What is unique about No Chains compared to similar products like Yelp or Google Reviews?
We only support independent restaurants. I’ve used other popular apps to search for a good burger in the middle of Manhattan and several of them suggested a McDonald’s nearby. With No Chains, everything is reviewed by the menu, not the venue. We actually care about the restaurants. The other review sites in our industry seem to be pretty advertising focused, compared to actually helping.
What practical advice or tips would you give tech entrepreneurs about launching a mobile app when you don’t have the technical skills?
Try to learn as much as possible about what you want to accomplish with your technology before you approach any developer. It’s a lot easier, faster and cost efficient if you know exactly how you want to work. Being able to articulate your idea will help when evaluating developers. Also don’t jump for the first developer who says they can build your product. Put them to the test before signing a contract. There are a ton of resources online to help you through this process. For example go to Elance.com, a global, online, staffing platform where anyone can hire independent freelance professionals. Look at the descriptions of what people have posted and it will give you a framework of the types of questions to ask a developer. So, before you start trying to get your big idea developed research, research, research. Try to better understand how product management works that way you can set realistic expectations. It took us about one year before we even talked to a developer.
What advice do you have for startup entrepreneurs who are planning to participate in an incubator or accelerator?
Apply to more than five of them. You never know which one will accept your company. After talking to several investors they seem to like companies that come out of accelerators. Basically the accelerator does most of the due diligence when they interview companies. It makes it easy for the investor and it gives the company some instant credibility.
How can you best take advantage of these programs?
I’m a huge advocate of research, so research past companies and current companies in the program you’re in. It’s important to communicate with mentors in the program as much as possible. Also get a product out so you can test it with your market as soon as possible.
Why did you decide to keep your tech companies in the Southwest as opposed to move to Silicon Valley or New York?
Well the honest answer is that I’m getting hitched soon and she lives in Houston. One of the advantages of being in the south is that it’s a heck of a lot cheaper in regards of cost of living. Also you can find some great talent here, so investing in a great team here is a fraction of what you would pay in other places. With that being said, we’re still deciding on where we’ll be located. Most of it depends on where we accept our investment money.
How will you make money from the app?
Basically our model is to get as many restaurants on our freemium service, and hopefully show them value in using some of our premium features. We make money from our premium subscription services.
How has this journey down the tech entrepreneurship road changed your life?
It’s just a different take on things. It’s harder to find circles to fit in because most people don’t get tech. I was at someone’s house and they asked me what I did. I answered them, and they said, ‘My friend builds apps on the side and sells them for .99 cents.’ Most people see that Facebook and Instagram made billions and that’s all they have for reference. They see all their friends using these services but they don’t see the behind the scenes view, which involves hours of coding, months of pitching, and a lot of time trying to validate your product. So my life hasn’t changed too much other than finding circles of people that get it. Other than that I’ve gotten more creative in all areas of my life: creative financing, creative traveling, and creative lodging.