Excerpts from the Innovation Economy Blog.
A remote control is an essential companion for watching a day’s worth of football. But a South Boston start-up, Spogo, wants you to swap it for your smartphone every few minutes.
Spogo’s iPhone app serves up a string of real-time questions about the NFL game you’re watching, such as “What will be the result of this drive?” or “How will the coaches greet each other at the end of the game?” With each correct answer, you earn points that can be cashed in for drinks or food at a bar or restaurant.
The app presents six to 10 questions each quarter, cofounder Andrew Vassallo says. Players can decide how many points they’d like to wager on each one.
“Five hundred points may unlock free nachos, or 1,500 may unlock a private party,” Vassallo says. Spogo also lets its users chat — or talk trash, more likely — as they wait for the next question.
Vassallo says the company has signed up more than 50 eateries in Boston and New York, with the expectation that a free order of potato skins may induce a new customer to purchase a pitcher of beer. Eventually, if Spogo can prove that it is bringing in new customers, the start-up may charge bars to advertise through the app and provide analytics about each campaign’s effectiveness.
Prior to starting the company in May, co-founder David Shack worked at the Boston ad agency Arnold Worldwide; Vassallo worked for the investment bank Cowen & Co. in New York. The company raised a seed round earlier this year of about $50,000 to support development of the app, and Vassallo says they hope to raise more in coming months.
Recruiting mystery shoppers
A new app from the Cambridge start-up Mobee aims to transform smartphone users into mystery shoppers who visit retailers and restaurants incognito and provide feedback in exchange for rewards.
The app showed up this month in Apple’s iTunes Store. Chief executive Prahar Shah says the first “missions” started appearing shortly thereafter.
“Companies are already spending money on mystery shopping,” says Shah, a recent graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “They might want to know how long the lines are at lunch, or how accurate the orders are, or whether the proper signage is up. In our research, we found that Panera stores spend about $200 a month to get information from four or five mystery shopper visits.”
Mobee’s proposition is that it can gather more data, more frequently, for less money.
So far, the company has raised more than $1 million in seed funding — helped, no doubt, by the network Shah developed during stints at the venture capital firms Bessemer Venture Partners and General Catalyst.
Mobee’s investors include TiE Angels Boston; former General Catalyst managing director John Simon; Netezza founder Jit Saxena; Launch Capital; Hub Angels; and Rob Soni, formerly a partner at Matrix and Bessemer.
Shah says the app will initially focus on “quick-service restaurants” such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, and McDonald’s. Users pay as they would normally, but when they fill out their report using the Mobee app they get a digital credit of $1 to $5. They can cash in that credit for gift cards at Amazon and iTunes; have it deposited to a PayPal account; or donate it to charity. (Shah says the app may also dangle prizes such as iPads and sports tickets.)
The app can require users take a photo of the store or of their receipt to prove they visited. Right now, there’s no limit to the number of missions a user can complete, but the app has some built-in fraud-detection features, such as discerning when a user may be entering data without actually reading the questions.
Mobee’s board includes Neal Yanofsky, formerly president at Panera Bread and a top international executive at Dunkin’ Brands. The five-person company is based at DogPatch Labs in Kendall Square.
Shah says Mobee is using its new funding to add community managers, mobile developers, and sales people.