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Two graduate students at Washington University are turning business networking into an app-based network as entrepreneurs.
Regavi is a digital QR-code business card and contacts app co-founded in January 2017 by Michael P. Kramer and Jack Crawford, who developed the idea of an app-based contacts system to easily allow people to share information at a networking event without the traditional business card.
“We noticed that, despite the availability of different cloud contacts providers, there was still a lot of, ‘Hey, I lost my phone, I’ve lost all my contacts’ complaints,” Kramer said.
Kramer and Crawford recognized how important contacts are to people, especially in the business community, and how a lack of access to them can cost them opportunities.
“We realized that the reason people’s contacts are important to them is that each contact represents a person and relationship,” Kramer said. “So we began thinking about how to build a better way for people to connect that is focused around the idea of making each connection matter.”
Kramer and Crawford suspected that existing contacts apps were focused on the wrong information.
“We viewed all of those other contacts startups as being focused on the data about the person, rather than the person behind the data,” Kramer said. “Our original concept was… how do we make it easier to connect and meet new people, maintain existing relationships, and grow the ones that you want to grow?”
The Power of the Network
Since both Kramer and Crawford started at Washington University as undergraduates, they’ve been exposed to the St. Louis startup ecosystem for several years. They say it has benefitted them greatly.
“I know that we would not be where we are today without the people we’ve had the chance to work with, ” Kramer said. Andrew Glantz, Founder and CEO of GiftAMeal and Washington University graduate, has been particularly helpful, Kramer said. “He’s a year ahead of Regavi in terms of academic timing, and his company has experienced some of the same opportunities and struggles of growing a business that we have. It’s great, especially because his business is so socially oriented. He is helping us figure out how we can give back.”
Joe McDonald, another Washington University alum and co-founder of Epharmix, has also been a big influence on Regavi.
“He’s been coaching us in terms of financial models,” Kramer said. “How do we tell people our story in numbers, especially in the early stages when we’re not trying to monetize in the immediate future?”
The Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation at WU also has offered introductions, work space, and funding opportunities for startups at the university.
In addition, the Center offers meeting space and funding. Regavi received a $10,000 grant through the Center from a senior vice president at Google. Jessica Stanko, Assistant Director of Programs, Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship elaborated on the help they have provided Regavi.
“Michael has been working on his startup at WashU for the last 2 years and has utilized many of the resources available through Wash U and the Skandalaris Center. The Skandalaris Center has collaboration space where Michael frequently meets with his Regavi team and it’s a rare day when I don’t see a member of Regavi in our space. We’ve also provided funding thanks to a generous donor who gave money to help support early stage technology startups at Wash U.
Beyond that, all of the members of the Skandalaris team have worked with Michael and Jack at one time or another and provided support in the form of mentoring, business plan review, connections, or just a sympathetic ear. We’ve seen Regavi from the beginning and it’s been amazing to see the changes and growth from when Michael pitched it in the Hatchery class to where they are today with their Apple and Android apps.”
“They also introduced us to Chris Holt at Tech Artista, who believes in our concept so much that he is giving us free co-working space over there,” Kramer said.
Although they’re about to start a “friends and family” fundraising round in hopes of raising between $50,000 and $150,000, Regavi’s business plan is to make money through a business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business subscription (B2B) model in the future.
“It’s built around different functionality and customization options within the app, but not within the next year,” Kramer said. “Right now we are focusing on creating the best user experience possible and ensuring that everything we do is for our users rather than for the sake of making money.”
Regavi’s next feature will be something they call “Organizations.”
“It is like a company directory and easy creation of different ways for people to onboard new employees in companies, or the neighborhood listserv, or student groups, for example,” Kramer said. “Each individual user joins that company’s group and all the other people who have access to that company or organizational group can see your profile.”
Kramer and Crawford believe their app takes important steps toward humanizing digital communications.
“At the end of the day, humans are social creatures,” Kramer said. “There is nothing more important to each and every one of us than the other people that we know and interact with. The ways that people connect digitally are very poor mirrors of the way that people connect, grow and evolve those relationships in person. What we’re trying to do is help people get closer to nearing those physical relationships in the digital space, and help you capture and take advantage of every opportunity.”