Congratulations to Toodalu on being named Built in Chicago's Startup of the Month for July 2012 and earning a Moxie Award for Best Financial Startup!
Co-Founders Ravi Singh (CTO) and Todd O'Hara (CEO) of Chicago Startup Toodalu joined Charles Lee Mudd Jr. to discuss Toodalu, startups, the Chicago startup culture, 1871, NDAs, small business, and more. Toodalu, named Built in Chicago's July Startup of the Month, provides a program to provide through which a percentage of purchases at select participating establishments will be contributed to charities specified by the consumer purchaser.
They also discussed building a startup in the digital space and gave context to "pivot" and the "iterative process." Other topics included team building, obtaining input on ideas, NDAs, and more.
Good afternoon. This is Charles Mudd. Today is Monday,
July 9th and you are listening to Startup Radio. Today, I have a great pleasure of introducing Ravi Singh and Todd O'Hara of Toodalu. Ravi is the co-founder and chief technology officer, also the owner of RavWare Mobile Labs and Todd's the other
co-founder and CEO and formerly a Senior Trader at Marquette Partners and together with their team, they have created Toodalu, which is a program and application that allows individuals to contribute to charities through purchases that they make. But, the processes we will learn about in just a few minutes. It's, in my mind, ingenious and an exciting way to use technology to benefit small businesses, local businesses, and charities. And most recently, Toodalu has been namely the Startup of the month on Built in Chicago, so congratulations Ravi and Todd and welcome to Startup Radio.
Thank you so much. That's awesome.
Yeah. Thanks for having us. We're excited to be here. It's been a busy and great month for us.
Well, let's talk about that. Before we get to the busy, why don't you tell the listeners what the "us" is? What is Toodalu?
Sure. We're a team of five. Ravi and I met quite a few years ago at a hackathon and had a lot of similar interests in the Startup world and sharing cool ideas, and we decided to kind of embark on this journey and we built our team up, so we've got a -- Chris Lubinski is also a co-founder and he does our back-end development, security, web services, database, you name it. It all really runs through him. He's really a genius at that stuff. And then Casey Civiello is our operations officer. He is actually a lawyer by trade, so when it comes to putting other contracts and just the operations business site, he really nails it. And then Eddie Ormond does our sales, so he is the one that's on the streets talking to our customers everyday and learning what their problems are, how to solve it. So we're lucky that we have really all the pieces we need with such a small team of five.
You know, and I should mention that Chris was intended to be on the show and I know for everybody listening that was looking for Chris, that's disappointed that he's not here, we'll have just a same great conversation but I wish Chris well and what you've just described for all the team players really comes in to such significance in making a business run. Everybody contributes and no doubt, it's one of the -- I guess significant factors in a lot of our conversation and a lot of the conversations that I have with the guests on the show is team building and the importance of having the right team members. And it started out then, you know, with three co-founders. Let's take a step back. When did that hackathon occur when you and Ravi came together for the first time, was that 2009?
Yeah. That's a good question. When did that happen, Ravi?
I think it was 2008 or technically in the middle.
So I think it was three years ago.
That's a great question.
Startup years are sort of like dog years. (Crosstalk) I am now counting the things down like how many hairs I've got. In general, we count our Startup time and how much time we have before we're completely bald.
Yeah. Entrepreneurs, we count in months not years.
When did you become five? Did you start off as three and then become five and pick up people along the way? How did that happen?
Yeah, so it started off -- it's just me actually and I was the former trader who spent a lot time on the outgo side of the trading world and we really enjoyed it, enjoyed the challenge, but I wanted to start my own business. So I took the plunge into really the digital world, the entrepreneurial world and I tried to start something on my own and I realized right away that it's damn near impossible to do it alone. And that's what really triggered me to dive into the entrepreneurial communities, start meeting people and looking for opportunities besides working alone, and when I connected with Ravi, I think we both thought right away that there is a real opportunity to build something together. So that was what really the beginning and then we knew that we needed a great back-end guy and we worked pretty hard to find Chris and with Casey -- Casey is an old college buddy of mine. So I hounded him for a while to come out here. He was in DC. He just got out of Georgetown Grad School, and after hounding him for a couple of months, he finally gave up putting up pressure and moved out here and that was a year ago. And then about 14 months ago, so a couple of months before Casey joined, one of our first investors in fact introduced to us to Eddie. And Eddie has got a great story that he is -- he's kind of been a traveler his whole life. He's been leading guided tours, a real amazing people person and it turns out that he has that incredible ability to connect with these restaurant, bar and merchant owners.
