[Here NJTechWeekly.com presents the first article in what we plan as an ongoing series on N.J.’s startups.]
Has digital marketing hit a wall? It depends on who you ask – or rather, where you ask. That’s where Union County startup PlaceCodes comes into play. The company hopes to deliver the next innovation in mobile marketing by using geographic information systems (GIS) technology, to deliver geotargeted mobile messages and offers via any digital medium, including social media. Its customers include popular restaurants, such as Friendly’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Subway.
Company name: PlaceCodes Inc.
When did you launch the company?: We incorporated in 2013.
1. QuickLinks – Companies embed QuickLinks in any digital medium to drive consumers to physical locations with a single tap or click (tweets, Facebook posts, ads, etc.)
2. Scan2.it – Image recognition technology that enables consumers to scan an ad or logo from nondigital media (print ads, outdoor, packages)
3. Mobile coupons and reminders that pop up on a mobile device when a consumer approaches a store that carries a specific product
4. Digital Concierge – Customized itinerary that includes content and point-to-point directions
CEO name: David Ingerman
N.J. location: 426 Springfield Ave., Summit N.J.
David Ingerman – CEO & Co-Founder
Jude Huang – CTO & Co-Founder
Any employees yet?: Our current team includes a mix of people working on development, marketing, sales and business development.
Funding: We have raised $300,000 from outside angel investors in N.J., and are about to kick off our next funding round in the next few months.
Market you are serving: We are a mobile marketing technology company. We serve the following markets:
- Mobile Advertising (estimated at $18B in 2014 by Gartner)
- Social Media (estimated at $7.5B in 2014 by Forrester)
- Mobile Couponing (estimated at $5.4B in 2012 by Juniper Research)
1. What is your N.J. connection, why are you in N.J., what brought you here and do you plan to stay here?
Both co-founders live in N.J. and have kids who swim on the Summit Y swim team. We both had difficulty finding the pool at Princeton University, and it just so happened that our professional backgrounds gave us the skill set to develop what would become a patentable and unique locator solution.
Over time, the commercial potential for PlaceCodes became obvious as marketers and agencies came to us looking to leverage our technology to drive retail traffic, enhance their mobile marketing, and access location-based data and analytics.
We are currently based in Summit and love it here. We have no intention of leaving N.J.
2. What problem are you solving?
We help consumers find and get to products and places more easily than ever before. We also help marketers drive consumers to physical locations with a simple click or tap from any mobile device, or by scanning any print ad and receiving nearby locations and targeted offers. We like to say that “PlaceCodes is the shortest distance between intent and purchase.”
3. Why can you address this problem better than anyone else?
We have a patented solution that lets us create a unique name for every place in the world and associate products with those places. We provide unique links that marketers include in any medium to deliver location information and targeted offers, and gather detailed analytics that show what marketing is driving consumers to stores, when and from where.
4. How did you come up with your startup name?
As I mentioned, Jude and I both have kids who swim on the Summit Y swim team. We had both had difficulty finding the pool at Princeton University one morning, and I mentioned that I wished someone could create a simple code like “PrincetonPool” that I could simply enter into my GPS and get instant directions. He responded that he happened to be a developer with a background in GIS, and offered to build the solution with me.
Naturally, when we thought about what to call a solution that created a short code for every place, we pretty quickly landed on “PlaceCodes.” We liked the idea of conveying what we offered in simple terms. However, as we have evolved to provide mobile marketing solutions that help companies drive consumers to places to find their products, I sometimes wonder whether we might have been a bit too specific with the name.
5. What was the biggest mistake you’ve made so far in your entrepreneurial journey, and what did you learn from it?
We’ve made plenty of mistakes and it is hard to pick a winner. Early on, Subway Restaurants asked us to create a QR code that, when scanned with a mobile device, would direct consumers to their nearest Subway location. It provided the same experience as clicking the link: placecodes.com/subway, and we proved that it could work.
However, consumers have been slow to adopt QR codes, and other marketers have been reluctant to include them in their creative for aesthetic reasons. We learned that we needed a better approach for nondigital media, and created an app with image recognition, which we plan to launch shortly. Without the advertiser needing to include anything different, consumers with the app will be able to scan a print ad or logo to find nearby selling locations and special offers.
We also had a potential deal with a company that promised to get our technology integrated into a product that was being launched by a major celebrity, if we would do a good deal of custom work for them. We made the mistake of pursuing this path, which consumed an inordinate amount of time and energy and never materialized. From that, we learned not to get enamored with any single client and divert our focus from our vision.
6. When was the last time you thought about quitting your startup and going back to corporate life, or doing something else? What got you to stay?
I can honestly say that I have never considered going back to corporate life since we started PlaceCodes.
7. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
I would have pushed things out faster to get market reactions, and would not have been quite so concerned about someone copying what we have built. Of course, that is easy to say now that we’ve been granted a patent!
8. What’s the best place to find founders to network with?
I attend a good number lot of meetups, and am part of a Founders Roundtable group. Almost every time I attend one of these sessions, I meet someone who sparks a new idea or inspires me in some new way.
9. What does your spouse/ significant other/ family think about you being an entrepreneur?
My wife has been incredibly patient and supportive. She too spent many years in the corporate world and can see how liberating and fulfilling it can be to start your own business – although we both agree that you tend to replace one set of stresses and challenges with another one!
10. What has helped you the most to achieve your current success?
I think that the best decision that I have made has been to pull together an outstanding Advisory Board. I essentially reached out to all of the smartest ex-bosses and colleagues from throughout my career, and asked if they would like to get involved. Remarkably, every one of them agreed to!
They bring a broad array of experiences and perspectives, and none is shy. We often have some pretty intense discussions, but always end up in a better place. I think my most important advice to a new entrepreneur would be to find people whose judgment you trust, and who will tell you things that you might not want to hear.