in the first place.  It was also after I had read a review that would have taken up 10 written pages. What a time suck.

The team at Detroit startup myfab5 takes that simple, clutter free way of asking or recommending, to help people navigate a restaurant decision. Users just rate their 5 favorite restaurants in any food related category and voila, the magic happens. The app takes all of that data and serves up good recommendations.

Startups in Detroit are looking to help the city make a comeback sweeter than Twinkies. myfab5 is one of those startups. The company has residence in both the TechArb accelerator in Ann Arbor and the Launch Detroit accelerator in Detroit. We got a chance to interview co-founder Calvin Schemanski. Check out the interview below.

What does your company do?

myfab5 is a platform that reinvents the restaurant review. Designed to mimic offline human behavior, myfab5’s platform let’s people recommend restaurants by talking about their favorite. On myfab5 you can rank up to five of your favorite restaurants in any food related category (e.g. my favorite places for #DeepDishPizza in Chicago). myfab5 instantly aggregates everyone’s rankings to power dynamic search results that tell you how popular each restaurant is for different types of food (e.g. how a pizza place ranks in the #DeepDishPizza and #ThinCrustPizza categories).

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

Omeid Seirafi-Pour is the Co-Founder and CEO of myfab5 and has previously worked in consulting where he helped fortune 500 companies develop winning growth strategies. He gained experience with online reviews when helping a big box retailer understand how consumers use reviews/recommendations when going about the multi-channel shopping experience. Omeid and his Co-Founders are passionate entrepreneurs and are members of the University of Michigan startup accelerator known as TechArb.

myfab5 Co-Founder Calvin Schemanski paid his way through college when he owned and operated a pedicab business for three years. Through this, he gained experience working with local businesses managing the growth of a venture, and managing a small workforce.

myfab5 technical Co-Founder John Gulbronson has a diverse software development background and previously worked at the University of Michigan Pathology department, developing algorithms that identify gene fusion pairs found in the genomes of cancer patients.

All three co-founders are graduates of the University of Michigan. John and Omeid graduated in 2011 and Calvin graduated in 2012.


What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

The startup scene in Ann Arbor and Detroit is small but quite energized. There is a big movement to revitalize Detroit; and entrepreneurship is at the heart of it. Several large corporations have relocated their headquarters to downtown Detroit and some venture capital firms and business accelerators have set up shop downtown as well. Even the State of Michigan is getting involved through economic development programs targeted at launching and growing startups in Michigan.

45 minutes to the west, Ann Arbor’s entrepreneurship scene is also developing. The University of Michigan is alma mater of some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Many are now getting involved in educating and mentoring UM’s next entrepreneurial generation. The university is also churning out thousands of highly qualified engineers and other professionals every year. More and more of these talented individuals are choosing to stay in Michigan to either start a company or join a young startup.

What problem do you solve?

Star ratings and long reviews make finding and recommending restaurants time consuming and frustrating. Imagine searching for a pizza place on a site like Yelp; you will see a list of places between 3.5-4.5 stars, but will not be able to tell which of those places is popular for deep dish pizza, thin crust pizza or cheesy bread. To find out you’ll have to read a bunch of long reviews that bury the useful information. It’s bad enough having to read those reviews, it’s even more time consuming to write them.

With myfab5 you never have to deal with these problems again. myfab5 makes discovering and recommending fabulous restaurants easy and fun by getting rid of star ratings and long reviews. On myfab5 you can rank up to five of your favorite restaurants in any category (i.e. pizza or thin crust pizza). myfab5 adds up everybody’s votes so that if you search for pizza, not only will we show you the most popular pizza places, we’ll also show you the other categories each pizza place is popular for (i.e. deep dish pizza or cheesy bread).

Why now?

The social era has dawned, and people are tired of review sites that make recommending a business so time consuming that less than 1% of people contribute reviews. Furthermore, people are using mobile devices more than ever and demand content that is concise and consumable on a mobile device. Ratings and reviews go against the social and mobile experiences consumers need and demand

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

In November 2012, we began developing and testing a prototype in Ann Arbor, MI.

In January 2013, myfab5 recruited our technical co-founder.

In March 2013, myfab5 launched an alpha version of myfab5 in Ann Arbor, MI.

In May 2013, myfab5 secured over $20k in startup grants.

On June 27, 2013 myfab5 won the Detroit Technology Exchange pitch competition in Detroit, taking home the grand prize of $15,000 in marketing/branding services.

On August 2nd, 2013 myfab5 graduated from the LaunchDetroit accelerator and received the “MVP” grant for being the best contributor to the program and the “Go” grant for being most commercially-ready company.

myfab5 users have made over 3600 rankings. On average, each ranking includes 3 businesses, resulting in over 11000 business recommendations.


What are your next milestones?

Launch nationally and gain traction in key markets outside of Michigan.

Iterate within food category to increase myfab5 use cases and engagement.

Offer more categories on myfab5 besides “Food & Drinks.”

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?


Check out this amazingly awesome, gigantic hackathon in Michigan.


