National Bow Tie Day

Brandery celebrates National Bow Tie Day in style…

Model: Mr. Brutus Finch of SocStock

Giftiki acquired by LaunchRock

“While our love for Giftiki will never die, we must put Giftiki on ice as our passion now lives in our next adventure. Our attention moving forward must be devoted full time to building awesome things for LaunchRock.” – Bryan Jowers, Giftiki founder

The Brandery is excited to announce that one of our 2010 graduate companies, Giftiki, a startup that helped friends pool their money to purchase valuable gifts, has been acquired by LaunchRock.  With the acquisition, LaunchRock will shut down Giftki and utilize the skills of their team to build new products.

“We’re always on the lookout for people who build amazing and engaging product experiences,” Jameson Detweiler, LaunchRock CEO, said in his press release. LaunchRock is known for being the startup behind-the-scenes of other startups launch pages. The company is planning to expand their purview into the broader category of user acquisition for companies pre and post launch. The Giftiki team is going to be central in the development of the new technologies.

Detweiler elaborates, “At LaunchRock we’ve helped tens of thousands of companies get over four million users before they even launch, and they keep telling us how much it sucks to have to stop using us once they open up to the public. The Giftiki crew is helping us change that, and soon enough, LaunchRock is going to help you be awesome at user acquisition and retention after you’ve launched. Our mission at LaunchRock is to help you get those first 10,000 users and beyond."

To conclude, “Better together,” the Giftiki tagline, seems only appropriate.

Presenting... Mike Hebert, 2012 Brandsmith of Web Development

A brandsmiths job is to support the startups in the Brandery to the

greatest extent possible utilizing their existing skill sets.” – Mike Hebert

Brandsmiths work with companies in The Brandery on specific capacities—currently, web development and design. They work full-time out of the Brandery for 4 months during the program. Brandmsiths get the opportunity to work on many different projects, challenging them to diversify their skillset, while putting their talent on display and helping create value for the companies.

Can you tell me a bit about your background? What past experiences made you a good choice for Brandsmith?

I have a broad technology background. I started programming at a young age—about 10 years-old. Got a bachelors degree in electrical engineering from the Naval Academy and a masters at NKU in business informatics.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on in the past? Can you describe them?

I really enjoyed making software and trying to start my own business. The whole experience was more about finding out whether I thought I could do that as a profession rather than about having a successful business. It was more about asking myself, ’Is this something I would enjoy doing as a full-time job?’.

What drew you to The Brandery?

I felt like this would be a great opportunity to “intern” with several companies and get a chance to develop my technical skills further, while interacting with a variety of startups. To me, the startup environment is inherently exciting.

Has it lived up to your expectations?

Absolutely. I would have to say that it’s pretty much what I expected as far as work content and environment. I am generally doing technology consulting and web development with the companies.

Would you do it again and why?

I hope that it wouldn’t be something I would need to do again. I would recommend it to anyone who is in the position I was, when I started. That’s a position where you could use the chance to put your skills on display to a variety of people. It’s a great opportunity to get exposure.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I don’t know. I’m thinking about a variety of things, but I don’t have a good sense of what is most likely. Ideally, I’ll have a few options; I’ll be able to make a decision at that point that won’t be driven as much by external forces, but more by my preferences. I haven’t decided yet what my preference will be.

Random Tidbits

Favorite song : “Tangerine” by Bighead Todd and the Monsters

Favorite color: Red

Favorite startup: Boomerang for Gmail

Startup Spotlight...

Online dating is a slow and painful process of back-and-forth messaging, compatibility surveys, and endless disappointment. WooWhoo solves these problems by taking you quickly from online introductions to low-pressure, real-life meetings. You pick who you’re interested in and we set up the dates. Andy Zhang, founder of WooWhoo answered a few questions we had for him about the company and why he chose the Brandery.

What inspired you to start WooWhoo? 

