Since smartphones are increasingly integrated with our social lives (from photo-sharing, to location-sharing and more), Seattle-based graZie Mobile has found a way to make all that sharing easier by creating an app that integrates perfectly with your nightlife. From the no-frills Check-In feature, to the much more fun Drink Up! feature, graZie Mobile has set out to help its users become the life of the party.
Even though creating an app around the spirits industry sounds like fun, the company still has to deal with all the trappings of any modern business. CEO Chris Roution shares his experiences working on graZie Mobile so that other entrepreneur hopefuls might learn a thing or two.
Tech Cocktail: Who does graZie Mobile target?
Roution: Over the past 12 months, two significant changes have occurred, resulting in a disruption in the way spirits companies sell, distribute, advertise, and market to consumers. This is an industry that had remained intact since the prohibition, which was over 70 years ago.
1. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States approved to allow spirits companies to advertise and sarket via social media.
2. WA state legislation indicates that the deregulation movement is coming.
graZie Mobile has created a solution to exploit these recent changes to the spirits industry. Today, spirits companies are the farthest away from their end-customers, the drinking patrons. Being this far down the value chain has created a lack of customer intimacy – no relationship with consumers and no immediate feedback loop on how well they are doing in marketing and advertising.
Tech Cocktail: What inspired you to start graZie Mobile?
Roution: My best friend was celebrating his birthday in Austin, TX and I decided to call the pub to buy, send, and surprise him with, his favorite tasty beverage. The pub would not accept my credit card or my request. I thought – there are over 83 million Facebook-related posts each day. If given the opportunity, how many facebook users would post their event, i.e., birthday, bachelorette party, etc., in return for having friends send them over a celebratory cocktail? So, we’ve created a game called “Post then Toast.”
Tech Cocktail: What do you enjoy most about working on it?
Roution: What I enjoy most is the challenge, the sense of ownership, not necessarily my company but of a product that has grown up right before my eyes. Its like seriously watching a child grown over the course of 1-2 years. baby – toddler – adolescent – teenager. However, we are still in the terrible-two’s! (I’m a father, so pardon the pun)
Tech Cocktail: Who is your greatest competitor, and how do you differentiate yourself?
Roution: 1. The spirits companies themselves, and ad agencies – What we see is that most often spirits companies hire ad agencies out of NYC to build cute, fancy, sexy mobile apps that are short-lived and designed specifically for campaign.
2. There are several “Buy My Friend A Drink” app; however, we have taken a reverse approach the recipient initials and the friend buys them a drink (Post then Toast).
Our differentiation is:
1. Our patent-pending, 3rd- party pay system (Post then Toast).
2. Extending this “game” and let the spirits companies jump on board.
3. The contextual, intent and interest data we are capturing, which allows spirits companies to more effectively market, advertise, and sell to their consumers.
4. We are creating a direct 1:1 relationship between the spirits companies and their consumers .
Tech Cocktail: What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in Seattle?
Roution: Biggest Advantage: resources, mentoring, and advising are abundant. You just have to look for it and ask. With resources like Geekwire and Startup City, there is no excuse to play “dumb.”
Biggest Disadvantage: It seems as though a lot of the startup financing from angels, VCs, etc., come from ex-MSFT-type folks. If you’re not pitching big data, cloud back up services, or whatever the trending enterprise play is at the moment, it’s tough in Seattle to be taken seriously.
graZie Mobile was a featured startup at our Tech Cocktail Seattle Mixer & Startup Showcase.