Startups In The Fastlane: Jumpstart Foundry Startup, Fastlane startup, startup interview, accelerator, Jumpstart Foundry, like “gun yo, think hired guns,” Teja Yenamandra told us about the name of his startup. is currently going through the Jumpstart Foundry accelerator in Nashville’s brand spankin new Entrepreneur Center.  They’re the latest startup we’re featuring in our new Startups In The Fastlane series.

Jumpstart Foundry is in the midst of its fourth class, which will graduate on August 22nd. is connecting clients with hackers. If a company is looking for a rockstar ninja developer, they will find him or her on The team at realizes there are plenty of startups already in the space. Even venture backed startups that have expanded nationally have succumbed to failure, like the popular path.t0.

That doesn’t have the team worried one bit. In our interview below Yenamandra tells us “Other sites let you hire adequate software developers; we try to cater to the best. Software development is a subtle art, and the difference between a shitty developer and a great one is pretty significant. There are a few sites that are working on the same problem, and many of them are quite good. Others are not. It would be rude to mention any by name, but we think we’ve got the problem identified better than they do, and we think we’re able to keep building a solution both sides (hirers, hackers) want more.”

Check out the rest of our interview with Yenamandra below:

What is the name of your startup? (gun-yo). Think hired guns.

What accelerator are you in?

We’re a part of Jumpstart Foundry in Nashville, TN, one of the oldest accelerators in the country. It’s backed by Solidus Company, one of the best, most progressive VCs in the game right now. And we say that as entrepreneurs. In fact, we were pretty reluctant to accept money, even a nominal amount, since we were already making it. But Solidus is awesome. They get it. The South’s technology ecosystem owes them a tremendous amount. Shout out to Vic Gatto, Townes Duncan, and all of the LPs who made it possible.

Where is your startup originally from?

We’re a distributed team out of CA, TN, and PA. It’s cheap, there’s less distractions with management process, and much more freedom to produce. Plus, our community of made up of freelancers and clients who work often in a remote fashion, so it’s fitting that it’s exactly how we built our own company.We get it how we live. And we encourage others to do so as well. That said, it’s nice to mostly be in the same place for now. We’re not entirely what the future holds for us, however. You can build a massive technology company anywhere these days — and that’s the exciting part.

Tell us about your current team?

Hackers and hustlers, baby. Rich Jones is a technology beast, and was named by Intel as one of the “30 under 30 to watch.” JohnPaul’s worked in business development for an Asian master franchising firm and as a portfolio analyst for Merrill Lynch. Teja Yenamandra’s worked for a consulting firm as well as an early employee for a startup in Shanghai that sold for $65M in under two years. They all know each other from university, and from working together in Shanghai, China.

What does your startup do? helps clients hire hackers. Other sites let you hire adequate software developers, we try to cater to the best. Software development is a subtle art, and the difference between a shitty developer and a great one can produce is pretty significant. There are a few sites that are working on the same problem, and many of them are quite good. Others are not. It would be rude to mention any by name, but we think we’ve got the problem identified better than they do, and we think we’re able to keep building a solution both sides (hirers, hackers) want more.

What are your goals for the accelerator program?

Build more awesome stuff, sell said awesome stuff. The only two goals any startup should have.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in the accelerator?

We knew agile software development. We now practice agile business development.

What’s the hardest piece of advice you’ve had to stomach so far?


What is your goal for the day after demo day?

Build more awesome stuff, sell said awesome stuff.

Why did you choose this accelerator?

Vic Gatto, David Ledgerwood, Julia Polk and Shawn Glinter. They’re awesome, all are major players within the startup ecosystem here in Nashville, and were the four people who convinced us us to join Jumpstart Foundry.

What’s one thing you learned about an accelerator that you didn’t know when you applied?

Speed is the only advantage a startup has.

Where can people find out more?


Knoxville Startup Puts Celebrities, Sports Stars, Musicians In The iSpotlight

iSpotlight, Knoxville startup, startup interview

With all of the information available on the internet, and so many different ways  to access it, getting what you really need and want when you really need and want it can be challenging. There are several news and social aggregators out there now. These web based platforms can find a broad range of information or a concentrated range of information by category. Now, a Knoxville startup wants to be the place you go to find everything available online about your favorite stars and athletes.

iSpotlight is a mobile app that’s like Hootsuite, Google Alerts, ESPN, and even Ticketmaster rolled into one. In one sharp, and appealing interface you can tell iSpotlight who your favorite musicians, celebrities, athletes and sports teams are, and it will in turn serve up everything it can find across the web and social. iSpotlight can even tell the user when a team’s next game is or a musicians next concert is, and then point you to the tickets.

The Eastern Tennessee startup has already completed a seed round and is looking forward to launching and then closing their Series A round to bring the ultimate in fandom apps to millions of users worldwide.

bounceit-sponsorWe got a chance to talk with Ryan Kelly, the CEO and co-founder of iSpotlight. Check out the interview below.

What is your startup called?

iSpotlight   (

What does your company do?

We are developing a mobile app that consolidates all of the news, social media, event schedules, and merchandise/tickets/music for your favorite athletes, music artists, and entertainers, all in one convenient location.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

Ryan Kelly, CEO, has been a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Knoxville, TN. As founding member of the Venable Pruitt & Kelly Group, Ryan has contributed to the merging of 3 additional successful practices all into one of the largest high net worth wealth management teams in the region.