So, you know, we just brought him on and said, "Hey, here's what we need you to do. We need you to gather a lot of information about the product that we're building, get some feedback and good luck". And it turns out that he kind of knocked it out of the park. So that's how that team came together.
It sounds like you all worked very well together having built some with prior relationships, some new relationships, and you are all five in Chicago now?
Yeah. We're all, 1871 and __07:22__ and it's a really big family.
Well, let me ask you more about Toodalu and what exactly it was and what it is. Is the Toodalu of today, Startup of the month, July 2012, the same Toodalu, let's say, two or three years ago? And if not, how did that transition occur?
Yeah. I would say that the thing that we are happy to ourselves is the Toodalu today going to be the Toodalu that's in three or four years from now. But to answer your question, what the product is today, it's certainly a variation of what it was three years ago and I -- you know, something that I end up talking a lot to the young and new entrepreneurs about is iteration and being flexible, you know, learning what your customers or your audience really, really wants and being able to focus on that, and we certainly learned a lot which is given off the opportunity to still thrive and move into different areas. So it's very different with the one at Startup.
Anyhow and right now, I described at the beginning, basically, my understanding is that it's a program and like an application that you can use on your smartphone that allows you to identify charitable organizations that you would like funds to go to. And then by patroning or giving patronage to local businesses at the moment, let's say in the Chicago area, but the businesses that are in your network, by becoming patrons of those business and purchasing products or services through those businesses, a percentage for that, I think it's 5% if I'm not mistaken, goes automatically behind the scenes back into the consumer, but goes to the charitable organizations. Is that an actual description?
That's one of the products we have and that's probably -- we've kind of been working with different businesses to figure out the best ways for those businesses to donate back to charity and currently, that's the system we have. But we have another product that we were working on too. That will allow those restaurants to basically vary the amount that they can give back and also customize the experience much more so like if their customer base has not just one charity, what they want to do, they want to split it among different charity, which is actually a common pushback that we got some customers and we can do all those.
Yeah. So the way that it works is very simple and that if you own a bar or a restaurant and you signed up for Toodalu, we basically connect with the credit card processors in a way that as a business org, you don't have to do anything. You don't have to put any hardware in. You don't have to put any software in. You don't have to put an iPod, say, on a table and how it works is your customers would then download our app, they would signed up, they can link as many other credit cards that they use everyday, and then when they swipe that card at a location, you'll get a buzz on your phone which says "Congratulations Ravi. You just spent $44 at restaurant X, 5% of it is going to the charities that you support". So we built in this incredible back--end infrastructure that allows the system to be automated and it's a really neat way for charities to raise money in a way they've never been able to do before. So know what we're working on is figuring out ways to help the businesses connect with their specific charities. You know, ultimately, the businesses are our customer and we need to create an experience that they want, that helps solve the problem form.
Okay interesting. Also, I mean like one of the great stories that we had in this experience is there was a great pizza place we all went to all the time and they have donated in a close to $500,000 every year to charity and no one knew it. You know, like can you imagine the opportunity there about telling people like, "Hey, when you come in for a pie and you enjoyed your dinner that we're actually supporting a really important..."
Right. We possibly will name it. Yeah, there is a big pizza place here in Chicago and we found out they are donating just an incredible amount to charity every year and we're kind of writing down the back of an envelope but the number weren't figured that what it meant was, every time someone walk in this location and bought a pizza, a couple of percentages of the bill was actually ended up going to charity, but the users never knew about it and we just thought what a terrific experience to be able to walk into a pizza place, buy the pizza that you always do, and then have your phone buzz and say, "Hey, thank you so much for donating X dollars to this cancer research fund." And that was something we identified which is pretty powerful.
Well let me ask you. So who chooses to -- you know, your system now and it sounds like eventually if not now, but eventually, both the consumer and the customer, the B-to-B customer, the restaurant or the bar that's working with you, both the consumer and the customer would be able to choose which charities they would like funds to go to. But is that the case that a consumer having the iPhone app can choose which particular charities or is that choice among those that the restaurant has chosen?
Oh no, yeah. That's a great question. So the way that the system currently works are users can add the charities that they support. So anyone of about 950,000 501(c)(3) IRS-accredited US non profits are in our back-end database which is really neat. We've got a huge back-end database.
Yeah, and anytime someone wants to donate to one of those charities, they would log in with their account to our site and they would type it in and it will pop right up and then our users add the content. So our users would say, "Here is the photo of Habitat for Humanity and here's their mission, here are some events coming up", so our users can curate that site of it, and then they would select that as their charity. Now, what we found as we've grown is that some locations want those reward points to go to the charities that they support and they love the idea of charity but they say, "If were going to donate this money, we want to make sure that it's going towards the Chicago food bank which is the location that we support. So, you know, we're working on finding a balance. Ultimately, like I said earlier, these restaurants and bars and merchants, they are the real people that are driving our business so we need to make sure to keep them coming back to our product, keep them happy. So we're working on a system that allows individual locations to only give those rewards towards the charities they support.
