After participating in The Iron Yard, a Greenville, South Carolina-based, 13-week tech accelerator associated with Startup America Partnership’s Global Accelerator Network, Rich Winley launched the public version of No Chains, a mobile app that helps travelers and foodies find the best non-franchise restaurants that they’ve never heard of. He wanted to create a platform that gave voice to fans of independent restaurants. He took the app from Greenville to Austin, Texas for SXSW, and next week he will be launching it in New York City.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Winley to discuss his business model, what he learned in the accelerator program, and what inspired him to call the app ‘No Chains.’
Where did the name “No Chains” come from?
The name first came from my pitch. No Chains is an app that helps people find non-chain restaurants. As I interacted with the different restaurant owners, it then later began to have real meaning. Opening a restaurant represents the American dream. For entrepreneurs to jump in a business that has a 90% fail rate, that shows nothing can hold them back (i.e. No Chains).
People ask me all the time if I hate chains. I’m not against chains, I’m just for independents. If we can help an independent grow as large as a chain, we’ve done our job.
How does it work?
We’re essentially becoming a food/dish search engine. We take into account your preferences, tastes, dietary needs, and search history when you use No Chains. No one has really made a breakthrough in the food market for personally recommended actions catered to taste.
Describe the problem that No Chains solves. Who will benefit from it the most, and how?
In short, the app helps you find the best restaurants you’ve never heard of, reviewed by the menu not the venue. We help consumers discover independent restaurants wherever they are, and everything is reviewed by the menu not the venue, so that helps differentiate ourselves from the rest. Consumers can also filter by dish, cuisine, or preference. So, if you want to find the best burger or Pad Thai in Manhattan, just search for it. If you’re vegetarian or gluten-free, just filter by it.
For restaurants, we help them build an online presence. Most small, independent restaurants don’t have a website. If they do have a website, it’s not optimized for mobile. With our platform they can come to No Chains and build their website in under 30 minutes and every time they update their menu online it automatically syncs with the No Chains app. One of the most searched things when looking for a restaurant is the menu. We also help them build social media presence by aggregating all their social media accounts, and we give them the ability to manage them all from one place. We have a lot of other cool stuff coming out, but we can’t tell everyone about our secret sauce.