Featured on Apr 12, 2011
Robert is an EIR at Squeaky Wheel Media, and is the founder of Crowdbeacon. In a past life, he founded Glassbooth.org – a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping voters make more informed and empowered decisions across the globe – which was named Best Political Website of 2008 by CNet, the #1 Most Useful Political website by PC Magazine and was the recipient of a 2008 Webby (honoree). He is a trained attorney who has worked on digital media strategies for numerous international brands including Revlon, the Associated Press and Lierac USA (to name a few). He is interested in video games, technologies that help make life easier for people and eating.
- Title: Founder/President, Crowdbeacon
- Age: 27
- Location: Brooklyn, Chelsea
- Contact: @boylerob
Tell us more about Crowdbeacon, your location-based content startup, and how the idea was conceived?
Crowdbeacon is a location-based communication platform (iPhone only now -- Android soon!) focused on helping users find the information they need. Specifically, Crowdbeacon connects users who are looking for information with self-identified hyper-local communities (local experts and business) and other APIs that have the information and expertise that user needs. Think of it like this: if KGB and Google Places had a baby, that baby would be Crowdbeacon (it would also be very good looking). Crowdbeacon was conceived and incubated at Squeaky Wheel Media (www.squeaky.com) in NYC. From the beginning our goal with Crowdbeacon was simple: to help people find what they need, wherever they are. This goal was conceived of multiple converging circumstances and conversations between myself and Anthony Del Monte (the CEO of Squeaky). Specifically, we were in the process of building an app that helped the homeless in NYC through geo-tagging their location and notifying proper governmental agencies that they needed help, when Anthony and I realized that there was contextual value built into location-based real-time data that a check-in just didn't address. So I wrote a self-indulgent manifesto (seriously) and we agreed to give it a proper try. And I can say that we're happy that we did.
As the founder of Glassbooth.org, what do you think are the elements of the website that most contributed to its success?
It's so funny because Ian Manheimer (who co-founded Glassbooth with me and has since went on to found Measy.com) and I were talking about this earlier this week. Honestly, launching Glassbooth was truly a unique experience. We launched the site in November of 2007 and it instantly became clear that we were in for something special; we did 3.5m uniques in our 10 months, partnered with major media companies on different initiatives, got an insane amount of press (from print to TV to the web) and overall seemed to be incapable of having anything go wrong. I can say definitively now that I know this experience is not the norm for startups -- but we didn't know that then!
However, getting to the core of your question the elements of the website that most contributed to its success were three-fold: 1) Our timing was really perfect to drive adoption because our product fulfilled a practical need: three months out from Super Tuesday before any other "candidate quiz" competitor launched and while there were still 17 candidates in the primary. People needed help figuring out which candidate was for them, and we filled that need -- which drove adoption; 2) The site design was intuitive. As much as I (or my other co-founders) would like to take credit for the U/I and U/X, Ivan Kanevski (our CTO) just absolutely rocked the front-end of the site. He is an absolute genius, and luckily for everyone involved in Glassbooth, he put his genius on display with Glassbooth and people loved it; and 3) We were beyond dedicated to making it a success. I know that this is not unique for GB, but having been a part of multiple startups now, I can say definitively that the energy of our team is what made it all possible. At the time our office was in our house, and we had a constant in-flow of people at all hours coming in ready to just dominate. I cannot emphasize how important this was for me personally, because being a part of a team focused on changing the political system changed my life in the most positive of ways. Also, when you have a team it makes the difficult and mundane work easier to manage, which is incredibly important when you're pushing a product out because there is a lot of mundane/difficult work to be done.
You have helped global brands like Revlon, Lexus, and The Associated Press understand digital mediums and platforms as EIR/Strategist at Squeaky Wheel Media. What advice do you have for startup founders on how to grow their brand?
My position on branding (for startups and int'l brands alike) is simple: decide how you want your target market to feel when they think of your company, and then spend the necessary time to develop a mission statement (what you're doing) and positioning statement (how you're doing it) that clearly and simply establishes this reaction. Once you've got that statement (think of Google's "organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful" mission + plus it's "don't be evil" statement), you have a criteria to help guide every consumer-facing position that your company takes. In terms ways to tactically grow your brand, it is important that you do your best to find the marketing channel that will reach the most rabid fans of your product/company to start and grow from there. Launching a startup -- and becoming the next Twitter -- is hard enough as is, don't complicate matters further for you by trying to market yourself too broadly at launch. If your product is good users will come, just make sure when they're ready that you are too.
Any plans to run for political office yourself?
You know, when I was in college I had aspirations to become a US Senator, but that desire faded after I built my first product. I really enjoy building products/brands/companies and solving problems for clients... and based on my (very limited) experience the US Gov't is the least efficient vehicle for getting anything done. Knowing this -- and myself -- I'd probably lose my mind after 6 inefficient months, so I think it's safest for me to stick to technology for the foreseeable future.