“Mobile is opening up new opportunities in ‘boring’ products,” Dónde co-founder and CEO Anthony Nicalo once said. His company, which makes a mobile product and store locator service for brands and retailers, may be one example of that. But it’s not as boring as you think, as the company has recently closed on $1 million in seed funding from Mercury Fund (Blair Garrou) Chicago Ventures (Kevin Willer), Full Stack, Vine St. Ventures, and Tim Kopp, previously CMO at ExactTarget.
Nicalo says he first started thinking about the idea for a better store locator service, which later became Dónde, when he was running a wine import company. “If you just had a good glass of wine at a restaurant, how can you find it at a bottle shop near you?,” he wondered.
And an earlier startup of his, FoodTree, which was focused on helping people know more about the food they were eating, was also, at a high level, about developing a better understanding of supply chain relationships.
FoodTree failed to take off but Nicalo and the startup’s lead engineer, Fabien Allanic, decided to tackle some of these concepts with the creation of Dónde, founded in June 2013.
The problem, explains Nicalo, is that people have a difficult time finding brands, in particular, and sometimes stores on mobile devices. Today’s store locator services haven’t really been adapted to mobile. Many still ask you for your location by having you type in your zip code, despite the fact that you’re searching from a geo-located smartphone or tablet. Their maps are often just Google or Bing Maps embeds, and some aren’t even mobile-optimized yet.
But most importantly, though a store locator can tell you which store is nearby, it can’t tell if you if the product you’re in search of can be found there. Dónde’s service, however, does.
“There’s a fundamental difference in the approach in terms of building for mobile first versus building for the desktop,” says Nicalo. Beyond just automatically displaying and sorting the nearby stores, it should be easy to make a phone call and consumers should be able to see what products are available at each store, he says.
Once live, consumers browsing the website from their mobile phone or tablet will see a store locator option that immediately shows you the nearest stores to your current location, and lets you filter the resulting list by the product you’re looking for. For example, if you visit Dónde customer SkinnyPop popcorn’s website, you can filter the store locator to find where their Black Pepper popcorn is available.
Dónde is also working with LasikPlus, Louisville Slugger, and around a dozen other retailers and brands, following the launch of its service last August, and its rollout to enterprise customers in October.
Going forward, the company has plans to make the service even smarter than it is today. “The locator is just the tip of the iceberg,” Nicalo notes. In fact, the company is making the locator itself free, because they think it should be a commodity. Instead, the company plans to generate revenue by tracking online to offline conversions in a variety of ways. While Nicalo won’t go deep into details here, he does give a few clues.
“The first step is really focusing on the mobile user experience. Beyond that, it’s how we’re doing the analytics so we’re tracking all the user interactions both inside of the locator and across the locators that we power, and also layering in transactional advertising units – ads, offers, and coupons to drive traffic to offline locations,” he explains.
There are other ways to track conversions, too. For example, in financial services, autos and other verticals where you book appointments with specialists, Dónde can track conversions as consumers take actions online. Elsewhere, retailers experimenting with iBeacon / BLE technology (in-store devices that can communicate with mobile phones) offer another way for tracking to take place in the future.
Cincinnati-headquartered Dónde is using the funding to continue product development and run its pilot programs, as well as for hiring. The company has now grown its distributed team to seven full-time, and is still in search of engineers.