June 12, 2012
Bio: Bryan Elwin, Sofulo’s co-Founder and CEO, is a Washington state native from Bellevue. He graduated from the University of Washington in ’06 with a B.A. in Communications. His brother and company co-founder, Michael also attended UW and got his J.D. at Northeastern University Law School in Boston. Michael and Bryan are first-time entrepreneurs without a tech background (but looking to hire those with one).
Tech Cocktail: What is Sofulo and who is it for?
Bryan Elwin: Michael, my brother and co-founder, came up with the name Sofulo. We took the first 2 letters of the 3 words that our app was about: Social, Future, and Location.
The core of the product is two things: sharing where you’re going to be in a future location and inviting friends to come join you. It’s a preemptive check-in to broadcast where you will be in the future and also a quick invite to selected friends to come meet up with you.
It’s a great way to let your friends know where you’re going and invite them and also for you to stay connected with where your friends are going. The app is great for people who have active social lives and want to stay in the loop. No need to call or text everyone – or vice versa. Users get a push notification and can also simply open the app to look at their friends’ profiles.
It’s also for the user who wants to be a trendsetter or leader of their own social group and explore venues around town and get friends to add to increase your social circle. Users share where they’re going to on their Sofulo profile and have the option to share it to Facebook. It has great value for people like promoters, DJ’s, bartenders, party-goers, food trucks, etc., to push their location and send invites to their customers and fans to get them to come there.
Tech Cocktail: What was the inspiration behind Sofulo? What do you enjoy most about working on it?
Elwin: I came up with Sofulo while I was living in the suburbs and most of my friends were living in the city. They would invite me to come meet them but sometimes by the time I got ready, drove out to the city and parked, the plans had changed or they already moved onto the next location. I was behind in keeping up with them and staying in the loop with where everyone was going. If I had something like Sofulo, I could be better connected and stay in the loop to be informed of what my friends are going to do. Also to let my friends know where I’m going to be and invite them without calling everyone or missing out. It’s more of how everyone communicates in the real world off of their phones when doing something with a friend; some of it’s spur-of-the-moment but typically things are planned ahead of time, really.
What I enjoy most is listening to users and fans, keeping them happy and getting more of them. Working in a social networking startup like this, it’s great to meet people around town; going out to bars or the club and pitching promoters about the app. Also seeing partygoers who happen to have iPhone’s and say, “Hey, you have an iPhone? You should check out my app called Sofulo!” and I pitch it to people and they love to download it.
Tech Cocktail: What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in Seattle?
Elwin: It’s good for startups as there is a lot of interest in startups. It’s a young, active group of people, who are tech savvy, that share the entrepreneurial mindset in participating within the tech community.
Disadvantages are that of obtaining funding, specifically your seed round of funding. First-time entrepreneurs or startups that aren’t extremely successful will encounter a lot of difficulty raising funds. Venture capital and angels here are risk adverse and invest by making safe bets on veteran teams/entrepreneurs.
Tech Cocktail: Describe a challenging moment or a crucial decision for Sofulo. How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?
Elwin: A challenging point was early on in development regarding how big of a scope we wanted for the app and what specific niche we were looking to gear it towards. At first we were thinking about having it as a large nightlife app, however we narrowed it down from our own discussions and feedback we received. We spent a lot of time working it all out before we settled on a name, our identity, what we wanted it to do and how it would all work. We learned by having debates, constructive criticism and going through multiple user scenarios while not getting married to an idea and putting everything up on the chopping block, increasing our product and creativity ten-fold. By having those discussions it helped construct a better focus of the app and our positioning for the product in the future while keeping the core of Sofulo intact.
Get connected with your friends today. Check out the free Sofulo app on iTunes.
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