Startup Roundup: Lyft, Startup Baker and Amp Your Good
Lyft: Lyft, the California-based Uber competitor, launched its ride service in Hoboken on April 24, 2014. The community-based, on-demand car service lets users book a ride through an app on their phone. Lyft had its tri-state launch in Hoboken before launching in New York. The company, which calls itself “a friendly, affordable ride whenever you need one,” says riders can use its app to request a ride with the tap of a button and be picked up by a driver within minutes.
The launch took place at NJ Tech Meetup, providing attendees at a HatchNJ event unlimited free rides the first two weeks Lyft was in operation. The company says that on Lyft, passengers and drivers are equals — passengers fist-bump, sit up front and deejay if they want to.
Over the next year the Lyft for Good program will be partnering with 100 local charities across the country to work more closely with community initiatives, the company, which serves all of northern New Jersey, said.
Startup Baker: Hoboken-based Startup Baker, which launched April 25, 2014, helps startups at their earliest stages, when they are designing landing pages and testing their concepts.
Founder Konstantinos Papakonstantinou had already been providing startups advice in this area, so he decided to automate and package the process somewhat. He said Startup Baker’s ideal client is a business that needs to find an online audience.
When startups begin an online business, manipulating their site in any way can take too long and often look unprofessional, Papakonstantinou said. Also, for most of them, determining the kind of Google AdWords campaign to run to test an idea can be difficult.
For $299 plus $100 for a Google AdWords campaign, Startup Baker says it can test a startup’s idea using a landing page created by professional designers and coders. The AdWords campaign is optimized and analyzed by a specialist.
Startup Baker will run the AdWords campaign for four days at $25 per day and provide businesses the results in terms of click-through rate and conversion rate, the two metrics startups care most about, Papakonstantinou said.
The website offers a simple form for entrepreneurs. Startups submit a business name, which need not be permanent, a business description — a pitch to catch the reader’s attention — and keywords that will take customers to their business via a Google search. They are also asked for three key benefits of using their business.
Using this quick method of evaluating startups is an easy way to learn, for example, if you have three ideas, which one you should be emphasizing. “We are getting people who already have a business but can take their business in several different directions. They can figure out which way to go,” Papakonstantinou said.
Using Startup Baker, entrepreneurs can learn what potential volume of visitors and conversions they can expect online and how much it will cost to get those visitors to the website. “These are crucial metrics you need to know. If you are selling something that has a gross margin of $10 and it costs you $50 to get someone to the website, … that’s not a business. And it’s better to find out now rather than later,” Papakonstantinou explained.
Amp Your Good: Mendham-based Amp Your Good, started by Patrick O’Neill (formerly of YouGiveGoods.com), has developed what it calls a crowdfeeding platform. Rather than donating money to a project or a cause as you would on a crowdfunding site, through Amp Your Good you donate food. Food for hungry people can be donated to food drives, and pet food can be donated to animal shelters.
Amp Your Good focuses on the reasons that people give to charity, O’Neill said: they want to help others, it makes them feel good and it’s the right thing to do. “We are looking to … to ensure that when someone has a good intention to help out, it really counts. Everything that someone donates through a drive matches something that the organizations they are helping say they need,” he noted.
Amp Your Good taps the emotional side of giving, O’Neill said. “We have a tool built into our site where people can, when they make a donation, increase what’s getting donated to the organization they want to support by taking a survey. Whatever they donate will get ‘amplified’ by a specific amount, depending on the campaign. We expect … get sponsors to sign up to be matching sponsors for the campaigns. The sponsors would get exposure on our site and would develop the surveys,” he said.
A campaign that will be run by New Jersey charity Curbing Hunger this June will secure food for hunger organizations in June, July and August, the time of year those organizations find most challenging. Moreover, they experience an increase in the number of people they serve, because children who qualify for free lunch and breakfast are typically home from school. “We think [that for this campaign] we will line up with a sponsor that is a healthcare company,” O’Neill said.
The campaign will aim to obtain fresh produce rather than canned goods, which can be high in sugar and sodium, said O’Neill. “The healthcare companies we are talking to want to reinforce the message that people should be choosing healthy foods and would use the survey for that,” he said.
O’Neill’s team includes CTO Martin Scheidl and CFO Mary Kay O’Neill along with several community managers and marketing personnel.