Oct222012

“Good business leaders are able to figure out their options quickly and, more importantly, eliminate those that are unwise or potentially troublesome.”

Cole Harper
Cole Harper
SceneTap
CEO

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SceneTap is a mobile app and website that uses anonymous facial detection software placed inside a venue to provide users with information about the crowd, including male-to-female ratio, average age and crowdedness, all in real-time. Users also can check out food and drink specials, live events and access other features. SceneTap helps users decide where to go for a quick lunch, happy hour or Saturday night on the town.

MO: Can you share how you knew when it was the right time to look for investors?

Cole: I knew it was the right time because people starting asking me if we were accepting investors. I even had a friend that ‘knew a guy’ that had heard about the idea and wanted to be a part of it. That guy not only ended up writing a check, but he also handed me a resume and asked when we would be able to hire.

The hardest part for me was knowing when to set a minimum investment amount. Although raising the bar would turn some potential investors away, I knew that it would enable me to spend my time in more valuable ways.

MO: What was your inspiration for SceneTap and can you talk about the development process of taking your concept and turning into an app? What were some of the challenges you faced along the way?

Cole: The idea for SceneTap came about one weekend when I was out with SceneTap cofounder and CIO Marc Doering. We were taking cabs all over the city trying to find a decent spot to hangout when we started to add up the amount of time and money we were wasting. One bar would be packed and the next dead. After agreeing that there had to be a way to gather the type of data we were looking for, we grabbed bar stools and came up with SceneTap. But don’t be fooled – bringing the idea to fruition was much more challenging than it sounds.

I started the development process by thinking about the user experience. You can actually see the first napkin drawing on our website, where Marc and I discussed whether we should show raw numbers, percentages, trends or something else. From there, we figured out how to collect the information, and that’s when we began to strive for absolute automation, from someone walking through a door, to collecting and deciphering the data, to transmitting that information to an application.

The main challenge I faced was keeping focused and staying the course. There were so many things that I wanted to include as part of the build-out and we were constantly receiving suggestions from others. If we took every bit of feedback and tried to incorporate it, we would either have a saturated app or no app at all because it would still be in development. We figured out our minimum viable product and moved forward. The end vision came in time.

MO: What are some of the benefits for customers using SceneTap? What are the advantages for business owners?

Cole: Basically, SceneTap is like having a friend at every bar or restaurant in town who can tell you what the scene is like before you arrive. SceneTap gives users a snapshot of the male-to-female ratio, average age and crowd size at their favorite hotspots – all in real-time. Users also have access to exclusive food and drink deals, general venue information and new extras like photo sharing.

For business owners, SceneTap acts as a marketing partner. The technology provides valuable information about customer demographics and foot traffic to venue owners on the network. Venue owners now have the ability to measure the effectiveness of their advertising and marketing campaigns. Did the margarita special bring in more males or females? How many people came out for trivia night on Thursday? SceneTap lets them know. Venues also have a page on which they can display hours and specials, push out deals and even interact with patrons.

MO: Do you think that apps like SceneTap could revolutionize how we go out at night and socialize?

Cole: Definitely. People are always looking for ways to make their lives easier, and apps like SceneTap do just that. Why not take advantage of tools that provide insight and useful information we’d otherwise not have? From browsing lunch specials at local restaurants to gauging the crowdedness of your favorite clubs, SceneTap allows users to make more informed decisions.

MO: Congratulations on just celebrating SceneTap’s first year anniversary. How has SceneTap evolved since you first launched a year ago?

Cole: Thank you! It’s been a wild ride so far. Since our initial launch last year in Chicago, we’ve expanded to seven other U.S. markets, including Austin, San Francisco and Milwaukee. We have many more launches in the works, in both major cities and college markets. Along the way, we did some rebranding (you’ll notice the color scheme and logos are a little different) and updated the app to include cool features like photo sharing. We’re evolving as we go and always listen to what our users and venue owners want and need.

MO: Can you expand on how you’re looking to expand the SceneTap technology into new industries and use the information to improve your users’ everyday lives?

Cole: We’ve already started setting up partnerships and forming relationships in industries other than dining and nightlife. Although we knew that SceneTap had a broader scope, we wanted to take things slow and get our feet wet first. SceneTap just happens to be expanding faster than anticipated, which is awesome. We’re looking to “tap” into a variety of industries ranging from music and entertainment to professional sports to retail. Our goal is for people to get home from work and use SceneTap to decide whether or not it’s the optimal time to do grocery shopping, go to the gym or head to the mall.

MO: Can you talk our readers though the concept of “analysis paralysis,” and what management techniques you use to ensure that your team is balanced and productive?

Cole: Analysis paralysis is when you over-think an issue, large or small, to the point where you never take action because you are trying to figure out the perfect solution. Imagine a jogger encountering an obstacle on a trail and stopping to consider whether to climb over or jog around. By stopping, the jogger has already made the wrong decision, because any other choice would have eluded the obstacle in less time. In reality, there are usually several solutions to a given problem, and people have to choose where and when to allocate the additional thought in making a decision. Good business leaders are able to figure out their options quickly and, more importantly, eliminate those that are unwise or potentially troublesome. In our organization, I try to empower each employee to define their own “options” and recommendations on a given issue, rather than just sharing the problem. I encourage everyone to always move forward, even if the occasional backtrack is necessary, because otherwise we would just be standing in place. The key is knowing when to crawl, walk or run.

 

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