Patrick Kelly, COO, a graduate of the University of Tennessee’s MBA program, and recipient of 1st Place in the program’s Business Plan Presentations for a project including building a Wakeboard Cable Park in East Tennessee. Patrick is currently the Consumer Products Manager for HGTV.

Where are you based?

Based in Knoxville, TN

What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

East TN has an emerging startup atmosphere, with many Angel Groups and Startup Incubators promoting the ongoing growth and success of local entrepreneurs.

What problem do you solve?

With the vast amount of information available on so many different platforms, people spend a great deal of time searching the Internet for news and bouncing from social media app to social media app. Looking into the numbers, individuals are sought after in much higher rates than general news. So with the existence of general news aggregators, iSpotlight found an opportunity to give the users what they want, everything they search for regarding their favorite stars and celebrities, all in one convenient location.

Why now?

The marketplace has seen the recent emergence of general news aggregation, and has even begun to see the startup of some category-specific (sports-only, music-only, etc) social media aggregators. So while the last several years has been so instrumental in bringing so many forms of communication to the user, now is the opportunity to consolidate them together. And since news publications and social media like Facebook and Twitter already have such a loyal audience, why compete with them? Rather, bring them all around the table together.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

We have completed our Seed Round of funding. Also, we have been using the Agile methodology during development, and have received Sprint 3 of 5, and expect to see Sprint 4 released on July 8th.

What are your next milestones?

Our next milestones include our Series A funding round for operational purposes, as well our milestone to complete development on July 29th, and hopefully a smooth and efficient beta testing period and Apple App Store approval, so that we can launch the app to the public very soon. Once this is successful, we plan to begin working on our development of iSpotlight for Android.

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

People can follow our updates at They can also follow us on Twitter (@iSpotlightApp), “Like” us on Facebook (, and connect with us on LinkedIn (


Canadian Startup: YourExtraLife Is The Game Of Real Life

MyExtraLife, Canadian startup, startup interview

Imagine if you lived in a game. No, not virtual reality or something you could play on Google Glass, but if you had a game to complement your real life? That’s what Canadian entrepreneur Philip Barclay is doing with his latest startup, appropriately called “YourExtraLife.

“YourExtraLife is a game for real life. It’s all about venturing out of your comfort zone and trying new things, inspiring your friends, and discovering inventive people. You complete creative real-life challenges by taking pictures, and you unlock harder and harder ones as the community validates your photos,” Barclay told Nibletz.

YourExtraLife essentially takes a mobile online game and brings it offline, which seems to be a popular trend with startups these days.

We got a chance to talk with Barclay about YourExtraLife. Check out our interview below.

What is your startup called?


What does your company do?

YourExtraLife is a game for real life. It’s all about venturing out of your comfort zone and trying new things, inspiring your friends and discovering inventive people. You complete creative real-life challenges by taking pictures, and you unlock harder and harder ones as the community validates your photos. We already released a total of 125 challenges for 5 different themes: romance, culture, nightlife, altruism and gourmet.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

Philip Barclay – CEO – Studied Advertising, had a blog with 200k+ readers. Takes care of the growth and marketing strategies.

Gheorghita Catalin Bordianu – CTO – M.Sc. in Computer science from McGill. 4 years of experience in startups, used to be the Platform Director at Silentale. Takes care of our platform.

Samuel Dion-Girardeau – CCO -Currently doing his M.Sc. in Linguistics. Takes care of the content creation (he is behind all these awesome challenges!)

Samuel Chenard – CFO / Designer – Studied accountancy (yes!) – Takes care of the design and the video production.

Where are you based?

We’re in Quebec City right now.

What problem do you solve?

The routine and the passivity. We realized a lot of people needed more incentives to try new things and get out of their comfort zone.

Why now?

It was the perfect moment: mobile phones are powerful (and intelligent), millennials get bored easily and they are looking to be mind blown, brands are looking for new ways to reach/connect with people on their phone, social medias made a lot of people passive.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

-We raised seed money.

-We launched a kickass product.

-We made it to the front page of the App Store in several countries, including Canada, U.S.A., UK, etc.

-We reached 10k users in under a week.

-We have a major partnership with one of the biggest music festival in the world: Le Festival d’été de Québec.

-Some major blogs (The Next Web, TechVibes) covered our story.

What are your next milestones?

-Raise Series A


-Partner with more major brands

-Release 5 more challenge trees

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

This Boston startup gamified the asthma inhaler for kids.


We Talk With Chicago Startup SimpleRelevance About Simple, Personal Email

SimpleRelevance, Startup Interview, Chicago startup

Chicago startup SimpleRelevance has been on the startup radar for quite some time. Back in May the company, founded by Chicago serial entrepreneur and founding team member of iContact Erik Severinhaus, raised $1 million dollars. While there are several companies out there vying for the position as your mass emailer, SimpleRelevance has found a way to make mass emails personal.

Just the other day I received an email pitch from someone that was obviously sent out using a mass emailer without much preparation and about zero relevance. With SimpleRelevance you don’t need to worry about that.

