November 16, 2013
After founding KarmaFile.com, Mitch Turck moved on to found Vendalize as a local search built specifically for your phone. It uses a “tags-as-keywords” model to provide the framework for a clean data, revenue, and engagement model.
By keeping the data short and sweet, Vendalize seeks to give users the combination of both a faster and more granular local search experience. To Turck, this is the way local search should have been done from the beginning.
He sat down with us to elaborate on Vendalize and offered one of the quirkiest interviews I’ve ever been involved in.
Tech Cocktail: Aren’t there already search solutions built into phones?
Mitch Turck: You probably already have a solution on your phone for it, but frankly, your solution sucks.
TC: Well, how are you different then?
Turck: The rest of the market hasn’t solved for the future. We’re doing local search the way it should be done, and I’m not going to stop until that’s the way it is done.
We’re also incredibly pro-local from an economic policy standpoint. Vendalize was conceived in part to ruin chain restaurants and multi-national retailers. If we ever make a dent in that, I’ll probably cry tears of joy.
TC: What made you decide to tackle this market?
Turck: My career has spanned almost every aspect of this idea, so it was a natural progression. But, if I had to identify the tipping point, it was when I became such an experienced Pittsburgh tour guide that I found myself having to answer friends’ texts and emails about where to find some obscure thing, like arcade games, or the UFC match. Usually they were drunk at the time… so I guess that’s our market.
TC: That’s really your market?
Turck: I’m not even joking about drunk people… they love it.
TC: What’s the initial reaction you’re getting from them?
Turck: Needs more cowbell.
TC: That about fits the bill. What have been some of the harder parts getting started?
Turck: Getting developers, customers, and investors to buy in at the idea stage is an obstacle. If everyone could identify great ideas and great founders without seeing traction, there wouldn’t be anything special about a startup.
By nature, it’s hard for people to buy into something that isn’t proven, so the biggest triumph we’ve had so far is our support. The LaunchHouse accelerator, Carnegie Mellon’s Project Olympus, and our friends who beta tested have all helped out.
TC: And what about Pittsburgh? Is there a reason you chose to be based there?
Turck: We’re actually splitting our launch between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and the immediate benefits are everything a startup should look for: low cost of living, low salary costs, natural resources, co-working spaces and tech labs, and access to great minds at top-tier universities.
The only reason to move out west is, unfortunately, to solve our obstacle of getting early-stage buy-in from people.
TC: This whole interview has been quirky, but can you give us one personal, quirky fact about yourself?
Turck: I tried to recruit developers by creating a fake OK Cupid profile. I don’t recommend it. Also, kudos to the ninjas at OK Cupid for being smart enough to suspend the user account of apparently the only female on that site who searched the term “software developer.”
Vendalize was featured at Tech Cocktail’s Pittsburgh Mixer & Startup Showcase on October 11th.
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