Confessions of a Clueless Entrepreneur

So for the past 3 months, my cousin Brett and I have been working on a web startup that we will be launching on November 1st of this year.  Now, you are probably thinking, “wow, this guy is a GENIUS.  Not only does he blog, he’s also starting a company that’s going to be HUGE!”  Well, I don’t blame you for that reaction, but I have a confession to make: I have no idea what I am doing.  Rather, I should say that I’ve never done this before, and although I have read many books on the subject of entrepreneurship, I have never created a venture like this.  All I know is that I’ve spent a lot of money on something that could potentially fall flat on its face.  Needless to say, I thought that I’d share my little project with you, and get some feedback as to whether you think my idea is the next Pet Rock, or a Jump to Conclusions Mat (for those who have never seen Office Space, it means a good idea or a bad one).  This is my plea for your advice, whoever you may be.

I Submit to you, Shiistr

Okay, so my cousin Brett noticed that there was not much innovation in the way restaurants used social media to market their products.  Seriously, aside from Twitter pages and Facebook fan pages, there’s not much out there (by the way, join our Twitter page and Facebook fan page).  The problem is, how can restaurants reach potential customers within a given area with social media, when social media is a loudspeaker for the entire world.  In other words, how can a McDonalds or a mom and pop shop reach customers within their target market areas without having to broadcast their meal deals to everyone on social media.

Here is a screenshot of our homepage.

The answer is: Shiistr

Shiistr is focused solely on advertising 2 for 1 deals.  From a user’s perspective, they log on to Shiistr.com, type in and store their location information, and they are shown 2 for 1 deals in their immediate area.  So whether they are at home, at work, or at school, they know where to eat with their friends because they know where the 2 for 1 deals are.  In addition to that, when they select a place to eat, they can notify their friends via FB and Twitter and invite them to come and eat with them.  This, in turn, benefits the restaurant because hundreds of the user’s friends now see that the business is having a 2 for 1 deal and those friends will invite their friends, creating a network effect.

On the business side, restaurants would pay for advertising their deal on Shiistr.  In turn, they would see a huge increase of customers on the days that their deals are advertised.  There is a lot more to our system, but I don’t need to go into the details (unless you are a restaurant owner that wants in).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAOqbOJTEFE[/youtube]

This was our first cheesy video that we put out.  One person noted that it took 52 seconds to get to the point.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoadOpbE_yA[/youtube]

Here is our “we suck at making videos” video, which was done by Brett, cousin and co-owner.

Our Plans

  • We plan to have an iPhone app developed and released soon after the site’s launch.  This way, when users are out on a Friday night, they can open up the app and instantly know where there are 2 for 1 deals near them.
  • We also plan on having a reward type system, or ranking system in the future so those that use Shiistr a lot get prestige or something back.
  • We don’t want to necessarily create another social community, but will leverage off of FB and Twitter in order to allow everyone to communicate with friends.  Yes, you can communicate in Shiistr too, but it’s not its main purpose.
  • We are not another Yelp.com, we just want to save people money and not necessarily focus on restaurant reviews.

Our Concerns

  • Our biggest concern is how, amidst so many different ways to advertise, can we convince restaurant owners that our way is the best and most cost-effective means of advertising their deals to potential customers.  If there are no businesses on Shiistr, it’s worthless.  Any ideas on how to achieve this? (We have a strategy, but would love suggestions)
  • We didn’t know it at the time (we are not as learned as we’d like to be), but Shiistr (when spelled Shyster) is somewhat of an anti-semitic term for shady Jewish lawyers.  That was not the purpose of our use of it, of course.  Rather, its current use is in reference to swindlers, and people looking for a good deal.

We Still Don’t Know What We Are Doing

We are neophyte entrepreneurs, and that’s okay.  I think it gives us a leg up on the competition since we aren’t a huge corporation.  Our FB fan page grew to over 300 people in a matter of 3 days 800 fans in 4 days, which is pretty good considering our product is almost a month away from launch.  Also, the feedback we’ve been getting is phenomenal.  It’s exciting to know that something will come from this endeavor.  Even if it’s a failure, it will be a life-changing and self-revelatory experience.

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5 Comments

  • mirandaemde

    Reply Reply October 8, 2009

    Shiistr is going to be a huge success! I believe in what you are doing. I think continuing to build your facebook fan page is a great level of proof to restaurants that you have awaiting customer for them. Great job Dean!! Miranda

  • Mary

    Reply Reply October 8, 2009

    This sounds good–I would use it! But did you know about Yowza? It's a twitter thing for locals deals that you can use on your iPhone. Just saying that you might want to set yourselves apart and be better than them.

  • Dean Soto

    Reply Reply October 8, 2009

    @ Miranda! Thank you so much! I really appreciate it.@Mary I had never heard of Yowza before! I need to check it out. One big thing is that it is hard to know who our closest competitors would be. This is especially true because there are so many iPhone apps out there that allow users to see deals of some sort on a map. The more of these we know about, the better. Thank you!

  • Andy

    Reply Reply October 9, 2009

    Don't listen to these naysayers about the name. I think it's funny. I'm sure someone told Google that it was a stupid name because no one would know inherently what it was.

  • Dean Soto

    Reply Reply October 9, 2009

    Thanks Andy! So far I think the name has been a successful brand. People are already calling themselves Shiistrs, etc. So I think it will be okay even though we have some people that are concerned about it. No matter what we do, I think that we will offend someone in some way or not be understood. So, for now, we are going to stick with it. Thanks for the motivation! It seriously helps a lot.

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