“Using data intelligence, we combine your customers’ demographic, social, and previous purchase data with our data intelligence to create emails that are individually personalized down to the subject line, product recommendations shown, and time of day the email is sent,” Laura Boring, the companies Head of Marketing and Program Management told us.

According to the company, this degree of customization can increase conversion by 51%, while increasing click through’s by as much as 29%. This can lead to an increase in revenue for companies using SimpleRelevance of as much as 400%, reported VentureBeat.

SimpleRelevance is one of many awesome startups currently housed at 1871, the startup and technology epicenter in Chicago. We talked with Boring about that and more. Check out our interview below.

What is your startup, what does it do?

SimpleRelevance make it easy for companies to personalize, target, and automate their email marketing using data intelligence. We combine your customers demographic, social, and previous purchase data with our data intelligence to create emails that are individually personalized down to the subject line, product recommendations shown, and time of day the email is sent.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds

Erik Severinghaus is a Chicago based serial entrepreneur and business leader. He was a founding team member of iContact, a leading email service provider which was sold to Vocus in 2012. He later joined IBM, where he spent six years as a consultant in IBM’s IT Optimization Practice before founding SimpleRelevance.

Where are you based?

Chicago, IL – currently based at 1871, the tech-startup hub in the Merchandise Mart.

What is the startup culture like where you are based?

We couldn’t ask for a better working environment. At 1871, we are surrounded by some of the top startup talent in Chicago. So far, I haven’t seen any direct competitors here at 1871. Everyone is willing to help each other out.

What problem does your startup solve?

Companies now have access to massive amounts of customer data from various sources,

However, few companies know how to combine this data and make it actionable, especially from an email marketing perspective. Email marketing is one of the easiest and cost effective forms of marketing; however it is still significantly behind from a technology perspective. Our goal is to not only give companies the ability to upgrade to customer focused, data driven marketing, but to make it completely seamless on their end. Firms of all sizes using SimpleRelevance now have access to sophisticated technology that was once only available to firms with million dollar data analytics budgets.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

One key challenge for SimpleRelevance’s startup process was finding a viable product-market fit.  We found ourselves with a fantastic piece of technology that basically created an intelligent inbox, highlighting of-interest emails.  We weren’t getting sufficient traction operating as a B2C company and found that our tech would be much more relevant as a SaaS for B2C companies – we made a huge pivot from a B2C to a B2B company.

What are some of the milestones your startup has achieved?

To date, we are personalizing emails for over 25 million email addresses. Since January, we’ve seen double digit month over month growth in both our small and midsize businesses as well as our enterprise solutions. We’ve set up partnerships with top Email Service Providers and E-commerce platforms. Our recent round of funding and acceptance into TechStars has been great external validation of our concept, however, the biggest form of evidence for us is the internal validation – which is the significant increase in revenue we are creating for our clients.

What are your next milestones

Our next key milestone is to find a scalable customer acquisition model.  We’ve found that batch-and-blast email marketing, or sending the same email at one time to a massive group of people, is still a very prevalent marketing strategy.  It’s also completely archaic.  To find a scalable customer acquisition model, we basically have to 1) educate the market about the benefits of sending an email with personalized product recommendations (think Amazon Recommendations) at the time the customer is most likely to be checking their inbox and 2) let B2C companies know it’s actually possible to have a one-on-one conversation with every customer on their email lists.

Who are your mentors and role models?

As part of the TechStars Chicago program, we have amazing access to brilliant mentors in the Chicago area.  There has been a lot of momentum in the Chicago startup community and we are very excited to be in the middle of the action.

What are some of the advantages/disadvantages growing your startup outside of Silicon Valley.

One of the advantages of growing SimpleRelevance outside of Silicon Valley is that the Chicago startup community holds itself to standards equal to, if not greater than, those of Silicon Valley.  After all, it is one of the hot new startup hubs of the Midwest.  We’ve found this results in an environment that demands very defined and validated business models.

One of the disadvantages is that Chicago is still some time away from having the support and rapport of Silicon Valley.  Being a Chicago startup is cool, but it’s not yet Silicon Valley cool.  Undoubtedly, this is changing as companies like Groupon and SurePayroll call Chicago home.

What’s next for your SimpleRelevance?

Next on our agenda is to end the era of batch-and-blast email marketing.  We will not rest until every company is sending personalized and relevant email.  You can look at it from this perspective; we want every company to send every single email with a personal mailman who will deliver only relevant mail at the most appropriate times.

Where can people find out more, and what is your Twitter username? (@simplerelevance)

Check out more startup stories from 1871 here at


Entrepreneur Moves From Palo Alto To New Jersey To Launch Phroogal

Phroogal, New Jersey startup, startup interview

“You can think of us as Google, Quora, and Yelp melded into one cohesive idea around money,” New Jersey startup Phroogal founder Jason Vitug says.

“Interesting,” we thought, so we wanted to find out more.

