RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – In this the latest of a series of stories profiling presenting companies at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s annual Tech Venture conference, GetZeek co-founders Matthew Davis and Jonathan Stephens explain the need for the world’s first mobile fund-raising coupon book.
What is your “elevator pitch” you will use at the CED Tech Venture Conference?
GetZeek has found one of the final remaining paper industries yet to be disrupted by the shift from print to digital – the fundraiser coupon book. GetZeek is the world’s first completely mobile coupon book fundraiser. Our mission is to help fundraisers raise more money with less effort, the right way. For fundraisers, GetZeek eliminates most of the logistics and hassle associated with selling products and stuff, resulting in higher Return on Effort (ROE). For merchants, GetZeek unlocks the coupon book allowing them to post both year-round and real-time offers to attract new and repeat customers. For everyone who purchases a GetZeek membership, the deals are always at your fingertips. You’ll never misplace the book again.
What is the “secret sauce” of your firm that sets you apart? What sets your startup apart?
The secret sauce of any company is the people. We’ve been incredibly blessed to find amazing people who believe in our vision and mission, and who are willing to take the jump into a new adventure. What helps our business stand-out in the archaic youth fund-raising industry is renewability. A first for this industry, we offer the opportunity for fundraisers to renew supporters year after year, resulting in recurring and more predictable revenue. GetZeek becomes the evangelist on behalf of the fundraiser, capturing the story of how much money was raised, what the funds were used for, and how that support made a difference. Repeatedly messaging and linking the fundraiser, their supporters, and the participating merchants creates a much stronger bond across these three groups than has ever existed before.
Do you have a motto/slogan that you feel captures the energy/mission of your firm? If so, please share with us and explain why you feel it is appropriate.
GetZeek’s mission is to help fundraisers raise MORE $ with LESS effort, the RIGHT way. We live out this mission to change the way fund-raising gets done and bring it into the 21st century. “More money with less effort” means we eliminate most of the cumbersome logistics associated with selling stuff; like cookie dough, wrapping paper, and paper coupon books. “The right way” means we’ve built a relationship with the North Carolina PTA, becoming their first approved “Proud Sponsor” in their 92-year history. We work together to help educate PTA leaders across the state about fund-raising compliance.
Who are your “heroes” in business? How are you trying to emulate them?
We didn’t have to look very far to find our business heroes. We hope to emulate successful founders here in the Triangle. We look up to Scott Newnam of AudioAdvice, Henry Kaestner of Bandwidth, Joe Colopy and Chaz Felix of Bronto Software, and Scot Wingo of ChannelAdvisor.
What triggered your initial thoughts about launching a company? How has that original thinking/goal changed or evolved since your launch?
We have always been entrepreneurs at heart, with all of our founders having owned a business prior to starting GetZeek. We formed a friendship and later a partnership, after meeting in the MBA program at N.C. State studying entrepreneurship. This is where the idea of GetZeek took root. Excited by the opportunity to again control our own destinies, we took the leap of faith and launched GetZeek. Looking back on our first year, we wouldn’t change a thing. Everything we’ve done – the good, the great, the bad – has helped us evolve personally and professionally.
Why did you choose to launch a company in what has been a difficult economic environment since 2008?
Two things drove us to start GetZeek last year. First, the opportunity to “do well by doing good” invigorated us to launch a company regardless of the external environment. Creating a company that contributes 50 percent of all company revenue to fundraiser groups is at the core of who we are and what we believe. Non-profits responsible for raising their own budgets have been hammered lately, and our unique take on fund-raising provides a new to raise money. Second, with the rise in smartphones and mobile coupons, we are living in the best time for our business to take off. Plus, if you wait until the “right time” to launch a company, you probably never will.
What is the business “need” you are seeking to address? What problem do you solve, and for whom?
Fund-raiser groups [schools, sports teams, boosters, churches] struggle to raise money year after year. They’ve been stuck in a rut selling the same old stuff since PTA Bake Sales were invented back in the 1950s. Selling thousands of any product is logistically a challenge for any part-time volunteer, and these groups have to start the process from scratch every single year. By replacing the sale of physical products with a digital product, the logistics of fund-raising drops almost to zero. We also solve the problem fundraisers don’t even know they have – repeating their efforts year after year. As each annual GetZeek membership comes up for renewal, we reach back out to that person, letting them know how much they saved and the impact their contribution had to their supported group. When they renew, we provide the same 50 percent earnings back to the fund-raiser group. If a group raised $10,000 last year and 75 percent of their supporters renew, they’ve raised $7,500 without lifting a finger. This becomes very powerful for fund-raiser groups, and fund-raising doesn’t get much simpler than that. A great side benefit not to be underestimated: Every school that sells GetZeek instead of the paper coupon book keeps about six trees alive.
What products are you offering/planning to offer? Please describe each briefly.
GetZeek offers the world’s first completely mobile coupon book fundraiser. For the first time ever, GetZeek has coupled the rise in cell phone adoption and mobile coupon usage, creating a 21st century product for fundraisers to sell in place of coupon books, cookie dough and wrapping paper. Additionally, GetZeek provides merchants with an incredibly cost-effective way to create relevant and time sensitive offers to drive new traffic and repeat business.
Why do you believe investors should be interested in your firm?
Our team, the idea, and the opportunity. Our management team has both academic and professional experience in Web development, merchant sales, and online marketing; three critical areas to our company’s success. The idea for a mobile phone coupon book is a pretty simple one and follows the logical progression from print-to-digital. We absolutely believe that someone will dominate this market, and there is no reason it can’t be us. The opportunity still blows our mind. Every year, more than $1.7 billion is raised by groups selling stuff, following a 60-year-old business model. This opportunity is geographically concentrated in a little more than 200 metropolitan areas, offering us enormous ability for growth. We’ve been proving that this whole thing works with a crawl, walk, and run mentality. In less than a year, we’ve gained significant traction and generated revenue in three separate markets, validating the business model. Now we’re fine-tuning repeatable processes to start scaling the company regionally and then nationally.
How much funding are you seeking, if any, and how would the funding be used?
We are considering taking a small seed investment to help jump start a regional expansion, using the proceeds to expand the sales, marketing, and development teams.
How much funding have you raised to date? How much funding in grants (please specify)? Who are your investors?
We have self-funded to date with one grant in May of 2012. GetZeek finished second in N.C. State’s Lulu eGames New Venture contest and received a $5,000 grant.
Are you hiring at the present time, and if so how many positions are you looking to fill?
We are currently looking to hire in Charlotte, Richmond, Va., and Fayetteville.