“Build a great product that solves a real problem,” says Mobestream Media cofounder Chris Fagan, when asked for his best advice for aspiring startups. It seems easy enough, but as any entrepreneur will tell you, the simplest ideas are usually the most difficult to execute.
With Key Ring, however, Fagan and his Dallas-based team have managed to do just that. Founded in late 2008, Mobestream Media quickly took their app from idea to product and gained traction of over 500,000 users in the first year. They were one of a handful of teams accepted into the first class of Tech Wildcatters, Dallas’s primary tech accelerator, and followed that up by securing a $1.75 million Series A round of funding from Austin Ventures later that year. That in itself was quite a milestone, as only a small number of Dallas-based technology companies have gotten even that far.
Key Ring had emerged as the solution in the market for loyalty cards. By giving everyday shoppers a singular app to save and store those pesky cards, it had risen in popularity so much that it couldn’t be ignored.
Now, nearly four years later, Fagan and his team are settling into their “new” roles within a much larger company. In September 2012, it was announced that Gannett had acquired Mobestream Media and their consumer rewards mobile platform, Key Ring. A traditional media and marketing solutions company best known for its USA Today and CareerBuilder.com brands, Gannett was taking another step towards digital innovation in the news and media industry. With over 82 print newspapers, tens of millions of readers, 23 TV stations, and billions of ad impressions through sites like ShopLocal, it appears to be the perfect home for Key Ring.
Mobestream, which remains headquartered in Dallas, is still operating as a standalone business and is now poised for growth with the addition of Gannett’s resources, distribution, and financial backing. Fagan says their ability to avoid relocating and keep their core team in place was a “major selling point” within the acquisition. It also helps support Dallas’s small, yet flourishing, startup community as Mobestream is currently hiring engineers and designers locally.
Key Ring continues to build momentum, with over 6 million downloads of the app to date, and thousands of new users adopting the product on a daily basis. They recently added circulars from retailers like CVS, Target, PetSmart, and Toys”R”Us to the app, giving Key Ring users access to even more programs and deals.
Fagan cites his “competitive nature” and “emotional connection to the company” as key factors in their quick rise from idea to acquisition. He makes a point to stay involved in the local startup scene and to meet with entrepreneurs daily to offer his advice and feedback, both very valuable assets to any budding startup.
As an entrepreneur and cofounder of Dallas-based Fancorps, guest author G.I. Sanders has a passion for startups, social media, and digital marketing strategies. He is a music and fitness enthusiast, frequently merging the two with the latest mobile technology. His primary goal for Tech Cocktail is to bring much-needed exposure and attention to the vast number of startups and entrepreneurs in the southern United States, particularly central Texas. Follow him on Twitter @gisanders.