I think that's formal. That's probably how anyone would want to do it to themselves, you know, like -- I'm sure if I had a catastrophic event in my family, I would want part of the charity that help that most. And I think that's my comment.
Yeah. I think what we've learnt talking to over a thousand locations in Chicago is that the locations that are the most interested and have that real charitable philanthropic edge to them are the ones that have specific charities that we're already working with. We rarely run into a merchant and say, "Oh, we never thought about giving money to charity. That seems like a good idea. Where we have success is when we go talk to a great restaurant tour overseas. You know, we give a lot of money to charity X every year. What a neat way to still give that money and kind of empower our users to feel really good about that purchase they made, because ultimately, the money is always coming from the users who are coming in and say buying a beer, buying dinner, buying lunch, buying breakfast. So yeah, the locations that are associated already with charities are the ones that we have the most success with the program. So what we're doing is finding a way to get it so those locations only support those charities.
And would then the individual consumer be able to look on your site or match particular establishments to the consumer's preference of charities. So that if I, Charles Mudd, a consumer, am looking for establishments that contribute or want to contribute or allow me to contribute to charity A, will I be able to get a list of which restaurants or establishments in the area have chosen charity A to give money to?
That's a great question. So we've been kind of towing with this idea in that how do you figure out which locations are associated with which charities and there's a lot of different ways to do it and ultimately, what the way will do it, is whatever's best for our merchants and our costumers. But, you know, I think putting in as many search tools is always the answer. So yes, hopefully, we'll be able to build that fast and get it up so the users can search by location and the charity.
The backend just fascinates me. I mean, how long if you can talk to -- if either one of you can talk to this point, how long did it take to create the database or was it something that was publicly accessible and just import the database so that, I think it's at 700 plus thousands 501(c)(3) organization. I mean, how are you able to do that?
I think they had 950,000 but we took it -- for back-end services, you know, a lot of that was all customed and that was architected by our great developer, Chris. And they took long. The target is just the import of that data and that information. I mean it took us a good 18, 16 months, somewhat like that. (Crosstalk)
I think the IRS helped us out a bit with the 501(c)(3) database. So putting in the grand scheme of the backend, I would say importing that database wasn't too bad compared to some of the other stuff.
Yeah, also, they included the business project. You know, it gives -- one of the things that we really didn't mention yet is a lot of the time that we spent in doing this is so that we could fight in it and convert the backend to basically change to any idea we wanted __19:25__ or the website to do. So a lot of this comes out in a really smart and hard design for flexibility because, you know, we had products and products that we continue to work on but we're not sure yet of what the three-plot is either. And we use the backend that would support that and it wasn't rigid.
We're lucky on that. We're building great things. We're getting a lot of great feedback and it turns out every time we kind of iterate, we get feedback about things that we can do that are even better. So I think one thing that I remember from my old, old training days are if you have a trade or some sort of system that is always losing money, if you just take the other side of a trade every time, it should always make money, right?
If you're always selling a product and then always loses, well hey, how about always buy that. So what we found out was we heard the same complaint about one specific aspect of our product when we went on and brought it to merchants. And finally, we're just internally in a meeting when they said, "You know, this whole section of these restaurants want a product that customizes their kind of loyalty instead of giving up 5% every time they wanted big points and they want to be able to do what they want with their points. And then what they said was, "We love Toodalu. We love the technology. The backend is fantastic. What we want our logo on it. We don't necessarily want to put Toodalu's logo on the front it, we want this to say "X bar and grill on". And if you're familiar with some of the other loyalty rewards programs out there, then there's a lot of competitions with some great companies, you've got a group on reward, Chicago belly is very, very popular and you know, I know a lot of this bigger firms, sometimes the pushback they receive is, "Hey, this is great but we don't want to promote somebody else's product. We want to promote our bar in all restaurants". So heard that a number of times with high-end bars and restaurants and we worked on really a light label solution for them that runs off our backend. So to answer your question about the backend, it really comes down to we'd meet something so big and flexible that allows us to really do this different silos of businesses within the Toodalu umbrella.
It really -- what brings to bare a wise lesson, I think, for so many businesses is listening to the customers, or listening to those who you want to become customers and what their needs are or what their objections happen to be to the product or service and it sounds that's exactly what you did and are continuing to do in tweaking the model to kind of see to fit those new answers and it completely makes sense.
