Have you ever dropped a message to some of your friends saying «Good luck at the job interview!» when they are about to enter the HR office. Or a slightly different one, like «Hey! I know you’re in Paris, make sure you send me a pic from the top of the Eiffel Tower!» I can continue this list of messages for various life situations, but they will all have one thing in common. Which thing? Location!
The idea of location-based messaging is not only fun and engaging, it is absolutely winning. Drop Messages is a startup that has seen the results a digital sticky note app is capable of bringing. Among their achievements are a TechCrunch Boston Pitch-Off win, $1.25 million of funding from top tier investors and an excellent feedback from their users in over 60 countries so far.
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The company was started by Eric Noeth, Zach DeWitt and Matthew Diepenbrock. Noeth and DeWitt met at the private investment firm in San Francisco, TPG Capital, where they invested in much larger technology and media companies.
The orange parachute on the blue background, Drop’s logo, caught my eye and I featured the startup in our startups digest a week ago. After that, I contacted Eric Noeth, the co-founder of Drop Messages and we had an interesting conversation, which I am sharing with you.
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Me: Location-based apps are very common today, but I bet you can make a difference. What is your vision for Drop?
Eric: Drop Messages app allows people to connect in an entirely new and unique way — based on location. One of the resounding themes we’ve been telling ourselves is that if the past 10 years have been about making the real world digital, the next 10 years will be about making the digital world real. Others start with location, we start with content that is highly curated and personal.
There is something special about populating the world around you with context pushed to your phone based on what you or your friends are doing and over time, we would like to become the platform for curated location-based content delivery.
Drop Messages started when my Co-Founder, Zach DeWitt, sent an email to his roommates reminding them to take out the trash. When everyone got home later that evening and promptly forgot, the idea of leaving a location-based sticky note was born. While we see people using it that way all of the time, there is a much more thoughtful avenue, where you can surprise your significant other with a sweet note at the office or make your best friend laugh with a funny note for them to find at your favorite bar. Our users have really embraced the concept of leaving messages at locations and the traction has been tremendous.
Me: You were the winner of the TechCrunch Boston Pitch-Off. Congratulations! How was the experience?
Eric: It was a great experience for us. We had been developing the app for close to six months by the time the event happened. 150+ teams applied to take part in the competition. Only 15 were selected to pitch and we ended up winning from that pool.
The app was actually approved in the app store while we were in a cab downtown to meet with TechCrunch reporters earlier that day. Six hours later we got on stage to pitch in front of an audience of over a thousand people and four judges so it was a very busy day for us.
Me: Apart from winning and getting to know a lot of interesting people, I guess the Pitch-Off also resulted in helping meet investors, right?
Eric: Our three largest investors are Spark Capital, Atlas Venture and Timothy Draper.
We actually met Atlas shortly after the event, as they were on stage sharing some perspectives on the Boston-based entrepreneurial community. The TechCrunch event was definitely a good way to meet really interesting people in various walks of life.
Me: Raising $1.25 million in a seed round must be a unique experience. What can you say about this process? Was there anything you had to learn?
Eric: Fundraising is a difficult process startups need to face, but there is real value in picking the right partners who see the potential in what you are trying to build. We have been fortunate as our partners not only offer great support and advice, but also other resources that have helped us grow into something much more substantial than an early stage company.
Me: How are you going to spend the money?
Eric: There are two primary buckets. The first is building out our development team a bit more. We have no shortage of new features and functionality that we are excited to deliver to our users and this requires a larger team. The second is simply spreading the word by marketing and building out our partnerships.
Me: Any thoughts about monetization?
Eric: First of all, there is no ambiguity around the fact that creating the best possible experience for our users is our number one priority. Any potential monetization strategies would only go to enhance this experience vs detract from it which is an important distinction. We see an incredible value in becoming the location-based content sharing platform with users only receiving highly curated content they opt into and that is our goal for Drop Messages.
Me: Does the fact that you launched the #nycDROPS scavenger hunt all over NYC mean you have started introducing brand partnerships?
Eric: We have had some incredible brand partnerships through the #nycDROPS scavenger hunt. One example is SoulCycle, a very popular fitness studio here in America. We are currently giving away free SoulCycle classes and users are finding them at locations all over NYC which is a really cool experience for our users.
Me: Sounds very exciting! Continuing the topic of the #nycDROPS marketing effort, how is it going?
We are effectively leaving prizes from these brands all over Manhattan that users can find simply by downloading the app. We are looking forward to rolling out this campaign in other cities in the coming weeks.
Me: What is the favorite Drop you have received in the app?
Eric: It is hard to pick just one! If you are forcing me to choose, I would say it was a Drop my parents left for me and my wife at our anniversary dinner in Boston. While the message was simple and mushy, it was just nice to know they were thinking about us on our special day. The feeling you get when receiving a Drop from someone that is thinking about you is very special.
Me: Sweet indeed! Eric, it was a real pleasure talking to you. Our team wishes you lots of success with Drop Messages and I am already in line for the Android version.