Most people want to know about money, where to invest it, how to invest it, what terms mean, who can you trust, who can’t you trust. All these are questions that many of us turn to Google for. However the results can be overbearing; millions of patches on investing show up no matter how you refine the search.  If information on money and finances were indexed, aggregated, and peer reviewed, it would be a whole lot easier to take control of your money. That’s why Vitug built Phroogal.

Google provides great information on so many things, but mixed into those search engine results are advertisements and paid listings. With Google, the person or company with the best SEO wins. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the best financial information for you or your best interest at heart. When you’re looking to make decisions about your money and your finances, this is problematic at best.

Phroogal solves this problem by leveraging social networks to form a community and adding peer reviews and suggestions. If hundreds or thousands of real people are suggesting one financial service over another, there should be merit to that, right?

That’s what Phroogal is hoping.

Phroogal is going to connect common folks that want to know about money, with recommended industry experts that know about all things money. They’ll also have technology in the background that will help users find information they need based on the user’s lifestyle, milestones and goals.

The startup, which hasn’t even launched yet, already has over 3,000 people signed up and waiting for the platform to open its doors. While we are waiting, we got some time to talk with Vitug. Check out our interview below.

What is your startup called?


What does your company do?

Phroogal is crowd-sourced financial information enabling social collaboration to share knowledge, discover new tools and connect with money savvy peers and financial experts.We are building the central repository for all things money. You can think of us as Google, Quora and Yelp melded into one cohesive idea around money.

Why is Phroogal special?

There are so much information and tools out there that can help people get a better handle on money but there is one resource that allows people to discover them. It’s a simple idea that can have profound impact on helping people manage money.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

Jason Vitug, founder and CEO, worked in the financial services industry for 10 years most recently as VP of Business Development for a credit union based in Silicon Valley. Holds a BS in Finance and an MBA. Retired from “corporate America” to backpack around the world in 2012. I had an “aha” moment on what I wanted to do when I came back after backpacking through 20 countries in 12 months. I came back in 2013 to build Phroogal.

There is so much talk about failed startups because of a single founder. The challenges are stacked against me but my passion and work ethic has led to many small successes.

Where are you based?

Currently based in New Jersey. I lived in Palo Alto but moved to NJ to focus all my resources on Phroogal. I’ve been couchsurfing building Phroogal moving from one couch to another.

What problem do you solve?

We all thrive to learn more about money but money is a taboo subject we do not openly talk about. I’ve found that 7/10 people use search engines to find answers to their financial questions. It results in sifting through countless links, advertisements and confusing forums and vague blog posts.

Our platform will allow people to ask questions and get answers, search for topics, discover resources and connect with savvy peers.

Why now?

Advances in technology around money are outpacing adoption by those who can benefit from them. It’s the perfect time to introduce Phroogal to the masses as the place for all things money. Recently, I was discussing the benefits of budgeting and using as an introductory tool to segue into other tools that are much more robust. The majority of people never heard of

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

We launched in March 2013 with a landing page and received over 3000+ signups. Our blog postings have been featured in a few trade publications. We’ve been successful in obtaining an Alexa rank of 600k worldwide and 58k in the US in 4 months.

What are your next milestones?

Launch of our MVP in September. Achieve 5k signups before launch.

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

People can visit

This former Groupon employee moved his startup from Silicon Valley to Chicago!


Startups In The Fast Lane: Brandery Startup CoEd Supply A Subscription Box For College Students


Subscription boxes are nothing new. There are subscription boxes for shoes, women’s clothes, men’s clothes, gadgets, toys, and even dogs. Now two co-founders originally from Philadelphia find themselves in Cincinnati going through The Brandery with their startup Co-Ed Supply.

Co-Ed Supply, Brandery, Cincinnati, Fastlane, Startup InterviewMarissa Hu and Andy Forston’s startup takes the subscription box model and solve a problem for parents and loved ones of college students, the care package. While some may think by subscription-izing the care package you’re taking the “care” out of it, we all know that college students are hard to shop for and sometimes it’s just not that cool to get hearts, candies, and box scores sent from mom and dad every week.

Of course the Co-Ed Supply box is also perfect for working and busy parents, and with parents staying on the job, working the same long hours later and later in life, Co-Ed Supply makes sense.

While Co-Ed supply will have a revenue stream with their subscription customers, their other customers–their bigger customers–are manufacturers and vendors of products that want to make it into the dorm rooms of college students. By partnering with Co-Ed Supply, these brands get exposure and engagement at a whole new level. One of the best parts for the brand is that it’s of course, opt-in.

Coed Supply is currently in beta and getting ready to launch soon. You can get signed up on their website now. Check out our full interview with Forston below.


What is the name of your startup?

Co-Ed Supply (

Where is your startup originally from?

Philadelphia, PA

Tell us about your current team?

Marissa Hu, CEO – has spent the last four years in business development and sales. Most recently, she was one of the early members of the business team driving partnership development for the Shanghai Disney Resort. She’s also a recovering investment banker from Goldman Sachs, a UC Berkeley alum who’s now halfway through her MBA at Wharton, and on the investment team at First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund.

Andy Fortson, CMO – has been a digital and social media marketer for consumer, entertainment, and technology companies for the past seven years. Most recently he led marketing at mobile couponing app SnipSnap, and previous clients have included Gilt Groupe, Red Bull, Paramount, Fox, Microsoft, and Sony.