Yeah, we were in the process of running several loyalty reward programs for bars, restaurants, merchants in Chicago and you'll never see the Toodalu name on it. You'll never know that we're doing it. However, it turns out from a business standpoint; there is an incredible opportunity there in that we've got one great powerful backend that we can use for all this different locations that is going to provide a pretty powerful revenue stream force. So from a business standpoint, it is exciting. Yeah, we had a kind of fight with the idea for a while because it's not the two-sided network we're acquiring consumers and we're acquiring businesses. We're really that will sidle of our business in a lot of ways that software as a service. We're providing a mobile solution to bring their loyalty unto their own platform, but we're still allowing them to raise money for the charities they want and we are still allowing them to get cash back. So from a technology standpoint, it's really just a small side step for us. We've used a lot of it. Basically, all the backend, Ravi could speak to that better than I can.
I mean, we used a lot of similar things because we design from -- basically from the start, we designed it for not knowing what kind of product we end up. So we basically brought it back to life so that we can interchange them and kind of fit like one of the things that we internally like a word we always talk about is __24:14__. So when you go in and you purchase something, you know you shouldn't have to push your button just to scan a bunch of card. You just work on things that work naturally. In a similar way, a __24:27__ shouldn't have to fight with whoever their rewards vanguard that they chooses. They should get the way they want it. Until we kind of spent a lot of time kind of making sure that we could deliver the experience that the customer wanted and not the one that we just kind of made up for.
Now I have two more questions. Actually, it's two completely separate questions but one is have you heard from any of the charitable organizations? And then two, Todd, you mentioned, you know, iterations and before when the three of us were discussing a little before the show began talking about that ever popular word now pivot and, you know, I guess from my perspective, be able to -- it's kind of what we've been talking about to some extent but dynamically change your business model to the growing realities around you. So if both of you or either one of you could address one, have you heard from any of the charitable organizations that money has been sent to or maybe a charitable organization that says, "Hey, what can we do to help?" And then two, talk about this growth process and how, whether you think it is important or for young Startup entrepreneurs, how much should they be aware of the possibility to change their direction?
So I'll take that charity question and I'll let Ravi tackle that later. So the way that we send the money, as we send our donations to charity, the way it is currently set up, I think it's every 12 months right now. So we send at the end of the year. So we haven't heard about the process of getting the money yet but we have and do hear from charities about how they want to get involved. So a lot of the early process that we went through was working with the charities and we reached out to a lot of charities in fact and said, "Hey, you know, we've got this great product. We would love for you to share this product with your followers. To be very fair, one of the most compelling reasons that we brought the charity aspect in was like take that back and step. I was at an event called Summit Series a couple of years ago and it's a bunch of entrepreneurs where they're philanthropic and some where talking to me about "Hey, what if I just want to take my rewards and donate them". And that's really where the idea came from. I came back. We talked to the team about it and we realized that there is a great opportunity there to leverage the charities networks to acquire our users. So for young entrepreneurs out there, I would challenge them always to figure out different verticals to acquire your users or you clients, and that was definitely an acquisition model for us was "Hey, let's talk to some great charities. Let's help them raise money and in return for that, they'll help us bring on users. That's really a win-win."
So, that's where that idea came up but working with the charities we found, it's been a lot of fun. It can also be challenging because charity is, in many ways, a non-profit or not organized as tightly as in for-profit business. So it can be challenging but it is a lot of fun and we sit down and have meetings weekly with different charities that say "Hey, what's Toodalu? We want to talk. We want to raise money. How do we do it? You know, we've got this group that we always go to the same bar every week and can we help get them involved in Toodalu so we can raise money through them. And that's the process, it's talking to charities but they can be challenging because followup through with charities, it's really easy to get that initial meeting and the initial talk but it takes a lot of focus to keep them on board and have them push everything through. Because, I'm sure all of our listeners out there, there got to be a lot of them, a lot of us that are on board in certain places and we all know how difficult it can be to go from the simple drawing board of an idea to the actual follow through of an idea within the charity. So, it can be difficult.
Great. Ravi on the second question and, you know, it would be interesting to just taking us back going to your response to tie it. It would be interesting to just taking a step back going to your response Todd. It would be interesting to see how the relationships developed with the charitable organizations because I think as we'll get to the end of the program and now I was going to ask how consumers can learn about the Toodalu program or app and now obviously I will ask more later about how small businesses, or restaurants, bars but it's also how can a charitable organizations contact you and all three of those players really come into - it sounds like the success of Toodalu and making everybody benefits, definitely one of those mutually beneficial program so I will come back to all of that. Ravi you were going to handle the question of the iteration and pivots and adapting to changing circumstances. How important do you think is that for Startup's?
