Five Questions With: Owen Biddle

Co-founder and chief technology officer of Greentape, talks to Providence Business News about his company, using technology to expand the organic food market and the tech startup experience. More

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Five Questions With: Owen Biddle

COURTESY GREENTAPE
The only thing that hasn’t changed much is our product vision, but everything else has.
Posted 10/17/12

Owen Biddle is co-founder and chief technology officer of Greentape, a technology startup that brings additional revenue streams to merchants selling organic and locally grown products. Using plug-and-play sensors, the Greentape app allows stores and restaurants to deliver walk-in rewards and alerts to customers in the area.

Owen grew up in Seattle, attended the University of Washington and has been active in the startup world since his graduation.

Prior to Greentape, Biddle created OpenHouseAdvertising.com, mobile websites for homes, and Listbums.com, a social network for lists.

Biddle and the other Greentape founders are currently participating in the Fall session of the Betaspring startup accelerator.

PBN: What prompted the idea behind Greentape?

BIDDLE: The idea behind Greentape began to take shape after my co-founder, Chris Daltas, and I had built a series of apps to educate users on the benefits of eating healthy that, although popular, had some limitations to their maximum growth. The folks at Apple had been fans and ‘featured’ them multiple times in the App store, and we found ourselves with 70,000+ downloads in a relatively short amount of time. These ‘features’ combined with some organic growth made us feel super but the downloads were tough to sustain. We realized we needed a stronger distribution model.

So we took the concept we had to the ‘streets’, aka the grocery stores and restaurants. We needed to find out if they would promote our app in their stores in exchange for driving customers to their location. We got some inspiring feedback, so we shifted our focus, ate some fruits and veggies, had a brainstorming sesh, and Greentape was born.

PBN: How does your system work?

BIDDLE: For people that download Greentape, they can browse local and organic food nearby, and when they show up to their favorite stores they get rewarded.

For merchants, our goal is to bring their customers back more often. We do this by giving them unique tools that have the ability to deliver intelligent and targeted content - meaning merchants can send messages to customers the moment they walk in to make their experience more desirable. These messages can be discounts, offers, calls to actions and/or rewards.

To execute this vision we developed plug and play sensors that are as simple as a nightlight. When people walk into a store, our sensors make their phone go “BUZZ BUZZ!” We collect and store this data and send our customers weekly analytical reports.

PBN: How has Greentape evolved since you first came up with the idea?

BIDDLE: The only thing that hasn’t changed much is our product vision, but everything else has. From our product implementation strategy to customer acquisition, the fundamental things we do to bring our vision to life have evolved, been re-worked or completely thrown out. We also do our best to prioritize next-steps, areas of focus, etc by using our expertise or taking advice from others, but nothing speeds up the process of evolution faster than going out and doing it. That’s how we test our assumptions. If they’re validated, make them better. If they’re not, toss them out. As Steve Blank said- "In a startup no facts exist inside the building, only opinions’. That couldn’t be more true.

PBN: You recently launched a beta version of your iPhone app, how is that going?

BIDDLE: It’s going really well. We’ve been able to take advantage of some tremendous partnership opportunities and have acquired our first customers.

We decided to launch the Beta version of Greentape earlier than expected. We believe that companies should live in Beta in order to learn, and the sooner we get people using our product the better. So that’s what this first version represents. Therefore, If you download Greentape right now you will find stores nearby that sell organic and or local food & coffee.

PBN: What advice do you have to people thinking of embarking on the tech startup journey?

BIDDLE: Make is easy on yourself and get a co-founder that brings to the table what you may lack. For example, if you’re not technical, find someone who is. Otherwise you’ll find yourself building the product and selling it at the same. I’ve been in that exact position before and it’s very difficult to succeed in both; one always out performs the other.

Build your product, get customers, raise money. But during all of that, make connections with everyone and anyone. This is where luck comes in, you might just meet an angel investor who believes in you.

But the best advice would be to seek help and find a quality start-up accelerator. We’ve been very fortunate in that we’re part of this year’s Fall class at Betaspring, a local start-up accelerator here in providence. Imagine cramming one year of company growth into 2.5 months, and that’s the value Betaspring has given Greentape.

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