October 25, 2014
In mid-February John Coombs unveiled his startup, Rover, to the world. Still relatively young, they’ve just graduated as part of 500 Startups’ recent class, and their business concept and model is catching some serious attention.
In short, Rover is an iBeacon platform that helps retailers deliver a better customer experience by transforming their mobile apps into in-store shopping companions. Leveraging the micro location abilities of iBeacons, the platform understands when a shopper enters a store and which products they are looking at.
The idea here is that an app with Rover on it can engage shoppers at the time when it matters most and then deliver relevant information throughout their shopping experience. Beacon technology might also be a young market, but Coombs and his team have noticed an upward trend in growth across the industry.
I had a chance to catch up with Coombs to hear more about Rover, but also about how the 500 Startups experience helped shape and prepare them for the future.
Tech Cocktail: What was your experience like with 500 Startups?
John Coombs: First of all, it hasn’t sunk it that it’s a rear view mirror thing.
In a lot of ways the word accelerator is a great one – it describes what 500 Startups has been for our business. Being forced to tackle challenges and handle the business in intensive ways, like going from 7 am until 11 pm, keeps you fuller immersed in your ideas. That’s super valuable.
And in addition to being surrounded by entrepreneurs, you’re also surrounded by successful people – entrepreneur or otherwise – who have something helpful to say to you. There’s no shortage of wisdom and wise advice around you.
Sure you look at your business when you’re not in an accelerator, but you’re looking mostly through your own lens. At 500 Startups you’re sitting next to any number of companies who are facing challenges through their own lens. I find that to be powerful – you’re getting a depth and breadth from a different perspective that you might not normally consider.
Tech Cocktail: Post-500 Startups, what are you working on?
Coombs: If I’m to look at the next 3 months, it’s all about raising capital. We raised an angel round before demo day, and then we got a lot of attention coming out of the demo day. And we’re also going to be executing our pilots launching in the next few months, successfully.
We have new opportunities rolling out and we’re focused on making sure it goes well and getting a solid proof of concept. There’s been a lot of interest, and now we want to execute on all these relationships in a successful way.
We’ve also had a lot of inbound inquiries from developers and tech companies asking for more information about Rover and how it works with Beacon technology. That is, they are looking to us to show them how the product can help them.
As a result we decided we should create a developer hub that acts as a one-stop-shop for developers looking into the world of Beacon. We’re seeing huge growth, and we hope our newly launched developer hub, paired with our now open source SDK, will help keep our traffic from developers trending up.
Tech Cocktail: What advice could you offer startups looking to get into an accelerator?
Coombs: I think it’s important, certainly when you look at the accelerator model, to say ‘What is it you’re trying to get out of this experience? Are you looking for a catalyst for money? What about an opportunity for immersing yourself in the ecosystem? What are you doing, and how are you going to achieve your objectives?’
In addition to having a great idea and concept, you’ve got to have some early traction and distribution sorted out as well. Making sure you have the pillars to deliver is valuable. And then having the idea, the team, and the distribution model figured out is huge. How are you going to get your product in the hands of your customers?
You have to demonstrate that you have a sense of vision and where you need to go with the business. Understand how that translates into what you need today, and then 6 months out, and then 8 months out. In other words: how do you position yourself for the future?
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