You know, it's probably one of the most important things, but anything at all comes down there actually has nothing to do technology or business it just comes out in the years. If you - we kind of have everybody else's back on the team, finding a good position in altering it is pretty easy to do. Like one of the things that we always say internally is good enough never is only great or good. So like - for us if you will just kind of everyone explaining what they're opinion is and kind of coming together and say, we really think this is the way the product should go and we haven't had - being able to move around really quite quickly and change what we needed to do with that is pretty simple. I mean I've worked - I probably done 81 mobile from just every big to small company in and I've never met another team where like everyone had each others back and like one of the choices I'm really particular about the people I choose to work with and the people and I explained to my wife like this like, if something really bad has happened to me I know Todd would have my back and when you have that kind of relationship and someone says, "hey I think we should change the business to do at." It's pretty easy to do it because you're the trusted is there and the loyalty is there and just getting it executed is, doesn't that make a deal?
And again, it comes back then to the team right. It's having the right people around you to trust one another in the suggestions and the ideas that you all may have. So going to the program or the apps so - and looking at if somebody is wanting to use Toodalu going to a restaurant, is that an iPhone app, is that - will it also work on other devices, what is the extent of the smart phone use of Toodalu and if it's limited to only one? Are there plans for expansion in that regard?
Yeah, so the meeting is about what we've developed so far is literally the phone is kind of optional. Like you know, like credit card is broken, you used everyday. The phone kind of enhances the experience but because you don't need your phone or any advice, it should have much wider audience of people who can use it. Our current plans are basically - there is a web obviously a website. We have an iOS build, we have an android build we're testing and then we probably plan, they roll out of Blackberry and Windows phone version some time in the...
We will see about that.
Yeah. We have a lot of debate because I love this devices and of course for business reality so I am always looking for some kind of statistics to go. Well look, in this one state (cross talk) Ravi would like to develop an app or a Casio watch will be good.
I was trying to fit internally the __33.33__ to a lot so yeah if I could program refrigerator to give you to a little point I would do it.
Yeah. If there is product that is mobile and has a processor chip on it and a battery and some sort of storage device, Ravi would like to build an app on top of it. Unfortunately, we need to tie him down sometimes on uncertain projects because it's probably the most fun part of the business is being able to kick around crazy ideas and there is no question that we've got that down. They won't let me do the Frisbee version of Toodalu.
Well, definitely the advantage for me is that is - the iPhone so I won't need the Casio watch application. One of the things that is interesting is that you are in Chicago. Again, congratulations on being Startup of the Month in Chicago for Built in Chicago. Has that helped you - has it been a neutral factor? There've been different people on the program from the east coast, from the west coast, from Chicago and it seems that each area of the country has its own new one Startup Community and from what I understand - that's no different for Chicago. How have you found the Chicago Community, Startup Community, Startup Culture to be helpful?
Yeah. It's a great question and I think it's relevant because of the growth going on in Chicago Digital Startup Community. We were lucky and that we are accepted into 1871 which is a Startup Center, it's 50,000 square feet. It's in the merchandise mart. I think there is 100 Startup firms working in here now and it was put together by the J.B. Pritzker and the guys in Built in Chicago, Matt Moog and Kevin Willer rounded here so there is a lot of - too many sponsors even go through. So, these guys came together and had the idea that they wanted to basically build a center that all entrepreneurs can come to and work out. If anyone comes to Chicago and comes 1871, what they will see when they walk in is a glass room with Northwestern Kellogg and a Booth School and they will see five to six venture capital firms now and then they will also see the other hundred or so Startup so we applied early and we are very fortunate we got in so I know there has been over 500 firms that have applied and it's a pretty tough for an office and I wouldn't say it's a college application, but they wanna know about your product. They wanna see your product. They wanna you about your team. They wanna make sure that it's relevant and so getting in the 1871, we have been - how long we have been working out of here?
We were there early March.
Yeah, so we have been in here for a few months now and being part of 1871 has an in fact given us the exposure to really take off and we are nominated for a Moxie Award the other day which is a great honor for Best Financial Startup and we went to that event which was a lot of fun and then through a lot of those connections, meeting a lot of people and talking about our product, it gave us the exposure that we are honored just a couple of weeks ago and we got a phone call from Maria at Built in Chicago and said, hey congratulations, you guys have been nominated or gonna be the Startup of the Month for July so to answer the question about the Chicago Community - it is taking off. I've always been a big proponent of saying that it takes great companies to make other great companies. You can't just say, we're gonna build this great Startup Community in this city. You need success stories. You need Google to breathe off a bunch of other companies and Facebook to spin off in the other companies. You need those smart engineers and entrepreneurs and you have Groupon is one of the bigger companies that has helped do that and you've got GrubHub growing so you have some of these success stories that helped lead the other smaller success stories that hopefully goes viral.
