Back in the day when I first became acquainted with Louisville’s startup scene (that day being sometime in September 2012), the buzz was all about WhyWait.
WhyWait was a free restaurant iPhone and Android app that told you how long the wait was at your favorite restaurant. It also let restaurants customize their WhyWait information page so they could share information like what their daily specials were and what times their happy hours were.
Three of the four WhyWait team were friends from Bowling Green, Kentucky. They started the app there and decided quickly to expand.
“We decided on a Thursday to move to Louisville. On Monday we moved into a house,” says Jay Brown, operation and sales. (Yes, the three male employees are also roommates.)
Kaitie Vonderschmitt rounds out the four-person team. She was their Bowling Green intern and worked with design, social media and marketing.
They liked her work so much that when she graduated from WKU, they brought her on full time. She liked the company so much that when they impulsively moved to Louisville, she came along.
WhyWait moved into an office in the Nucleus Building. Had a ribbon cutting. Met with the Mayor and Ted Smith. “We really feel welcomed in Louisville,” said CFO Jon Matar.
CEO Eric Littleton set to work signing up a bunch of restaurants and gave them a PC tablet to work the site with.
For a while WhyWait seemed locally ubiquitous. They sponsored activities like a New2Lou bowling outing. They made the rounds of local media (except us… we barely covered them at all, go figure). They were one of the startups that got Kyle Sandler of Niblitz to start paying attention to Louisville. The rumor mill spit out rumors of Big Money.
And partner restaurants complied for a few weeks – you could open the app and see tons of wait times and happy hours and deals– but then restaurants got tired of it, says Brown. And lost interest.
“It just wasn’t speaking to their pain point,” says Brown.
Getting butts in seats during typically slow hours – that’s a pain point for restaurants.
A pain point for consumers? Daily deal sites require that you buy in advance. If you buy a Groupon for Wasabiya, for example, you can’t redeem it until the next day.
What if you could redeem a deal while sitting at your favorite restaurant? What if that deal didn’t cost you a penny? It’s like getting a Groupon or Living Social deal for free.
That’s the idea behind LocalView. LocalView uses tech developed for WhyWait, but this time they are using an aggregation model rather manual-input model. In other words, there’s no opportunity for restaurants to screw things up by not complying.
LocalView isn’t just about “deals.” It aggregates information from places like Yelp and Open Table and event calendars.
It also aggregates daily deals from Groupon and Living Social and other sites. This will allow LocalView to scale quickly and from Louisville. All that needs to happen to bring a new city online is for LocalView to access that city’s feeds and aggregate them.
But it’s the immediate deals that drive the revenue model (merchants pay a “small percentage” to LocalView when you redeem a deal at their business).
Groupon and Living Social and the like “have an edge in that market,” says Matar. “But most of them have the same business model.”
“Over eight hundred merchants in Louisville have run a daily deal,” says Brown. These are businesses primed to sign up for the immediate deals with LocalView. They know how deals work, and LocalView feels that they can give merchants a better experience. The merchant only pays when a deal is redeemed. LocalView helps get the consumers in the door.
In a follow-up email, Brown said: “We have two major goals with our new product… 1) Provide a value to users that improves their daily interaction with local businesses at the same time discovering new places to go by using free deals they can’t find anywhere else. 2) Help local businesses obtain new customers that they build long lasting relationships with.”
First round of investment in WhyWait came from friends and family. Their initial private investor was located in Louisville. Tony Schy is an investor and mentor.
“Our investors are both supportive and insightful,” says Brown. “They agree with the business decisions we are making and are very excited about the direction of the company.”
When asked what local apps they admire, Matar and Brown were quick to respond.
“We love the look of Menu and Hours,” says Matar of the Michelle Jones-created app that shared some of the buzz surrounding WhyWait last fall.
Menu and Hours will be expanding regionally soon.
“I don’t know if I like Aaron Marshall more, or Over more,” says Brown.
The business is still headquartered at the iHub, although I met with them in Schy’s Velocity co-working space. The app will launch for iOS and Android “sometime this summer,” says Brown.
According to Brown, the localview.co website will be live this weekend and will allow people to sign up to beta test.