For this morning's company profile, we thought we'd connect with ShareSquare (www.getsharesquare.com), a newly funded Los Angeles startup focused on QR barcodes -- 3D barcodes -- focused on musicians and entertainers. ShareSquare recently received a $150,000 seed round of funding form angel investors Paige Craig, John Frankel of ff Assett Management, and Hacker Angels' Jeff Miller and Roy Rodenstein, among others. We caught up with Matthias Galica, the firm's founder, to hear more about the company.
First of all, what's ShareSquare all about?
Mathias Galica: We are a company that was born out of the Founder's Institute last. We observed that the Japanese consumer industry had been using QR codes for four or five years. It's a powerful opportunity to connect people offline with the mobile, online experience. However, one way the U.S. market has been different, is that the adoption of mobile internet has not been nearly as prevalent. To help it along, we developed some software which makes it easy to create a mobile experience, which corresponds to a QR code you can place on any, real world object. The objects we are focused on are out-of-home advertising. The standard use case might be, you walk up to a music concert poster because you have an emotional connection to it, and want to hear more from the band. You can use any bar code application on your phone, scan that barcode into it, and you are then immediately able to experience a music video, download an MP3, connect with that band on Twitter or Facebook, win concert tickets, or soon even be able to purchase a ticket. That's the big opportunity for us, out of home advertising, to make it engaging, and ultimately, measurable.
Who uses your service, and why?
Matthias Galica: The first two verticals which correspond to our use case are in music and entertainment. Music is the biggest focus we have, initially. There's lots of grassroot adoption. We have about 500 pretty active users, ranging from agencies to major record labels, to individual artists. We recently completed a pilot with William Morris and Disney, around Hannah Montana, where we helped print QR codes for 10,000 CD stickers, 2500 posters, and digital signage. The digital signage put the QR codes in 180 malls across the country. That was a really great first pilot campaign, which got amazing interaction. We were even able to iterate things on the fly. The reason for music, is it's a really aspirational market. Musicians are always looking for new things, for the best ways to promote themselves.
What's your background, and how did the company start?
Matthias Galica: My last role was as a product manager for another local startup, Woome.com, an online dating site. I was there for a year and a half, and the thing that influenced me about the startup was I was able to cut my teeth in performance marketing. Online dating is all about acquisition, and maximizing the ROI for people coming in, and figuring out how that corresponds to their lifetime value. Me and my co-founder went through the Founder's Institute here, while we were still in our day jobs, and one of the markets we studied was the huge, out-of-home advertising market. In that market, there are literally no ROI metrics. The best metrics are estimated impressions. They have no good way to tell whether that billboard you put up for a million dollars has the effect you want. This was especially true in music and entertainment. That's why we have done things like a recent campaign for Ray Kurzweil's documentary, Transcendant Man, where we helped with press materials, and posters, and publications, putting our QR code on those items. When you scan those codes, you're able to see a trailer on your handset, and get an email to download a deleted scene.
When did you decide to take this full time?
Matthias Galica: I left my job at the end of July last year, when it became clear from the angels that we could probably raise a round. I then began pursuing raising a round full time, and in October we raised $150,000 in seed money. Most thankfully, we were connected early on to Paige Craig, who lined up with our vision and liked what we were doing, and helped us get introductions to other angels. They gave us great feedback on our business, and it began clear that we would be able to put the company together and get rolling. Even before that, our biggest indication on whether we had a viable opportunity was the feedback we were receiving from artists--what Dave McClure calls product market fit. By far the biggest indicator was when we started working with a couple of friends who were musicians, they asked when they could start using this.
Now that you have some funding, what's next?
Matthias Galica: We're going to be blowing this up. We've done a good job of putting together the features in a modular, CMS interface, where an artist can pick to run a promotion. Now, we're going to enhance things. Just last week, we released a Facebook feature called Like lock, which requires a person scanning to Like your Facebook page to get access to a video or promotion. Other things we are working on are instant win, which transforms your QR code into a Willy Wonka golden ticket. Once we get to scale, it will start generating a network effect. We need to get to minimum viable critical mass so we can start showing hotspots, using geolocation data and engagement data to show things like finding the hottest concerts. We're hoping to be able to show you trends based on the number of people scanning posters in the real world. An example of that is, we might be able to show you the hottest concerts in West Hollywood, or the hottest acts in Santa Monica. That's a small sample of some of the externalities we hope we can generate with the network effect.