And the thing - my point of view of that is for years I did contract work on both coast and in all of those planners and I think we're just kind of young, but the thing we have that none of the other places I think it's just that midwestern mentality so like the first or second day we've been here - J.B. Pritzker kind of came in and was like, hey let me hear about your business. You know during this process Kevin Willer just came in neither all people that they are closed in on either coast. You would -- maybe you're lucky if you see there is depth and their system is probably a jerk, like these people are actually spending time with businesses giving candid advice and always excited to hear about what you're doing. I have never seen that anywhere else and I think it's sort of our edge. I think our edge is -- the midwife is always known for people who get stuck on and we have a leadership that it is kind of in 1871 that not -- had great success and are willing to kind of, hey I've got it let me show you the path.
Yeah. I have been asked several times. Well, I get some off daily. Hey, we're Toodalu, great. Where do you guys work? Where is your office? I said we work at 1871 and the reaction is always, oh my god! So being in 1871 really gives us two things and that is...
Yeah, unlimited coffee. It gives us a certain credibility where there is a bedding process to get in, but the most important thing which Ravi basically just hit on the head is it gives us access, an access to other entrepreneurs. It gives us access to investors and venture capitals. It just gives us access to really smart people that there are certainly more walls and barriers to get to those people maybe out last and how these were - the bedding process up there is - like Ravi said he might be lucky to talk an assistant at a big venture firm which would still be a great opportunity whereas in Chicago - if you wanna get in front of the right people they're there and they're there to talk to you so...
And what a fantastic opportunity. I mean it just sounds like a great environment to have people to collaborate with and imagine that the way that you described it that you are among the different Startups there are people there to balance ideas off , you're not limited to your isolated team am I correct in that?
Yeah, yeah. I always laugh about the movie - the social network and how it paints us picture of Startups are so secretive and you can't share any idea than you've got to lock yourself in a room and build it in presented to the world like it - think Ravi and I both talked to younger entrepreneurs who have an idea but they don't really wanna tell you what it is and I think it's so funny because it's so important to get your idea out there and share it and talk to people about it to really figure out if it's gonna be viable or not and it's something that people missed. If you got a great idea out there, go talk to a consumer or customer right away. Tell him exactly what it is because in the end building at products is huge pain in the you know what and it takes a long time to do it and no one's gonna steal your idea so...
Well, the thing is also like, I think we both had, this is where people pull out and inject that is just ridiculous like if you're idea is so crappy that me knowing it will me allow to defeat you, you need a new idea. You know what I mean, it's kind of - I'm a big when in implementation and the thing is - besides the big names, there are people who run just like __41.59__ and there in 1871, but there are also great business people and if you're not gonna share you idea with someone who has got your back and wants to see your business bright, you really have no chance because - doing this on a vacuum, you're not really gonna have the efforts to make it a great business.
Well, you know it's interesting that you both mentioned that and talked about the NDA aspects and I did a program on Startup Radio just talking about that. I mean, coming from my perspective being an attorney if one was only looking at the attorney perspective, yes, it is protect the idea, protect the idea and protect idea, but then I think that also the attorney for Startups and entrepreneurs and what I do is advice individuals that they're very well maybe a time and place for a nondisclosure agreement that is crafted to a situation, but if you go into a meeting and pull out an NDA before you're gonna say, hello and shake the person's hand or even slightly thereafter, you're never going to get anywhere and it sets off a bad tone. It indicates to the other side that there is not a level of initial trust and you don't have to disclose the entire framework of the business model in the first 5 minutes. You can talk about the idea pulled back some aspects of that, but get across enough to find out if the person is interested in talking and then take it the next step or next step or two down the road, but I agree with you. I think it's so often people think that, oh my God! I need an NDA, somebody is gonna steal my idea and there is a balance to that use.
Yeah. I always tell entrepreneurs just focus on who are you talking to? I said well who are you talking to us? Well, you've got an idea about how to augment the daily deal space and you wanna go talk to one of your buddies who is up the chain of Groupon that's a bad idea.