 Rebecca, my closest friend in law school, inspired me to start WooWhoo after her experience with OkCupid. She spent hours every day dealing with the inundation of messages, looking for the diamonds in the rough. After a month, when she finally found someone interesting, she excitedly sent me a text. It took another few weeks for them to decide to meet and figure out a place. During the date, I get a message, “AWFUL!” Apparently, the guy wasn’t what she expected. Same with the next one. And the one after.

I realized that online dating had horribly distorted the process, and was clearly doing it backwards for people like Rebecca. She just wanted to meet a good-looking guy that wasn’t a bum. She’d figure out the rest when they met. That’s when I realized that WooWhoo needed to exist.

Why did you decide to come to the Brandery? 

I had great conversations with past companies, including the guys from RentShare and Roadtrippers. I was incredibly impressed with their products (I use both, in fact), and I wanted to be a part of an environment that fostered such success. The Brandery mentors and partners completely sealed the deal. Mike Bott’s experience with Match.com, on top of Rob, Dave, and JBs energy, gave me confidence that the Brandery was here to do whatever it took for us to succeed.

What is the biggest surprise since you started at the Brandery?  

The biggest surprise has been learning from each other. Some of my best ideas and tactics came from my fellow Brandery classmates. On top of that, I’m the world’s worst developer, so I’m always bugging Richard for Javascript help and Matt and Nick for Rails architecture.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m a solo founder, so my days are crazy. I do meetings, calls, and emails during the day. I try to leverage the time with other companies, mentors, and partners during working hours. By night, I’m purely on product execution. I’m in charge of the product team, and I work with a designer on the West Coast. We usually crank through product iteractions from 7-8p to 1-2a or later.

How can people test out your product? 

They can go to www.woowhoo.com and sign up using Facebook! No, we don’t post to your wall. Any and all feedback are welcome, so they can send me an email as well: andy@woowhoo.com.

If you weren’t a founder of your company what other Brandery company would you want to be a founder of? 

I’d want to be a founder of SocStock because I think it’s a really interesting take on FinTech. I think the potential is huge, and it’s actually great for small businesses, unlike some other solutions out there.

Follow Andy at @zhangandyx


Startup Spotlight...


CrowdHall is a free online social platform built on the idea that public discourse with high-profile people & organizations doesn’t have to be one-sided. It empowers the crowd to organize its thoughts, articulate its questions, and voice its perspective in a democratic way. Austin Hackett, co-founder of CrowdHall, answered a few questions we had for him about the company and why he chose the Brandery.


What inspired you to start CrowdHall?

I was watching the early presidential debates and saw that they were trying to use twitter to get “real” questions from “real” people, but in reality, it was just some staff member picking a softball question from thousands of tweets. I saw the glaring inefficiencies in this process, but also saw the value in asking the general population for input, and in providing the “regular joe” access to high-profile people through social media. I started thinking about what could be a solution that would actually be representative of what people thought, and that led to CrowdHall.

Why did you decide to come to the Brandery?

The main reason we chose the Brandery was that Dave, JB, Mike, and Rob all seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing, and they all had cool ideas for how we could develop CrowdHall. We could tell they already had invested time in learning about the company and the team, and that they were excited about the possibilities they saw. After that, they each contacted me directly to offer support, advice, and connections. This was before we even committed to coming. That level of early support made the decision to come out here an easy one, because we knew we would be working with people who were personally invested in our success.

What is the biggest surprise since you started at the Brandery?

How much we love working 12 hour days. Nobody ever complains.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Wake up. Work. Sleep. Repeat.

How can people test out your product?

Go to crowdhall.com and sign up to be notified when we launch. We’re doing an exclusive early launch in late August, so if you put in your email, we’ll let you know the day you can get on and go at it.

If you weren’t a founder of your company what other Brandery company would you want to be a founder of?

Either 360Pager or FlightCar. FlightCar because the guys are still teenagers and I could pick on them. 360Pager because the founders have both already been super successful in their careers, so I could just lurk around for a while and get a free ride to acquisition.

Follow crowdhall on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/CrowdHall