This month we interviewed Andrew Chapin, Founding Partner of benjamin, about life as an entrepreneur and his experience so far in St. Louis. benjamin is a 2014 Arch Grants Recipient.
Tell us about your company.
Our company benjamin is a mobile app that gives the end-user two things: targeted deals on products that you love, and sixty seconds to decide whether to buy or pass. Think Groupon meets Snapchat, reinforced with some big data.
As opposed to Groupon or Living Social, who will send you a mass email that’s not targeted, we really learn the end-user. We are able to say: “you love the St. Louis Cardinals. You are a medium shirt size. Here is a deal on a medium size Cardinals jersey.” Then you have sixty seconds to decide if you want it or not.
We’re finding that sixty seconds is longer than people realize. It really is enough time to make a decision.
How is benjamin unique?
First of all, the deal space is really boring right now. It was really hot a few years ago but these emails are almost white noise at this point. We’re breathing life into the space by bringing in big data concepts.
Second, our business model is much different. Groupon asks for a commission deal from vendors. We use a different model. Instead of asking for a percentage of each sale, we tell vendors that for a set price, we will show your ad to a specific number of qualified buyers. It’s a unique thing for the space and it is very cost effective for the vendor.
What do you enjoy about being an entrepreneur?
I love how fast things move. You win fast, you fail fast, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be in control of your own destiny.
What is your role within the company?
I am the business founder. I oversee product, sales, and fundraising. Once we launch in January I will also be in charge of user acquisition.
What do you like about living in St. Louis?
When we started the company, we started it earlier this year in Boston. My co-founder and I had worked on a previous startup together. At that time and he was based in Florida. I asked him to come up to Boston but he not excited about the cold weather.
We were really passionate about this project so we said “Let’s find a home.”We considered San Francisco but it was too expensive. We considered Las Vegas. We actually spent some time there and we decided it wasn’t a personality fit for us. We considered Austin. We were poking all around.
My first time in St. Louis was Arch Grants Finalist Weekend. We really took a look around and considered it. St. Louis really checked all of our boxes: there’s available talent, there’s low cost of doing business, there’s a really fun downtown area, and there’s a lot of support from your community. I was just sitting down with Ben Burke right before this, and I told him about a specific thing that our company is about to face. Knowing that he has our back, and that everybody here has our back, and that everybody’s willing to talk to us and help us out is such a huge thing that you get in St. Louis that you don’t get elsewhere.
Could you describe your experience at T-REX?
It’s a good collaborative environment. There’s a lot of good energy here and a lot of people willing to help.
Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
One thing that keeps people from pursuing entrepreneurship is the fear of failure. I think people are concerned that if their business plan isn’t good enough or if they are not able to execute, they fail.
I think that even if the business model or the product isn’t working out, there’s a lot of learning that is happening. As long as there is learning, there’s no failure.
What do you wish you would’ve known when you became an entrepreneur?
I wish I’d known about St. Louis. We spent a lot of resources and time and money just trying to find the right place. I hadn’t considered St. Louis until Arch Grants but once I did that was it. It has a great infrastructure and great people.
Describe your experience with Arch Grants.
The best way I can describe my experience with Arch Grants is that it’s like having another co-founder. They have your back. They’re constantly looking out for you. They’ll make introductions to great candidates when you have a job available. They’ll make introductions to investors and they’re always there to give you support … and you don’t have to pay them either! They pay you!
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur applying for Arch Grants?
Be authentic. Be yourself. This is an authentic city. This is a place where people are very relationship based and really want to get to know each other. As long as you’re being authentic people will respect that and it will lead to good, meaningful conversations and connections.