Because they can implement that, but if you got you're million dollar idea and you wanna go talk your buddies from college who are in finance, tell them every aspect of it because you're already six months ahead of them if you're in the digital space and you have to realize anyone who wants to build your idea, it's probably gonna take them a lot of time and effort and money like Ravi said, it just come down to implementation so if you're gonna share your idea that someone has the tools and they are building faster than you, that's a bad idea but in general, there is a very few people that fit that criteria so I would air on the side of just your idea out there and talk to people about it before you build it, figure out what people like about it, what potential customers like, what they don't like and fix up the model and then go build it. It's kind of the air Eric Ries, you know MVP and I think that's the buzz were gonna be here right now, but there is so much truth to aspects of his model.
I mean I see your point also that you bring up a great point which is harder than that so my objection a lot of times to NDA is because they don't go seek advice from someone like you and those compared to their thinking advise them all and then choose to do it the cheap route and they get some crazy NDA so...
To see that first initial experience, I wish they would find someone like you and go like please create me an NDA that is fair because a lot of times the reason I have such visceral bad opinions of them is because they went on the cheap and they got some kind of NDA that is actually like - by the way, here is this thing, I slipped in an employer agreement.
Once you get something like that, you're kind of like I don't know why I would wanna spend any more time with you because obviously you disrespected me enough to come in with something that is shady and cheesy as the thing like I wish they would go to someone like you and go like what I should I generally - frame this around and give me a fair NDA that won't hurt the other person's opportunity of work.
Yeah go ahead.
Well, I will just gonna say it's one thing to protect an idea it's another thing that protect - a revenue-generating product because even with an idea, you could keep your idea to yourself and you could spend six months building it and if it's a really good idea then you should hope that there is two, three or four other companies that try and do it right after you launch and that's really the ultimate mode of successes. You come up with something and then everyone else try to build that so once it's built and running that's really when you wanna protect it as - you when it's just an idea and you really gonna figure out if it is a good idea or not and sometimes that means that you can't spend as much time as you'd like working on an NDA and things that I had mentioned.
Right and that's one reason why I don't like formed documents and I think there was a danger in pulling off a document as to where have been and taking that that's gonna fit every situation and - it's a good point. I mean you need to be able to have people around you that you trust that you can share; you can balance off because you're right. It's a great compliment that three, four or more companies try to replicate what you're doing after launch, but if you're not talking to anyone about the idea and you spend all this time and money you may get to a point where it's just plainly no one is interested in it whatsoever and had you taken a few moments to ask friends or colleagues about the idea, you may have learned something earlier on. Now, we are running out of time. I have a couple of questions remaining and there are so much more that we could talk about but we are limited in time and I wanna get the couple of questions if we get them in from the audience, but I guess one question is for small businesses, are you targeting only restaurants and bars or are you also welcoming other businesses or will you at some point?
Yeah, so our goal is to reach all merchants, all businesses, big box to small business. The reason we've start up with small business, restaurants and bars is because they are generally easiest to get access to. We can walk in the door and talk to an owner the same day so...
That's the point.
Yeah that's it. You gonna start by getting feedback and if we wanted to start with home depot, it can take six months to get a meeting and then another three months of that so - you wanna get feet on the street, start talking to your potential clients right away and bars, restaurants where the easiest way. We have an __49.11__ here and - Chicago is a great community of a big food community where we can sit here an 1871 run around the office and ask people on hey! If can everyone send me an introduction to their - a friend of theirs that owns, operates, manages or chef at a restaurant and we'll have a hundred locations and we can send out an email on the spot and have a hundred meetings lined up in the next month so...
What do you think is the best approach for a small business or entrepreneur in trying to reach out to small businesses such as you've done? I mean is there one particular thing that you found most successful?
I wish Eddie was here to answer that. Yeah, I think Eddie, I mean, the need in talking with him is always trying to see it from the customer's point of view and like always trying to figure out what can advance their business and not so much of pushing stuff on them. Like any other - one of the things we've always dreamed about is were like were you going to you dominate or go to that guilt where they ask you - would like to give a dollar? Would it be nicer if they had said, hey, thank you for donating a dollar - do our system where they - you'll slide you're card and you donated it that kind of thing is definitely we're kind of dreaming of. Yeah, I would say for someone who starting a business that the best way to do it is use your connections to get in the door with the earliest customers, use friends, use family because you're probably gonna be going in there without a product, start there and then work as hard as you can to get something up. Just get a website up that at least shows how it works, what you're up to. In that way - that's the bedding processes. You're gonna call someone ask for an interview. They are gonna read your email and they are gonna say okay, Toodalu and they are gonna go to toodalu.com and say, hey you don't have a website up so I'm not gonna take the interview. So, you got to start with friends and family that are gonna necessarily call you right away and from there give as much product up build and running so when people try to bet you that they sell, okay, this looks great, this looks cool so I think design is a huge issue that people sometimes overvalue. Sometimes they undervalue it and that is you got to build something looks great because ultimately you're gonna be representing that bar or restaurant's brand so if your own site doesn't look beautiful and your own app doesn't look great, well why would they want you to carry their brand or their name?
