Keepio's co-founder and CEO Dave Durand
iMedia: How has winning iMedia's Next Wave competition affected Keepio? What have you been up to since?
Durand: We had some great publicity from our win. We have gained a number of members and are still pursuing fundraising. Right now, we are very focused on the pursuit of mobile and are positioning ourselves as "Instagram for the products we love." With this next round of funding, we envision a lot of changes and will be simplifying the overall experience.
iMedia: Elaborate on Keepio's growth. How many members are sharing their interests through your network?
Durand: Right now we are getting close to 10,000 members. Although relatively small, we have some very passionate users. Our goal right now is to focus on building out the mobile platform and then getting far more aggressive on our marketing strategies. Our members want mobile, and it is a natural fit for an application like this. We are excited to fulfill our member's requests. We own another company, called ForestGiant.com, that focuses on mobile development (for companies like GE and Michelin), so this is right up our alley if we can align ourselves with the right investors.
iMedia: In an environment teaming with social networks, how has Keepio managed to differentiate itself from the competition?
Durand: The market is competitive, no doubt, but I think we have something that is unique. Our members are primarily collectors and enthusiasts. They love their products and love having the ability to show-off, discuss, and discover new products. Sure, we are up against the Pinterests of the world, but we are laser focused on the products you own and the ones you want. You won't see recipes on Keepio. In fact, 60 percent of our users right now are male. When we aggressively target the collector and enthusiast market with this next raise, we will be honing in on a niche that has really been longing for a tool like Keepio.
Also, having run a very specialized interactive firm for so many years, we believe that we can create an exceptional user experience wherever you are viewing the site -- on your desktop or through an app -- that will provide an enjoyable, connected utility to our members that far exceeds their expectations.
We want you to keep it all on Keepio.
iMedia: Users are able to buy and sell on sites like Craiglist and eBay. What does Keepio offer that these sites don't?
Durand: This is very true. What makes Keepio different is that it provides a path to purchase. On the sites you mentioned, it is all about just buying and selling. It is not about all the things that happen before and after the point of purchase. That discussion is something that we want to harness at Keepio. That is where a person discovers, learns from their peers, and their purchasing decisions are influenced. That is powerful, and we haven't seen eBay or Craigslist really leverage the power of social influence. We want to do that, and we want to make it fun for our users to find new things they may have never known existed and provide an outlet to buy and discuss those products.
Also, we are entertaining the notion of doing away with our marketplace short-term. We are looking to align ourselves with another company that allows users to select an item and push it to Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and a few other more liquid marketplaces. Once the item sells, it is pulled from the other sites. We do not want to compete with the eBays of the world, but would prefer to align ourselves with them if possible.
iMedia: What is your "dream vision" for Keepio? What's the five-year plan?
Durand: We want Keepio to be the definitive place to learn about products (geared toward collectors and enthusiasts). We want people to use our mobile application whenever they are on the hunt for a new product or looking to add something to their collection. We want people to share the products they own and show them off. The things we own define us as much as our emotions and feelings do (the things we share on Facebook). Keepio provides an outlet to show-off, discover, discuss, and exchange, and we hope it becomes the best place online to do that.
iMedia: What advice would you give startup entrepreneurs?
Durand: Start small. Follow Eric Reis's lean startup model. Learn from your consumer base, and build a prototype that consists of just the core functionality. Make sure people will use it. We were guilty of throwing a bit too much in at the beginning. Our offering wasn't lean enough. Now we are going back to simplify things, which is OK, but not ideal. Every startup you embark on is a learning experience, and what we have learned from Keepio so far is something I am very grateful for. Stick with it, and enjoy the process as much as the destination.