Check them out here: www.plink.com
We recently met up with Peter Vogel, Co-Founder of the very innovative Plink, an online-to-offline loyalty program that rewards members for dining and shopping at their favorite national restaurants and offline stores. What makes Plink so special? Members earn Plink Points for eating and shopping offline and personally choose where they want to use those rewards, including Facebook or at Amazon.com, The Gap, Home Depot and iTunes, among others. Simply make your choice and Plink activates the offers on your debit or credit card. Easy, fun, and of course 100% safe.
So how does Plink work? Well as they say on their site, “We’ve negotiated special rewards with many of the nations’ top restaurants. They pay us each time one of our registered members dines at their restaurant and we share that reward with you.” Sounds like a good deal to us!
StartupCatchup: Welcome Peter! Thanks for joining us to talk about Plink. So what made you take the plunge to actually start your venture?
Peter: Thanks for having me! Adperio, where we initially started Plink, an online marketing company who acted as agency of record for companies like Netflix, Experian and Discover Card, was driving huge volumes of customer acquisition for companies like Netflix by giving consumers virtual currency or rewards in exchange for signing up for a free trial or for signing up for a subscription. This was Netflix’s largest source of new member acquisition for four years. Adperio could only do this for online brands. We asked “How could we do this for offline brands? How can we drive people to eat and shop offline, track that behavior and then reward consumers for their purchase, so we could build loyalty and get customers to make purchases again and again and again” – and so Plink was born.
StartupCatchup: Good thinking and a great time to dive into the market given the recent trends surrounding virtual currency and offline rewards. So is this your very first venture?
Peter: No, I’ve founded several companies. The one most similar to Plink was Memolink.com. I was a co-founder of Memolink.com back in 1998 – one of the first online loyalty programs and one of the first companies really engaging heavily in performance-based CPA marketing, which no one was doing at that point.
StartupCatchup: Quite a track record! So how are you funding this venture? Are you looking for outside investors?
Peter: We did an angel round and raised a little over $600,000 earlier this year. That has funded us so far and earlier this month we closed a $3 million Series A round of funding from Grotech Ventures. We were also incubated by Adperio and most of our employees came from the company. We still share office space, but are 100% independent, which was necessary to raise some money and to have more of a start-up mentality.
StartupCatchup: Excellent, especially given the close proximity yet maintaining individuality. How have you found the journey so far? Going from concept to funding, and launch to feedback?
Peter: We’ve learned a lot. We’ve pivoted. We’ve all accepted that nothing is certain and in a start-up, things change constantly and what works for our business or what we think works, changes pretty regularly. One of the most important skills in building a start-up is the ability to listen, learn, adapt, adapt and adapt again. Flexibility and open mindedness are traits of most successful start-ups I’ve seen. I always say, nothing is certain in a start-up except that nothing is certain.
StartupCatchup: Wise words! So how many people are currently in your team and how did you meet? Are you looking for more people to get involved?
Peter: We have six full time people now. Five of us came from the company that incubated us and we’ve hired a sales pro in the last few weeks. From now on, everyone new will be from outside our past company, so that will be a new challenge. It was easy to get started, because many of us had worked together for years, some five years or longer.
StartupCatchup: What are your plans and where do you hope to see this venture go within the near future?
Peter: The Series A of $3 million from Grotech Ventures raised earlier this month will enable us to grow by double by the end of the year and about 20 by the end of 2013. We expect to be profitable somewhere between months 12 and 18 from now.
StartupCatchup: Very big plans! What would you say has been the most rewarding experience so far for you during this adventure?
Peter: Every small success is rewarding. We’ve been invited to some big start-up competitions which was very validating for us. We were nominated as one of Business Insiders top 8 Start-ups of 2012 and Vator TV’s Top10 Start-ups of the year (we won the crowd voting in the Vator TV competition).
StartupCatchup: Well that in itself is priceless! Now what do you feel has been your biggest mistake with Plink and what lessons have you taken from it?
Peter: We focused on Facebook Credits as our sole reward when we started and acquired members solely from Facebook social games. We believed Facebook would put a lot of muscle behind Credits and they never did. Facebook essentially gave up Credits without ever really trying. Starting over from scratch, we would have a huge reward catalog to start with and acquire members from all over the Internet, not just social games.
StartupCatchup: Good lesson learned then – glad to see you kept at it and as you said earlier ‘pivoted’. What would you say to others who have a great idea but aren’t sure how to move forward with it?
Peter: I think the best advice is just to get started and build it in your spare-time. Start talking to people who might work with you. Start talking to folks who might help fund you. If people around you start to get excited, you just might have a business!
StartupCatchup: That was a brilliant insight into Plink! Peter, many thanks for joining us today. To finish off, I’d love to get a quote that you feel truly motivates you with your venture.
Peter: “How do I know what I think, until I see what I’ve written?” – Mark Twain. I’m a huge believer in the power of writing to take you places you hadn’t considered previously. There is something about putting pen to paper (or even typing) that activates new parts of your brain and inspires new ideas. Writing is powerful. Any time I’m stuck on an idea, I write.
Want to know more? Check out this great interview with Peter himself!