Startup Spotlight – Parakheet – June 2012

Startup of the Week

Startup of the Week is a feature on Startup Calgary that aims to highlight and showcase innovative tech startups and budding entrepreneurs in Calgary.

We recently caught up with Jeremy Watson, VP of Sales at Parakheet to show us a new way to discover Calgary.

What’s your elevator pitch?

Parakheet is a smartphone app that offers current deals, event notifications and unique promotions from Calgary’s top restaurants, bars and clubs. Offers are organized by activity category, ranked by distance to your current location and filtered to show only active offers for the day, ensuring that everything is relevant.

Merchants post deals in real-time to Parakheet, allowing users to take advantage of specials that may only last for days or even hours. Whether it’s going for a drink after work, finding a unique date spot or hitting up the most happening places for your night on the town, Parakheet helps you discover your city.

How did you come up with the idea for your startup?

From the frustration that there was nothing available to find what was going on at Calgary’s restaurants, bars and clubs. We came upon the idea to collect information on specials, coupons, live music, and unique events and make it available in one place. We wanted to help people who went to the same old spots find new and exciting things to do.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

As a start-up it is hard to get time from the decision-makers in restaurants. However, it has been getting easier as our user and merchant base grows and they see success.

For example, one of our merchants, Shiraz Persian Cuisine, saw a 40% redemption rate on a coupon they posted on Parakheet. You don’t see that type of click-through rate in most advertising.

What’s new with your startup that we can share? 

The technology marketplace is changing so quickly that there’s always something new with Parakheet, or else we’ll become extinct. We recently launched our Android App, we released a new version of our iPhone app that can track coupon redemption, and we just released our promotional video that can be found on YouTube.

Personally, do you think it is more difficult to raise capital or find the right talent? Any suggestions to make it easier?

We’ve been “boostrapping” and have used our own money thus far.  However, finding talent that is willing to work for sweat equity with very low upfront compensation is difficult. You need to be more creative, like offering individuals with interest in technology and business the opportunity to gain experience by taking on important tasks that they would not have in larger organizations.

What has contributed to your success to this point?

It’s not about how good your idea is, it’s about how well you can execute it. Hard work is everything, and your own belief in the idea will drive you forward. We haven’t been doing this too long ourselves, but the most important piece of advice is that in the beginning there will be many dark days where those on the team are the only ones who believe in the idea. Don’t give up on it, and don’t take no for an answer.

What made you choose to go down the path of entrepreneurship?

We all just wanted to create something. When you’re in your 20s, it is hard to be in a position within an organization where you can manage your own destiny and have the direction to create something. We strongly believed in the idea and were driven by the success of companies like Groupon and Living Social.

What are your thoughts on Calgary’s startup community?

The startup community in Calgary has gotten a lot more vibrant in the last year or two, ever since the creation of Startup Calgary, A100, and C100. Spots like Accelerator YYC and people like Tori MacLean have gone a long way to help further the tech ecosystem. We keep bumping into other entrepreneurs and regularly meet up with them to share ideas and spur each other on.

What do you and your startup need?

We need more users who are engaged and regularly using Parakheet, which will in turn spur more merchants to post deals. We’ve been getting more and more success, but things never go as fast as you hope.  We’re also offering merchants a limited time 2-month trial.

Parakheet will be showcasing at Mobile Monday on June 4th at 6pm at the Melrose Bar & Grill. In the mean time, check out their app in the iPhone app store or Android market place and visit their website at www.parakheet.com.

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