So 2013 is about to end. And as the New Year dawns upon us, I wanted to give everyone a rundown of what we’ve been up to thus far. So consider this somewhat of an origin story in long form. I may also give away a bit of what’s to come as well. Here goes:
I, Gabe Velez, like hackathons. I love them. What’s not to like? I get to work with developers and innovators over a quick period of time making things. Cool things. Mobile things. Techy-tech things. I also get fed like crazy (I’m big-boned so don’t judge me). I’ve won some stuff in the past (brushing shoulder) but nothing has ever really stuck out with me as an end-product. Then came AngelHack. Actually, a pre-Angelhack meetup at Animoto happened. I got to go up in front of everyone and announce how I like to make things pretty. Being that there aren’t usually many freelance designers at these things (developers can be mean sometimes – Daniel Berg can confirm the experience), I got to talk to a whole bunch of people. Actually, most were business development types, some good & some not so good. In passing, I meet a guy named Rafa. Didn’t really talk to the guy, but he seemed nice.
Anyway, fast forward to AngelHack at Huge in Dumbo. I got there somewhat late, but made it in time to not miss out on the bagels. There I’m talking to a few different people I met from the before-mentioned event before being approached by Rafa. This guy wants to tell me he wants to disrupt waiting in line. First time I heard that. Ever. He then tells me that he’s going to work on this after this hackathon with or without me.
He had me here. I thought immediately that here is a dedicated guy. I said “OK, lets do it!”.
What came out of that event was Bekawz, a blue hack of an app that was based on swapping spots in lines. The name came from an article he saw that stated that people were more to hold a spot in line for a stranger if they gave them a viable reason (“because I have to get my laundry, etc.”). We were able to build a full landing page and a very basic app. We demoed it to the judges, and most of them didn’t really get the use for it. The only one that did was Chris Maddern (now at Venmo – congrats), who stated that he used Taskrabbit to hold places in line. We never placed, but I got a lot out of the experience.
So after a few initial meetings in Hoboken to talk about working on this line app, Rafa mentions attending Startup Weekend at the AlleyNYC. I knew very little about it, but thought it may be worth going to. Who knew, right?
We meet at the event thinking that it was a simple hackathon. I’m laughing while writing this because it is so much more than that. The protocol of this event is that you pitch your idea and people vote on it. The projects with the most votes then get to be the ones worked on. Rafa pitches Bekawz, and then comes the votes. We got only 4, with each person given 2 votes each. Shocked by this, we find out that if we already have 2 people or more we could still work on our idea. At this point we were thinking that we’d work on Bekawz anyway, and that we’d move forward for the experience, not expecting to win. And we did. Surprisingly, we did. But not as Bekawz, but as Linesnapp. Pivot, baby, pivot! Rather than going after line swapping, we’d work to have others paid to wait in line for you. Think Taskrabbit and Uber have a baby in line. The judges loved it! In fact a few of them (Charlie O’ Donnell at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures included) said that they would use Linesnapp right now! We felt amazing to win, but a lot more work had to be done.
We got on lines. A lot of lines. TKTS. Cronut lines. Shake Shake lines. Gamestop lines. We worked hard to validate and validate and validate our model. We made a nice landing page and pretty deck to push the idea forward to the world of investors. Then we got a shock to the system. Our model of paying others was disjointed. The issue we had was that that people who’d request the service were only willing to pay so much. Those that would “snap the lines” (our lovely marketing jargon) however, wanted to be paid more. It was a bridge that we found had to connect. It just wasn’t working.
So another pivot would occur. Rather than making it a “They Wait. You Don’t” method which 1) wasn’t working and 2) started to sound elitist and classist, we thought we’d give a try at making it a community-based concept. Can’t we all help each other to outsmart waiting in line? We started to work on building up an MVP for this. We got on more lines to validate. We asked around and the feelings were unanimous: they LOVED the pivot! We actually got told that we were a “Waze for Pedestrians” which is a good thing (I’m still working on customizing my Waze ghost). We starting to show around some of what looked like what’s starting to look like an app. We updated the landing page, got us some A/B testing afoot & moved to get a lil’ bit more social about our moves. We are not there yet, but we are so close!
So what’s on the horizon for 2014? Well, some news might be incubating in our favor. Won’t say what or where yet (fingers crossed). Also, we are getting ready to show a build to our users already signed up from our landing page, so if you haven’t already, make it your New Years Resolution to at least sign up for early access. We’re also scheduling some conferences and meetups, so when we come around, come by and show support! Only together can we work to outsmart standing in line and get to doing more fruitful things with our time. With that said, Happy New Year from myself and Rafa aka “the line guys” aka the Linesnap leaders!