How does a free — yes, completely free — scoop of gelato from Paciugo sound? SwipedIn, a new mobile app for iPhone and Android, offers deals like these on food and drinks at local Madison hotspots to anyone who “swipes in.”
The app was born and raised in Madison. Co-founders Sam Jorgenson, a recent graduate from Edgewood College, and Jordan Wolf, a University of Wisconsin alumnus, began working on their idea back in fall 2011 and launched SwipedIn on Jan. 23.
The duo chose Madison as a test market because they knew the city well and liked the constant excitement going around campus. Not only do they plan to expand SwipedIn to other cities, but they also intend to broaden their categories to potentially include deals on health and beauty, retail and taxi fares.
In addition to signing on businesses, their work includes spreading the word via social media, hiring interns to promote the app and working with the UW branch of Future Business Leaders of America.
In an interview, Wolf stressed the importance of his college experience to the application’s creation.
“I think it’s cool for entrepreneurs to come back to their old campuses when they have done something because it just helps people on campus understand that no matter how young you are, if you have an idea for something — go for it, go for it right now. That’s my biggest regret, not starting while I was in campus as a student,” Wolf said.
Both entrepreneurs saw potential in creating a free app that combined the best qualities of services like Groupon and Foursquare, while excluding these services’ shortcomings in order to offer an idyllic experience for both users and businesses.
For instance, they said, Groupon puts up some great deals, but consumers have to put down money on a product or service they may never use. And small businesses are forced to give up about half of their generated profits without receiving their half until about three months after the deal was originally offered.
Apps like Foursquare appeal because the idea of checking in to get a deal can be exciting. However, only about 10 percent of people are comfortable sharing their location with others.
“That’s how we came up with SwipedIn, where a business could put out a deal by themselves and collect all of the revenue immediately, as opposed to paying us half of it. Then we came up with the aspect of swiping in, instead of checking in, so you don’t have to share your location with your friends,” Wolf said.
The two enlisted a pair of equally ambitious programmers, Brian Thiel and Phil Dougherty, to create the app to be simple and user-friendly.
SwipedIn is not alone as a localized coupon app platform — other apps like Uwagi and Belly are comparable and competitors.
Uwagi is also Madison-exclusive and offers deals at bars and restaurants, many of which are also signed on with SwipedIn. Belly is a different twist on deal-incentivized apps, allowing users to scan a QR code to receive points at participating establishments. Over time, the points accumulate and can eventually be traded in for free drinks or discounts.
SwipedIn comes with its own set of notable features.
The app uses the location device in smartphones to locate deals that are close by. Then, a ruler tool within the app allows a user to set the distance they are willing to travel to redeem a deal. The function can further narrow down the options of deals to select from.
All the deals are displayed on a map, so that if you are unsure of how to reach your desired location, you can read the displayed directions. One of SwipedIn’s most distinctive features is its trademarked crowd view technology.
“Crowd view will show you all of the deals going on in Madison right now [on a map] and the popularity of each. The darker these icons get, the more popular the deal is,” said Wolf.
Jorgenson touted some of the app’s benefits. “It is going to save everyone money who uses it. If you eat out, drink or shop, you can somehow use SwipedIn. There’s no downside for a user or a business to use SwipedIn. It’s a win-win,” he said.
Wolf and Jorgenson said developing the app was only about 10 percent of the work and that the remaining 90 percent of making SwipedIn successful has involved promoting their product to local businesses and users.
The most important factor involved in getting the app up and running was getting businesses to sign onto the idea. Wolf and Jorgenson successfully signed more than 30 businesses for the initial trial in Madison, and more since. Once they explain their objective, they said, many businesses are willing to work with them because they understand the power this new app offers.
As with any start-up, the founders must keep looking to the future. Both Jorgenson and Wolf believe in SwipedIn so much that it has become a focal point in their lives, sometimes bringing them to work for up to 22-hour days, often back-to-back. Their passion is contagious and they say they love the entrepreneurial lifestyle. So far their work has paid off; naturally, they are excited to expand further.
Download SwipedIn for free in the Apple App Store or under Android Apps in Google Play.