Winner, winner, free dinner — for Front Flip users, anyway. The Kansas City-based marketing company launched its free app in November 2011 and by year's end had expanded to include hundreds of businesses in more than a dozen cities. (Locally, restaurants such as Tannin Wine Bar, LaMar's Donuts and Minsky's Pizza are among those playing the game.) This spring, national chains — including Hooters, Pizza Hut and Wendy's — started trying the app.
Here's how it works: Customers use the mobile app to scan QR codes at restaurants and shops. The code unlocks a digital scratch card — the iPhone or Android version of a lottery ticket — to be rubbed. Winners get a prize: free dessert, say, or dinner for four.
Front Flip founder and CEO Sean Beckner says KC is loaded with tech ability ready to make the Midwest an IT hub. An edited transcript of Beckner's e-mail interview with The Pitch follows.
The Pitch: What are the most appealing things about operating your business from the KC area?
Beckner: Kansas City is a great place for top talent, with a ton of entrepreneurial spirit. It's home, and to be able to build a company where your family and friends are, and share the experience, is great.
It's also a great test market. The Kansas City market has allowed us to evolve here before launching national. And if it works here, it can work anywhere.
What are the challenges?
Kansas City is a great place for top talent, but definitely not a place where there is an unlimited pool. There are so many great companies to work for here. It is highly competitive. Thankfully, Front Flip is a fun place to work.
We have to have a bit more bravado because we are here in Kansas City. Although KC is gaining more respect as a center for tech, we still need to do more things great to be visible.
Are we in the next tech bubble, or is the rise of smartphones and tablets and their apps leading to growth that's truly sustainable?
It is not only sustainable — it is just getting started. Mobile will define the next decade. Smart young entrepreneurs need to be in mobile.
What apps and models have you studied? What kind of work went into figuring out how to make your model profitable?
Apps: Facebook, in terms of studying the interactions; Instagram, in terms of simplicity; Foursquare, in terms of how to make something fun. Model: salesforce.com, for the platform and the monetization and sustainable long-term value.
Many of us here are serial entrepreneurs and have experience in building profitable subscription-based models. The big item here is the mutual value for both the mobile-app user and the business.
We have all kinds of tech and app companies popping up around our city. Has location become irrelevant in the industry?
Location has quickly become less relevant in the app-tech world. Many of the people entering the workforce now have grown up with the Internet and with technology. These people, much like ourselves, are finding ways to innovate regardless of geographic location.
What must Kansas City do to fully become the tech hub that some are already calling it?
Continue to have success stories and a supporting community. Several nonprofit organizations, such as the Kauffman Foundation and the Archer Foundation, right here in Kansas City provide opportunities for start-ups to build their story. In the same manner, successful entrepreneurs here in Kansas City are more than willing to step up ... to provide guidance and mentorship.
How many employees do you have? What's the employment target for the rest of 2012?
We currently have 32 employees and we will most likely double by the end of the year.
What should someone starting college or changing careers do to capitalize on tech's growth right now?
Learn about technology, read tech blogs, use technology. Ask the question: How can I do this better? Look at who has been successful and understand why. Take risks.