Tips for Local Startup Launches, from Seva Call

December 21, 2012

5:00 pm

Seva Call, the DC startup that matches you up with local service providers like computer repairmen and dentists, launched in Boston yesterday.

The website lets you submit a request and get calls from up to three local businesses (often) within 1.5 minutes. They use ratings, call analytics, and other feedback to find the best businesses for you.

Boston is their ninth city this year, following DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Entering a new city every month, president Manpreet Singh has figured out the ins and outs of local launches. Here are a few of his tips for startups with a local approach.

1. Pick big, nearby cities

Big = more potential customers, which is a no-brainer for most startups. And if the city is nearby, you can visit, attend a few tech events, and try to drum up support. For example, Singh has already started traveling to Miami and Indianapolis, and met local bloggers who will probably give Seva Call some coverage when they launch there. And you probably already have connections in nearby cities, who will spread the word, tweet, and otherwise make sure your launch doesn’t flop.

On top of that, Seva Call decided to launch in small cities around a big metropolis. That way, if the buzz seeps beyond city lines, you’ll have customers waiting for you to arrive. Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, are next on the list after Boston.

2. Customize

Launching in a new city is not as simple as crossing out “DC” and slapping “Boston” on your site. Seva Call customizes by understanding what services are most important to residents, like snow removal in Boston or tree removal along the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy.

And a little editing can’t hurt. Singh says he crafts the press release for each city, using slang (like “Beantown”) or mentioning tourist attractions and local sports teams.

3. Think about timing

Timing is everything, says Singh. Don’t launch on holidays, or on days when the media is busy (or lazy, I would add – so no Fridays). Space out your launches, so they become more meaningful and seem more deserving of coverage. And make sure you’re ready – if a journalist tries your new site and writes a terrible review, you could lose thousands of potential customers. “It’s okay to delay a launch. People will forgive,” says Singh.

Seva Call is taking on the huge and dense New York City next month, and plans to be in 100 cities by the fall.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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