One of the unspoken perks of working in the service industry is the higher-than-likely odds that you’ll be “taken care of” when you go to other similar businesses. Discounts, shots on the house, free appetizers, you name it.
But if you haven’t yet been introduced to the person that is taking care of you, it can be a little douchey awkward and entitled sounding to try and work into a 10 second conversation that you work in the same industry, and you know, ehh, would ‘prefer’ not to pay full price.
Indicard helps solve this problem. Since it is used more like handing someone a coupon, it inevitably sparks the conversation that leads to “Oh, right on, you work at ______? I love that place!”
This streamlined process seems to be catching on. After launching in November 2013, Myles Bailey has taken Indicard from a physical card used only in Denver, Colorado, to now being a mobile app that is operating in three cities, with discount offers at 600 establishments who cater to their 15,000 (and growing) users.
Below, Myles talks with StartupStud.com about how the idea came into being, the company’s growth and where he hopes to take it next.
SS: Congratulations on the launch of IndiCard and thanks again for taking the time to do a StartupStud.com interview! To begin with a little background, what was the original inspiration that led to the creation of IndiCard?
MB: Thanks for including us in this piece. To start, there are more than 16 million service industry employees in the US and fewer than 20% receive benefits from their employer. We set out to create a platform that would give industry professionals food/beverage, health, and lifestyle benefits. Additionally, our industry is known as one big family and we’re here to bring that family together.
SS: How long did it take to go from your original concept to product launch?
MB: We started out printing physical IndiCards in my kitchen in Denver. Fast forward two years and we were launching our mobile app and second market, Chicago.
SS: Was this faster, or slower, than you expected it would be?
MB: We started building the app in April, 2014 and convinced our developers to agree to a launch in July. It’s fair to say we were a bit naive with our timeline as we launched several months later in November. To be fair, we had no clue how long it took to build an app. Word to the wise: developers will promise you the ocean to earn your business.
SS: What were your biggest challenges leading into the launch and how did you overcome them?
MB: Learning how to manage our development team. We were debating between teams in Colorado vs. teams in Chicago and once we made the decision to go with Chicago, we realized we’d have to move there with the team as they built the App. There’s a lot of back and forth between the founders, designers, and the development team, and we quickly realized we needed to be in the same location to work efficiently.
SS: On a scale of 0 – 100%, how close would you say your very first product is to what you initially pictured it being?
MB: 70%. We knew the app would list businesses that would geo-locate to our users and that we’d have a digital id card in there. But we spent a lot of time in beta and ended up changing the UI/UX around quite a bit based on user feedback.
SS: You mentioned that your original card was an actual card that you printed manually at home, whereas now you’ve transitioned entirely to an app. What were the final straws that led to ditching the original physical card concept?
MB: It was all about making the process as seamless as possible. Our users were constantly complaining about losing their plastic cards and not knowing which places were on IndiCard. With the app we could digitize the card (nobody wants another card in their wallet) and have all of our locations and deals a click away. The app also allowed us to build in features, like ratings and tracking savings which have been very popular. At the end of the day it was all about how we could make a product that’s more convenient for our users.
SS: What did you do with all of the old card printing equipment?Can you imagine a use for it in the future?
MB: We still have it in our first office, aka: my apartment kitchen. I don’t see us printing anymore physical IndiCards in the future, but I think it’s something we’ll always hold on to as a reminder of where we started.
SS: One of the most exciting additions to the Indicard team in the past year was when you had a chance encounter on a ski slope with someone who would eventually become your investor and business partner. Can you tell us a little about how that happened and who joined your team?
MB: Yeah, Stephen, aka “Estephan the Greek.” I’ve always been a big snowboarder and love being in the mountains as much as possible. One weekend I was up in Breckenridge with a group of buddies, and a good friend of mine brought his childhood friend from Chicago up the mountain to ride with us.
I got on a ski lift with Stephen, not knowing anything about his background, and we got to chatting for a bit. Stephen had been traveling the world for the past three years after leaving his first startup, Groupon, and was visiting one my best friends, Matt.
We started off with the typical small talk, and shortly after realized we had a lot more in common than our love of the mountains. I asked Stephen if we could grab lunch down in Denver while he was visiting so I could bounce some ideas off him and hear more about his business background. After grabbing lunch at an IndiCard venue together, where he saw the interaction between me and the bartender, it sparked his deeper interest in our platform. A week later he called me and Braden, and asked if he could fly back to meet and chat about joining the team. The rest is history…
SS: How easy or difficult has it been to work with someone in a partnership that you hadn’t known prior?
MB: The three of us are pretty close in age but that’s about it. Braden and I have been buds for a while now, but throwing Stephen into the mix was risky. Luckily we all work very well together and bring completely different strengths to the team. I’m the sales guy who is always out and about building relationships, Stephen is the savvy businessman who has been there before and makes the connections, and Braden is more the of the idea guy who’s behind the scenes and molds it all together.
SS: If you were to pinpoint the advantages and skill sets from your life thus far that have significantly helped you in this new venture, what would they be?
MB: I think I have a huge advantage with my background in the hospitality industry. I’ve always had a job that required me to interact with different types of people from different backgrounds and points of views. My job is to read what people are thinking and sell them on a vision that we’ve created. I don’t think the majority of people realize how good hospitality employees can be in the sales world. Aside from that, my dad is an entrepreneur and I’ve learned a lot from him on growing, running, and maintaining a business from the ground up.
SS: Conversely, what areas have you had to expand your knowledge, ask for help and / or lean on the expertise of others?
MB: Great question. I think a great characteristic for any person is knowing your weaknesses and not being afraid to address them. Marketing, strategy, and management were not strong suits of mine before starting IndiCard. I’ve leaned on friends, family, and co-workers countless times since we started IndiCard to help mold me into a better all around leader and help me make better-educated decisions.
Knowledge is power, and there’s no better way to gain knowledge than asking for advice and then getting out there and making it happen.
SS: Generally speaking — and obviously without giving away any secrets, what are the most important aspects of marketing and getting the word out about IndiCard in the coming months?
MB: For us, it’s not just about digital marketing through platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Although those are obvious ways for us to reach new users, a big part of acquiring new members happens in our staff trainings. Each new venue we bring on board means we get to introduce IndiCard to industry employees who might not be familiar with our platform. To that end, we’re gearing up to start training our brand ambassadors to be able to host staff trainings in our three markets at venues around town. It’s always nice when you can relate a face to a brand, and that’s exactly what we want to do as we grow. Plus, we like getting to know new members of the family.
SS: What is the single biggest benchmark of success that you’d like to have in a year from now?
MB: Be in five cities with 50k users.
SS: Where can StartupStud.com readers download your app(s) or access your specials?
MB: They can’t unless they’re in the service industry! For those that are, our app is available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.