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GoChime, a TechStars Software Standout, Lines Up Angels & Mentors; How You Can Do the Same (Page 1 of 3)

Last December, GoChime, a graduate of the 2011 TechStars Seattle program, pulled in $630,000 from assorted angel investors.

Co-founded by Josh Emert, Austin Evarts, and Matt Walters, New York City-based GoChime develops software to enable direct marketing through social media.  GoChime monitors purchase intent on social networks -- for example, someone on Facebook asks what kind of tablet computer he should buy -- and allows its members ("chimers") to make product suggestions (and be rewarded for doing so). At the same time, GoChime uses the YipIt and Groupon APIs to monitor hot deals.

CEO Evarts says the company is still fine-tuning its business model --- aka "revenue" -- but it seems obvious they'll be able to monetize the relationship between the data it's gathering and the brands that fit. In our tablet example, it seems logical that Apple, Asus, Samsung, Sony, and others might be willing to pay to put their pitch in front of that highly-qualified shopper.

"We know how it makes money," says Evarts. "We charge advertisers to deliver their offers and ads to people who have expressed a need for them. We're a social advertising framework. We're a new channel, and that has created a buzz around us.  Of course, we hope that articles like yours will get us in front of the right brands."
Which gets us to Evarts' first piece of advice: How do you create demand?

Tip #1: Start with a cheerleader.

"We got some initial traction from our TechStars experience," Evarts says. "Nothing big, but several smaller clients.

"One of our mentors, who runs a company called GlobalMojo, found us on the TechStars list of applicants. He reached out to us before we began TechStars, signed up, and became a cheerleader for us. Our campaign for him kicked ass."

Tip #2: Test, measure, then test and measure some more.

"We haven't had a problem with demand as of yet," says Evarts. "We're not making any outbound sales calls.

"Part of our go-to-market strategy is we'll test a certain vertical to see how well it works. We'll look at the click-through rate, see how it well it performs in our system, and from there we'll form a relationship."

Tip #3: Get serious about a mentor program.

"Get as much advice as you can," Evarts says. "The reason we liked TechStars so much is that we were allowed access to the mentors. We'd reach out to them, and we'd get feedback, and it was harsh feedback.  But we took it, and we iterated.

"We applied to TechStars two times before we got in. We made the finals with Boulder and New York City, and got into the Seattle program. We moved to Seattle, and lived there for six months.

"One of the requisites of TechStars is you have to be there, and it's a three-month program. You have direct access to great people."

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