Newark Venture Partner Labs graduate company Claim it! is marking two milestones this week. The startup will be featured pitching its app on the Apple reality competition show “Planet of the Apps” on Tuesday, August 15.
More importantly for the future of Claim it!, the company’s app is scheduled to be released from the Apple App store, also on August 15. Some 50,000 people are on the waiting list for the new app.
What’s to come is a completely different version of the Claim it! app than the one currently in the app store, CEO Ali Abdullah told NJTechWeekly.com in an interview.
A major difference is that the new app has the ability to scale nationwide. Through Claim it!, people can discover, give and share free stuff from national brands, local businesses and people nearby. Then they can either “claim” them instantly (first-come, first-served) or take a randomized chance to win. Brands can offer samples, services, e-gift cards, daily deals, and last-minute offers, or promote events in seconds — for free.
“We’ve essentially become a social network marketplace,” Abdullah told us. “Anyone, a person or brand, is able to promote, claim, give, share and also chat. Anyone can do that, whether you are a national brand, or you, me or anyone.
“The earlier version of the app was just about getting free stuff. Now it’s about a community of people sharing, claiming and giving.” Instead of chatting about something on Facebook or Instagram, the new concept at Claim it! is “when you are promoting something, you are actually giving a discount or a free thing.” Reviewers, mentors and investors are “saying that this platform could become addictive, and we are thrilled about that.” Abdullah noted that users can narrow down their interactions on the app by ZIP Code.
He also spoke to us about the $2.5 million seed-funding round the company closed in early June, which was led by Newark Venture Partners with participation by Infor (New York), Stephen Sadove (former chairman and CEO of Saks Inc.) and NBA stars Thaddeus Young and Al Harrington.
The goal of participating in Planet of the Apps was to raise capital. It wasn’t for the publicity, Abdullah said. “The show put us in an ideal position to either do a seed round or a series A round.” Planet of the Apps celebrates the world of apps and the people who create them. Hosted by Zane Lowe and featuring advisors Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk and will.i.am, the Apple series highlights developers who have the vision to shape the future, solve real problems, and inspire change.
“With the earlier version of the app, we got good traction, had a great team and had good growth, but we struggled a lot with scaling the business,” Abdulla said. “We got one firm on the West Coast excited about what we were doing, and then we circled back with investors to see if we could get a better deal. One of the firms we circled back to, and had a good time meeting with, was Newark Venture Partners.
“I had a lot of respect for Tom [Wisniewski] and Dan [Borok], and Dan was a former Googler, like myself. They also knew a lot about the space. I wanted to be close to New York City and have access to resources there, where we already had a huge footprint. All the figures were showing that Newark Venture Partners would be a good fit for us because of their resources, their partnerships and the experience behind the managing directors themselves.” That’s when Claim it! joined Newark Venture Partner Labs.
Abdullah took the extra step of moving, not only the company, but also his family to Newark.“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me, since my family and I wanted to get out of the city. My team and I visited the [NVP Labs] space and fell in love with the energy and the people, and it just accelerated from there.”
Reflecting on his time at NVP Labs, he added, “I credit a lot to Dan and Tom. We are rolling out a new version of the app, and we had been turned away a lot because of the earlier iteration. We had a lot of success, but the investors didn’t see how it would scale. I spent a lot of time with Dan and Tom. We would just harass them for extra advice, wisdom and ideas on how we can go about really growing a billion-dollar company.”
“They challenged us a lot with describing who we were,” Abdullah said. The team was building out a new iteration, and they had to remove what they’d previously built from top-of-mind awareness and keep true to the new concept. The managing directors liked that the team took the initiative to keep asking them for help staying on track, he said.
Abdullah noted that he is all about team, and said, “When we pitched at Demo Day, I wanted my team there.” They were told that no one had ever done that before, but the NVP managers supported Abdullah’s decision.
The startup is looking to gain traction, and isn’t worried about monetization right now. However, it has hired two experienced business development people to help the team identify revenue opportunities. “It has never been my goal to build a company just based on fundraising,” said Abdullah. “This is a business that now has a ton of scale and also will make money. We anticipate six to 12 months from now, we will have built out features that monetize” the company.