What does your startup do?

Co-Ed Supply delivers a curated box of college essentials to students every month starting at $20. The contents of each box is a surprise but all contain healthy snacks, personal care items, and entertainment. For students and their parents, basically we’re offering a cheaper, healthier, and more entertaining alternative to traditional care package options.

On the flip side, we work with brands who are trying to market to college students. Right now they hand out samples on campus, and when that sample walks away they don’t know who the student was, if they enjoyed it, purchased more, or shared with their friends. With Co-Ed Supply these brands can measure these types of results because we deliver data back to them on how well their campaign did.

What are your goals for the accelerator program?

Our goal was literally to accelerate our progress headed into the new school year and to establish relationships with large consumer brands. The Brandery has been super helpful for us in reaching our goals so far.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in the accelerator?

It’s taken some time but we feel like we’ve really gotten to understand how to work with mentors. The most helpful part is how to ask the right questions so that we can identify issues we weren’t aware about and how to get answers to questions we didn’t even know we had in the first place.

What’s the hardest piece of advice you’ve had to stomach so far?

We haven’t gotten any hard-to-stomach advice necessarily, but we’ve received a lot contradictory advice. The hardest part is identifying the right path or to not waste too much time going down the wrong path.

What is your goal for the day after demo day?

Just to continue on building more relationships with brands, expanding our reach into more college campuses, and growing our subscriber base.

Why did you choose this accelerator?

We chose The Brandery because of its focus on building a strong brand and it’s relationships with a lot of consumer goods companies. These have been super valuable to building our business.

If you relocated for the accelerator are you staying in your new city?

What our presence in Cincinnati is after The Brandery is still to be decided. There are definitely a number of really good reasons to continue some sort of physical presence here.

What’s one thing you learned about an accelerator that you didn’t know when you applied?

We didn’t really expect all the companies to be as supportive of each other as everyone’s been. All the teams have very diverse backgrounds and have been super helpful for everybody with connections, technical help, and marketing knowledge.

Where can people find out more?




Xoogler Spotlight: Seattle Startup Yabbly Wants To Help Prevent Buyer’s Remorse

Yabbler, Seattle Startup, startup interview, Xoogler

We’ve all been there. We bought something from Amazon or in our local department store or Best Buy, just to find out later that we didn’t really like the item, or worse, it didn’t do what we needed it to do. If you’re like me, you even checked out three or four product reviews before buying. That makes the whole situation more annoying.

The problem with those product reviews is that they  either aren’t addressing what we really need out of the item or they were planted by a PR firm or the manufacturer themselves.

Seattle startup Yabbly is looking to change that with their new community of people who are actually out there purchasing items. The site goes deeper than most but in a way that makes it more engaging.

The company was founded by a powerhouse team of founders who know good product. CEO and Co-Founder Tom Leung is a former product manger at Google. Ian Shafer, the engineering lead, actually comes from Amazon. So while Yabbly is going to be filled with user product reviews, the product itself is also going to be easy-to-use and easy-to-understand.

But Yabbly wasn’t created just because it sounded like a good startup. Megh Vakharia who works in the marketing department at Yabbly tells us that the founders created Yabbly because people often have many specific reasons they are looking for a product, and generalized reviews weren’t cutting it.

“For example, someone looking for vacuums specifically to clean up pet hair won’t find many reviews and vacuums that are recommended especially for their pet hair-cleaning abilities. With Yabbly, you can ask a question about how you need a vacuum for pet hair cleanup, and other Yabblers will give you recommendations based on their own experiences,” Vakharia told us in an interview.

You can read the rest of our interview with Yabbly below.


What is your startup called?

Our startup is called Yabbly.

What does your company do?

Yabbly is a platform for thoughtful conversation about product decisions. Members of our community can ask questions about product decisions they’re facing, including information about their specific situation, such as price range, use case, and whatever else is important to them. Our goal is to help people who are facing a product decision find their “product soulmate,” someone who has made a similar product decision in the past. Yabbly is here to help you kill buyer’s remorse by helping you find products you’ll love!

What’s unique about Yabbly is that we guarantee every great question will receive an answer within one day – no other Q&A site matches this.

What problem do you solve?

People relying on Amazon Reviews to help them find the best products face a problem – those reviews could be written by anyone, and the majority of reviews don’t help you figure out if the product will fit your needs. For example, someone looking for vacuums specifically to clean up pet hair won’t find many reviews and vacuums that are recommended especially for their pet hair-cleaning abilities. With Yabbly, you can ask a question about how you need a vacuum for pet hair cleanup, and other Yabblers will give you recommendations based on their own experiences. (this was in fact one of our best threads, with 18 responses)

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

The Yabbly team was founded by Tom Leung, CEO, Ian Shafer, engineering lead, and Steven Neuman, UX designer. The team is especially equipped to solve the problem because they helped create it – Tom is a former Google product manager, Ian is a former Amazon engineer, and Steven worked on shopping apps for Target and REI.Where are you based?