Very good point. We've got just few seconds left before we go to listener call. Consumers, if they are wanting to use Toodalu, where do they go?
They will go to toodalu.com (cross talk) they go to the app store and just look up Toodalu so depending on the experience they want. If they're mobile users and they are just going to app store and looking up Toodalu, we'll get them play there.
Do they need to go online to set up an account to use the iPhone app effectively?
So you can sign up for an account thru the website www.toodalu.com, create an account, link your card and then you can download the app that you like and you can log in. You can use Facebook connect to login or you would use the same username and password. There is no difference than in the other sites these days. You can create an account directly to the application if you like to.
Great. Small businesses, restaurants, bars and other small businesses that are interested and become part of the program, where do they go and who should they talk to?
Yeah, right on the website, go to toodalu.com. There is tab on the bottom that says For Businesses and they can put in information right there. Contact us, talk to our sale team and it's actually incredibly simple how easy it is to get involved.
And would that be the same or near the same for any charitable organizations wanting to make sure that they are on your database?
Yeah. To be a charity on our system, any member or user can enter a charity itself. If a member of charity, they created their own personal Toodalu account then they could go in to - there is a bottom on the charity tab that says Add to Charity. They would look up their charity. They can look up by their EIN number or just by the name. Enter in the information. They can add as many charities as they like.
Fantastic! Let's go to our first caller, Mark you are on the air with Startup Radio with and Todd, what's your question?
Hi guys, the aspect of having let's go to charities, I find it fascinating and very noble. Have you thought about any other sort of type of maybe industry is not a best way but another way and sort of like the typical rewards to apply this model to?
Yeah. It's a great question. It's a question that we get from our merchants. We get what we do with some merchants that we white label the app for is we run a point system so every dollar you spend, you get a point and then we really allow that location to do whatever the heck they want with those points and they can be gift cards for that location, drive the person back or something we've started to look into recently is you can use those points for experiences like spend the day with a chef behind the restaurant, get a private meal with a chef or bring family and friends in. So there are other ways to experiment with it beyond charity that are still very fun for the consumer.
Great. Thank you Mark for the question. Thanks for the answer guys. Now, we're going to go to our last question of the day although it's only been two from Trisha. Trisha you're on the air with Ravi and Todd.
Hi guys. I just had a specific question regarding the donation structure of Toodalu and oftentimes when donating the charity, people wanna give a qualified gift or say they wanna donate to a specific component of the charity, do you guys provide any opportunities for that?
That is a fantastic question. You're right oftentimes they do. We don't have it set up to do qualified donations right now and it really just comes down to how difficult that is. It's really hard to do that so we're looking for feedback on ways that we can make the structure better and more flexible, but the other thing that consider too is that in the individual when you're making a 5% transaction over the course of the year, this isn't a $1,000 donation, this isn't $100 donation even if you were to spend a $1,000 at all of our locations, it still just be a $50 donation. We listened to our customers and we haven't had that pushback on, but it is a great point when the donation started becoming larger numbers, you could certainly see if an area where those users wanna to give specifically to a project within a specific nonprofit.
Thank you Trisha and thank you Ravi and Todd. I very much appreciate you're taking time out of your busy schedule and a busy month to be with us on Startup Radio.
Thank you so much. It was awesome having us and talking with you.
Likewise and I wanna congratulate you again on one, being Startup of the Month for Built in Chicago which actually we were working to set up this before that announcement came so we'll placed that you have that award and also on your Moxie award for best financial Startup. Congratulations again and I hope to talk to you gentleman again as Toodalu continues to grow and we'll hear a lot from you.
Thank you so much.
This is Charles Mudd for Startup Radio and I want to announce a couple of programs. This coming Friday, we are going to go a little different route. Tim Jahn of Entrepreneurs Unplugged will be live on Friday at 2 p.m. Central on July 13th and then we will re-air that program on Monday July 16th at a regularly scheduled time of 3 p.m. so Tim Jahn of Entrepreneurs Unplugged July 13th at 2 p.m. live and then re-air July 16th at a regularly scheduled time of 3 p.m. July 23rd Chelsea Bingham of Whistling and finally July 30th Meg Hirshberg will be in talking about the family aspects of running a Startup and also keeping your family members happy or at the very minimum content. I wanna thank again my guests, Ravi Singh and Todd O'Hara for being with me here today, Startup Radio. We are on every Monday at 3 p.m. Thank you very much everybody. Thanks for listening. Have a great day!
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