The Future of Future Check-Ins and Starting Up in Des Moines, ShareWhere Founder Dylan Hamilton Shares Insights

March 21, 2012

4:45 pm

“What are you doing?”  This was the simple question posed by Twitter back in its early days.  Now with a roughly $8 billion valuation, turns out that was a very valuable question.  There stands reason to believe that there is gold buried in the question of “what are you doing later?” –  but as of today, there is no consensus venue to share this answer.

Dylan Hamilton, founder at ShareWhere, wants his new service to be that venue.  Built on the frustration that “planning simple social events sucks,” ShareWhere is hoping to replace SMS and e-mail as the primary tool for making plans.

Simply use the ShareWhere web or mobile app to input what you’re doing, when and where you’re doing it, and then share your plans by inviting others through the native friend list, e-mail, or Facebook.

Pretty straight forward, right?  We’ve seen this before, whether it be through Plancast, or more recently, Forecast.  What makes ShareWhere different?  In a word, incentives.

By sharing your plans, the Des Moines, Iowa-based startup will match your activity and location to local businesses offering relevant deals. For example, say you’re organizing a dinner near the Drake campus.  ShareWhere will show you restaurants willing to offer you and your friends discounts.

But the incentives go beyond just local deals. “Anytime anyone does anything on the service, they earn points. Points will eventually translate into a cash,” says Hamilton. One point = one penny.  In order to cash in points, one must become a “partner member.”  As of now, the only way to accomplish this is to refer a local business into the ShareWhere system (good for 10,000 points, or for you math mavens, $100), but the site promises of more options down the road.

Dylan Hamilton

ShareWhere founder, Dylan Hamilton

To the working-class individual, $100 is likely not enough incentive to get a conversation going with a store manager or owner.  That’s why Hamilton is aiming younger. “We’re going to start reaching out to college students. I’m a 38-year-old dude. I’m probably not going to go out of my way to sign a business up.  To a college student, however, that’s three weeks’ beer money.”

For Hamilton, the inspiration behind the point system and local deals was less about product differentiation and more about building a sustainable business model.  “If you’re building a startup you don’t care about revenue. If you’re building a business, you do.  We’re building a business.”  Hamilton continues, “As we were building it we asked ourselves ‘how are we going to make money on this?’  This is what made the most sense.”

Starting up in Des Moines

With a extensive background in online user engagement and operations, ranging from major magazine companies (Meredith and Hearst) to, Hamilton has the experience necessary to make a business thrive.  And with his operations being based out of Des Moines, he sees this Mid-Western capital town as a good fit to make that happen:

“I can call any one of 20 people out here who have a ton of experience, and they’ll actually take my call. It’s so easy to leverage the local brain trust for any kind of help. Also, Des Moines is more of a startup hotbed than people know. There’s a lot of buzz around Dwolla and other startups who’ve made it.  We’re part of the StartupCity Des Moines incubator.  Ben Milne [Dwolla’s CEO] is one of our mentors. Having someone of that skillset holding me accountable is awesome.  That, and it’s pretty cheap to start a startup out here. I don’t have to pay developers ridiculous money. I’m not competing with Facebook and Google for talent.”

Although, Hamilton does acknowledge that Des Moines still has a ways to go, “You don’t have access to capital in the same ways. If you’re on the coast and you have a decent resume and decent idea, someone is going to write you a check.  Not the case in Iowa.  Out here, angel investors wait until companies have a revenue stream.  They’re not a true angels.  They need to assume some of the risk.  Some of the local funding has some growing up to do.

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.