Yabbly is based in Pioneer Square, a neighborhood in Seattle, WA.What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

Seattle’s startup scene is awesome, and it’s a growing hub of entrepreneurial activity – especially with people trying to start the next Microsoft or Amazon. VC activity is also ramping up in the area and groups like TechStars Seattle offer entrepreneurs many opportunities to execute their ideas.

Why now?

Americans spend a trillion dollars on products every year, and this will only grow in the future as ecommerce shopping booms. But product reviews haven’t caught up with this – Amazon reviews suck, and Facebook isn’t focused enough to facilitate great conversation about which products to buy. Beyond that, more people are going mobile when making shopping decisions – Yabbly is positioned perfectly to capture this growing market and provide a platform for great discussion about which products to buy.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

-Almost 2,000 questions asked and over 10,000 responses

-On average, each question recieves around 5 responses
-Top 3 in SxSW Startup Accelerator in Social category

– $1.5 million in seed funding

-Rated #2 for “product reviews” on iTunes app store, #15 for “reviews”

What are your next milestones?

-Focus on growing our community with engaged users

-Update iPhone app to be iOS7 compatible

-Improve desktop web app experience

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

Join the community to get help finding the best products for you!

Check out these other Xoogler founded startups.


node.js Developers Can Count On Cincinnati Startup, Modulus [VIDEO]

Modulus, Cincinnati Startup, Innovation Showcase, Startup Interview

We have an incredible knack for running into Charlie Key ,the co-founder of Cincinnati startup Modulus, everywhere. We spent some time with the Modulus crew in Austin at SXSW, and two weeks ago our CEO Nick Tippmann ran into Key at the Innovation Showcase at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Modulus is a platform for node.js developers. They host node.js applications in the cloud in such a way that it makes it incredibly easy for developers to scale. Key tells Nibletz, “When you want to go from 1,000 users to 100,000 user,s we can do that.” They can actually go far beyond 100,000 users.

The cloud stuff is the easy part, though. Modulus also offers a robust layer of statistics and analytics for all of the node.js developers on their platform. They can give their developer users a snapshot of exactly how many people are accessing their app, what features they are calling, and a whole lot more.

Modulus accelerated last year at The Brandery in Cincinnati and just recently moved into their own office.

Key told Soapbox Cincinnati that Modulus was actually a hodge podge of other projects the team was working on: “The business started slowly out of other projects. The Brandery application process really forced us to consolidate our ideas into a single vision; Modulus officially kicked off when we were accepted into the program.”

Now  a year later the company is doing very well. Check out Nick’s interview with Charlie Key in the video below:


Indy Startup Adproval Simplifies Direct Advertising For Any Blogger [VIDEO]

Adproval, Matthew Anderson, Indiana startup, startup interview

Most of our readers know I’m into my 7th year as a full time blogger. Both of the new media startups I’ve founded produced fresh content six days a week. After creating Nibletz in the summer of 2011, I sold Thedroidguy the following spring to concentrate on Nibletz full time.

Like many of the serial entrepreneurs we’ve profiled here at Nibletz, I learned a lot of lessons from my previous startup, and at the same time brought with me habits from my previous startup as well.

With a new media startup (in a lot of cases a fancy schmancy word for blog), or as a full time blogger, and now one with a staff, people often wonder how we do it. There are so many people out there that think they can buy a $1.99 domain name, activate Word Press, and be in business. Well as Indianapolis startup Adproval’s, founder Mathew Anderson talks about in the video below, it’s not that easy. A lot of bloggers either stop blogging altogether or move to part time blogging because they can’t figure out how to monetize.

In 2013 there are so many different things involved in monetization, the least lucrative of those is ad networks. Through both sites we’ve tried just about every available ad network. Now with tech focused sites we’re at an even bigger loss because most of our readers are trained not to click network ads. With advertising though, the trick is to be engaging and to capture the attention of the reader. That’s why our state and local partnerships are the best way to reach an engaged audience of millions across the site and social media.

But attracting those partnerships takes a lot of time.

Even with a permanent Managing Editor on board and a co-founder picking up a lot of the backend work, I spend a lot of time working on direct sales.  Anderson is hoping to solve that problem, not just for us but for everyone.  Anderson explains his “aha moment” in his conversation with Nick Tippmann in the video below, and he shared a lot about it in our interview with him back in November.

Adproval provides a platform that makes it easy to reach targeted direct advertisers for whatever your niche in blogging is.

Are you blogging recipes, kite flying, paintball, or even tech? Adproval helps you set up their system to reach those advertisers or sponsors that will engage the audience.

At Thedroidguy we used one of the biggest and best ad networks in the world, outside of Google AdSense. Still, an Android-focused blog, we would get huge skyscraper or interstitial ads for macaroni and cheese, cleaning product,s and Brita water filters. As internet sensation Sweet Brown would say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Here at Nibletz for instance, the best ads would be for startup lawyers, PR firms catering to startups, accelerators, startup conferences, the latest mobile technology, incubators, and coworking spaces. Our readers don’t care about Velveeta Shells & Cheese; they’re still eating Ramen noodles.

Adproval’s knack for connecting bloggers with the sponsors and advertisers that will fill these needs and actually get eyeballs is making the Indianapolis-based company successful.

