Not only is Mind My Business a NYCBig Apps Finalist, they’re also part of 500 Startups’ latest class. They’re an app, all right, but Mind My Business’s focus is good old-fashioned brick and mortars. And the data they need to improve their bottom lines and avoid fines.
Co-founder and CEO Aileen Gemma Smith of Vizalytics Technology, the makers of Mind My Business app, is here to tell us exactly who is finally minding the store.
Tell us about the product.
Mind My Business™ is a mobile app geared toward independently owned brick and mortar stores. Think of the mom and pop type businesses that are the backbone of our communities. These shopkeepers have two pain points: first, they don’t know what’s happening outside and around their business that impacts their foot traffic; and next, they are frustrated with trying to understand how to comply with city regulations. Violations and fines are a tremendous pain. In 2012, over $42 million in fines were levied against local businesses in the food service industry.
How is it different?
We’re hyper targeted and contextually relevant.
We don’t tell you everything – we only tell you what is specific to your business. Shopkeepers are busy. We give them the information they need, then we get out of their way. We’re working on Spanish and Chinese language editions, because immigrant entrepreneurs are a vital part of our community.
On a personal level, I understand the frustration. I lived in Tokyo for 12 years and trying to figure out regulations in order to start my business was time consuming, requiring many trips to city offices, often in Japanese.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Today, in the top 25 US cities with open data, our market is over 500,000 businesses. We’re starting with the NYC food service vertical, with its 30,000 potential customers. More cities are opening up data, so the opportunity is expanding. We want to be there first, because every city has local businesses that are frustrated.
Which outside activity most positively affects the company?
Mayor DeBlasio’s “Small Business First Initiative” through the Mayor’s Office of Operations is a prime example of why what we are building needs to exist. We want to demonstrate how simple tools that honor the user’s context, can make a big difference.
What is the business model?
We’re a subscription-based model. One month free trial and then $40/month thereafter. Folks we’ve spoken with liked that we’re priced with their tight margins in mind.
Tell us about your experience with NYC Big Apps thus far.
Very positive, this is more than a single event. Big Apps is geared to build community throughout the competition. We’ve had opportunities to connect with both mentors and others working on BigApps challenges.
Many submissions came from the BetaNYC community: and there is a strong sense of camaraderie and support among civic hackers.
Also, when cities – NY is not the only one – turn to citizens for solutions, great things can happen. You have people vested in sharing their ideas, because they’re their communities, so solutions get created with real use cases in mind. This year’s contest had a series of Big Ideas- where teams were tasked with solving a specific problem for a partner. This was a great way to foster collaboration and bring many different solutions to the table.
In which category is your app and why is your app the best in that category?
We’re in the Work category. The other finalists are also very strong. We’re focused on bringing the power of Big Apps to local shopkeepers and to immigrant entrepreneurs. They’re an underserved audience, and one where open data can help. We want to translate that into pragmatic tools that help these businesses remain strong. Many of these local businesses are reticent about technology because current solutions don’t understand or address their pain points or their personal context.
I went door-to-door and store-to-store. I listened to stories. “My life, my family, everything happens in here.” For our team, that’s why we do this. We believe in those shops.
Why is New York the place to launch your particular app?
New Yorkers have grit.
I respect that ethic in the shopkeepers I met. I want to honor them. We also have one of the strongest open data laws in the country, and great advocates like Manhattan BP Gale Brewer who continue to champion open data. We have hardworking folks at city agencies who are working together to bring change. NY is our starting place and our proving ground.
What would winning NYC Big Apps mean for your company?
For our team, it would validate how much businesses need this tool. That’s only a first step. We want to put this in the hands of shopkeepers nationally.
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?
That’s a tough one – there are many angels and investors in NYC who give time to supporting startups. And they are very accessible. I dream big, though, so I’d love talk with Mike Bloomberg about the vision we have for Vizalytics. Our Mind My Business app is just the start. Why him? He gets scrappy and he was champion for big data as a tool for making decisions by making useful ways to see it at scale. He’s someone who thinks and sees big.
What’s your favorite summer time beach destination close to NYC?
Staten Island is my hometown. The wooden boardwalk along Father Capadanno Boulevard is a fine place for a summer walk. I grew up near there.