February 2012: Valentine's Day had passed, but I was still thinking to myself... man, I wish there was a really simple, easy way to plan a night out for my girlfriend and I. Maybe something like a wheel I could spin that gives suggestions based on what the two of us like.
From there, USpin was born. It turned out that planning a night out wasn't a problem just for couples, but for groups of friends everywhere. More importantly, it wasn't just about nights out, it was about planning anytime! While people love to spend time with their friends, they loathe spending time *planning* to spend time with their friends because of interminable email circles, wishy-washy friends, and suggestions that don't make people happy!
USpin is important because we are helping consumers regain the most scarce commodity around: time. By providing a one-stop shop where consumers can plan, communicate, and reserve their social engagements (pub crawl, dinner and a movie, girls' night out, etc.), along with concierge options for services like transportation and childcare, we help our consumers (and their friends) make faster, more intelligent, and ultimately happier decisions.
Though there's competition around both concierge and event planning (as a component of social commerce), we are the first entry into the market to truly embrace the specific social group involved in an outing, leveraging the social and interest graph in combination with a concierge component.
We look at market size in terms of two industries; concierge and social commerce. Concierge is a $200m industry with modest growth, low concentration, and low barriers to entry. Social commerce is a $9b industry with substantial growth, and low barriers to entry.
In terms of our target market, we intend to target men and women between the ages of 25 and 34, with incomes over $50k per year. This demographic includes more than 16 million people nationwide, and is growing at approximately 2% per year.
This is only our primary target; we believe college students AND men and women older than 35 will also find great use for our platform. The target was chosen based on current use of social networks and mobile platforms, but is restrictive only in terms of general marketing, not in terms of function or support!
USpin intends to make money through a combination of streams including targeted advertising, targeted sponsor offers from businesses and brands, fees for subscription access to concierge-level services, marketing revenue generated from our data set, affiliate revenue from our partner services, and (in the future) licensing revenue for opening up our platform to other businesses who can add value to their customers through their own sites and applications.
Competition is defined by the two industries we believe we will compete most directly with, which are concierge and social planning. Competitors in the concierge industry include both business concierge (Quintessentially, VIPDesk, Ask Sunday, Circles, American Express, and Red Butler) and personal concierge (Independent agents). Competitors in the social planning industry include event planning businesses (Eventbrite, Meetup.com, and Evite), as well as businesses that leverage social networks (Facebook, Yelp, Schemer, Plangr, Plancast, ShoutPlans, Sosh, Hoppit, etc.)
USpin got started over coffee and Thai food. In March 2012,
Ethan set out as a solo founder to learn about all of the technologies and
ideas that would enable the company to succeed. He started at Northeastern
University, where he met a number of brilliant programmers, including Andrea
Tommaso Bonanno. Though it would be a few months before the pair reconnected,
Andrea laid part of the foundation that would later become USpin.
While Ethan continued to research, he learned that USpin
could solve a problem for many people; not just couples, but groups! And not
just for nights out, but for anytime when friends were spending time together. He
started working with Niki Brown at Rocketmouse, and Gujun Chen, also from
Northeastern. A few months later Andrea returned to USpin, and they were all
joined by Michelle Cawley. The team worked together to create an alpha product,
which launched in October 2012.
Like any business worth its salt, USpin will acquire
customers by creating an experience that brings the first customer to the site,
and gets them excited enough to tell a friend. Word of mouth and virality via
social networks, therefore, play a role in our user acquisition strategy. In
addition, USpin will use online advertisement via the Google Display Network,
Facebook, and Google AdWords to reach consumers who are likely to influence
other consumers in their social discovery decisions.
Beyond advertising, USpin has engaged a number of press contacts to help spread the word when the site launches nationally. These include the Boston Business Journal, BostInno, The Boston Globe, and more. Less locally, USpin also has contacts at TechCrunch, and will reach out to Lifehacker, Engadget, Gizmodo, and the like.
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