Check out our video interview with Anderson below and for more info visit


Pittsburgh Startup Wants To Help You Monetize Your White Papers

DocumentLeads, Pittsburgh startup, startup interviewWhen companies put out white papers they are typically very proud of their work. A lot of research has gone into these papers, but in the end most of them are distributed freely via pdf. Some may view white papers as research tools, and a way to get a company’s name out there. Or perhaps white papers are used to thoroughly explore a new product. Either way, they are one of the most in-depth forms of content marketing, and these days content marketing is huge.

Outside of content marketing though, but still quite related, white papers can serve as an excellent lead referral source. The problem is most companies don’t know how to utilize the white papers for lead generation, thus leaving them undervalued.

“You would be surprised how few companies correctly leverage their whitepapers and research studies for new customer acquisition. These documents are valuable resources and while it’s OK to give them away as free PR, we feel a lot of consumer leads are being left on the table when a company simply links to the PDF for an instant download,” DocumentLeads founder Chris Cagle told us.

Cagle went onto explain, “If the value of the white paper is correctly explained and presented, many people will not even hesitate to give you their name and email in order to download it. This is where DocumentLeads comes in. While there are currently a few services out there that do this as part of a larger offering, DocumentLeads is the only company that focuses solely on allowing you to create a lead form for the sole purpose of capturing and nurturing leads off a digital document in a completely white-labeled environment. We’ve put all of our skill and attention on doing this one thing, and doing it very well. ”

Cagle is a Pittsburgh-based serial entrepreneur who had a string of misses before launching GetSimple CMS. Cagle used a lot of the knowledge he gained from building GetSimple CMS and put it into DocumentLeads.

Check out the rest of our interview with Cagle below.


What is your startup, what does it do?

DocumentLeads is a document management SaaS application. We give online businesses the ability to generate and capture leads directly from the downloads of their whitepapers and other digital documents. We have a built-in CRM management tool that allows customers to view and nurture the leads they capture. Additionally, if a customer of our service uses an outside CRM tool, we have integrations with some of the top online CRMs such as Nutshell, CapsuleCRM and Highrise as well as similar services like MailChimp.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds

DocumentLeads is a product and service created by Chris Cagle. Chris is a tech entrepreneur located in Pittsburgh, PA (USA) and has been creating products on the web for over 10 years. Chris got his start building a lot of online properties that no one used, then moved onto founding & developing one of the most successful lite-CMSs on the market currently – GetSimple CMS. While building GetSimple, Chris learned a lot about application security, great user experience and the downfalls of feature-bloat. All of these skills were used when creating DocumentLeads.

Where are you based?

We are based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is a budding tech town (because of all of our colleges) and is home to a rabid Black & Gold fan base for the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

A large challenge we’ve overcome is how to correctly handle any type of document in any online environment. With DocumentLeads, you can now upload a PPT file (or DOC, XLS, PDF, TXT, etc.) and have it be viewed as an HTML file, then downloaded as a PDF. Most solutions out there force you to use JavaScript (only PDF-friendly) or Flash (not mobile-friendly). At Dcoumentleads, we’ve solved this and have a solution that works for any document on any device. Another large challenge we are currently running into is operating in a bootstrapped environment. Because we are 100% bootstrapped, we don’t have the marketing budget that some of the others in our field have (SlideShare & HubSpot). This is a constant weight on our shoulders that forces us be creative to get the publicity and some visibility needed to be successful in our market.

What are some of the milestones your startup has achieved?

The first and most important milestone we’ve achieved is our initial launch. Coming up for the idea for the business was easy (all ideas are born out of a need, right?), but executing on it was a multitude of difficulty more. There were some late nights, countless “how do we do this?” moments and plenty of code rewrites. In the end, we produced a service that we are extremely proud of and feel can make a difference for many businesses out there looking to take advantage of their digital documents.

What are your next milestones

Integrations. While we have a good stable of CRM integrations at this moment, we need more to make it as useful as possible. This means integrating with entrenched and enterprise-level products like Salesforce, ZoHo, Campaign Monitor and other big name CRM and email management products.

Who are your mentors and role models?

I, like many other self-started entrepreneurs, grew up reading blogs like RRW and Techcrunch. Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the blog and email newsletter of Patrick McKenzie. This guy is a genius (and extremely transparent!) on how to build, price and run your SaaS business. I have learned a lot from him, and would recommend anyone reading this to sign up for this “Grow your software business” email newsletter… it’s fantastic.

What’s next for your startup?

We need to grow. Period. We are still in our infancy (we officially launched only a few short months ago) and we need to grow in terms of customers and mature feature sets. We are constantly striving to harden and shape our business to be the best it can be, but we also recognize it can be a long process. Aside from the integrations we mentioned above, supporting our current customers and the ongoing marketing that needs to occur, our schedules are stacked full (just the way we like it!).

Where can people find out more, and what is your Twitter username?

You can learn more about DocumentLeads on our website Our Twitter handle is @documentleads and you will find us posting our product updates and news on there.

This Pittsburgh startup wants to make sure you never lose your wallet again.