A small Tri-City startup company wants to make the exchange of business cards a thing of the past with the launch of its new mobile app.
The free Solo Connect app aims to streamline business-to-business referrals and the introduction process. It’s available for Apple and Android devices.
Evauk Corp.’s CEO Thomas Feduk Jr., 30, of West Richland, said the app is already gaining traction among local small businesses in the Tri-Cities.
Since the app’s launch in July, more than 250 people have downloaded the app, 170 businesses have signed up and 700 connections have been made.
“We’re a social business relationships and analytics company providing a new approach to business networking. It’s really our core concept. We want to make this a useful and valuable product, easy to use and easy understand,” said Feduk. “The reception so far has been very exciting. I’ve gotten offers to speak at seven different networking groups.”
Feduk saw the need for a mobile app while trying to grow his own business.
At 15 years old, Feduk had become certified in computer networking and repair and began working as a network technician for the Richland School District. At 17, he started his own private consulting firm, serving both residential and commercial clients and began teaching himself programming. By his mid-20s he had more than 500 clients he has serviced over his years in business.
Although he frequented many networking events, most of his new clients came by way of referrals. That is when he noticed there was no efficient way to automate, record and track the networking and referral process.
“Doing business all those years is what led me to building Solo Connect because I was constantly dealing with building my business relationships, managing referrals,” said Feduk. “But you lose business cards. It was sometimes messy to handle introductions, and I noticed there was no app currently available that would allow businesses to automate the referral process and help you keep track of introductions.”
To introduce the app to the local market, which is the company’s big focus right now, Feduk is hosting several networking events — Connect & Grow Business Networking Socials — to allow small businesses to network, pass referrals and test out the app’s capabilities.
The first event in July attracted 27 businesses. An August event included more than 60 businesses in attendance.
The app allows collegues to find and connect with other businesses, share and refer customers and colleagues to connected businesses, create and send invoices, and even accept payments from their mobile device.
“I love the concept of keeping it all inside an app to be manageable instead of tracking emails, Facebook messages, phone messages and the like,” said Jane Winslow, owner of WinSome Inc., a Richland graphic design firm. “I love accountable, trackable, results-oriented networking. In my business, time is literally money, so when something comes along that makes networking more efficient and shows results, it makes my day.”
Although the app has some built-in customer relationship management features, Feduk says its most valuable benefit is the mobile app’s ability to connect businesses efficiently and track the profitability of a referral relationship. The app provides quick access to detailed history of all referrals and transactions, analytics and reporting capabilities, and statistics on top connections, most frequent contributors and customer interactions.
“Businesses love to introduce or connect other businesses, and we make it super easy for them to do just that,” he said. “We provide a new approach to building and managing business-to-business relationships.”
Other capabilities include the ability to join and manage a networking group, as well as find nearby networking organizations. Another feature, the diversity rating, uses an algorithm to rank individual professionals on how well they do passing profitable referrals to a wide variety of businesses — not just a few.
“The diversity rating is a way combat spam and reward businesses that help other businesses make money,” Feduk said. “We’re focusing on real customers with real needs.”
“The app is great for service professionals, contractors, event planners, photographers,” he said, “ I was surprised how many realtors are using the app. More than 35 have signed up over the last month, as well as insurance and mortgage professionals.”
Feduk said Evauk raised nearly $250,000 in financing leading up to the launch that included a small roster of local investors.
Initial funding went toward hiring an attorney and paying the salaries of developers, but he hopes a new round of funding will allow him to grow his development team and add a new set of features to the app.
Like many young technology startups, Evauk relied on seed financing from local investors to cover the costs of paying the salary of developers to build the app. Although the app is free, there is a 2.9-percent and 30-cent fee to process payments via the app. The company’s five-year plan is to file an initial public offering, or IPO, to sell company stocks to the public, but for now, he is focusing on building momentum locally.
Most of the company’s funding, he said, comes in the form of convertible debt financing, a loan that can be turned into equity at a later time, usually in the form of stock ownership or shares of the company.
But Feduk said this new venture hasn’t been without its challenges. To start, he had to put in more than $20,000 of his own money. Also, for nearly a year, he and his team of two developers were working close to 15 hours a day.
“The sheer amount of code was overwhelming,” he said. “We wrote 200,000 lines of code.”
Making connections to potential investors was also a challenge, he said. Usually, he would exchange several lengthy emails detailing the company’s business plans and financial projections before sitting for a meeting.
“I am really passionate about this stuff,” Feduk said.“We’re still ramping up development, but we have a very awesome product.”
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