Arbit extends far beyond just connecting with celebrities. If a company had a product decision to make, whether it be a certain color on a pair of Under Armour shoes or a new design of shirt for a clothing brand, consumers can be a part of the strategic decision making process for companies.
Name: Arbit, Inc.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Website: www.arbitapp.io #AskArbit and #BeHeard
Product / Service Offering: Social Mobile Application
Co-founder Interviewed: Alex Bullington, CEO
Other Key Management Team Members: Greg DiNardo, COO
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I am Baltimore through and through. I went to Calvert Hall College High School and then Loyola University, Maryland. My background is in accounting and I am a CPA, which has helped incredibly with running the business and managing our capital.
I have played soccer my entire life and I am obsessed with building teams and empowering individuals. Arbit is predicated on this framework, with a community of users voicing their opinion on anything they want, whether it is a friend’s post, a celebrity’s question, or a brand asking them for advice on a product decision. We are pushing users to #AskArbit and #BeHeard; they are responding enthusiastically.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
Arbit’s idea formation took place in the summer of 2015. I am a social media nerd and sports fan. I love tracking engagement from different athletes across their social media platforms, much like an analyst would track their in-game stats. How many likes are they getting? Are people commenting a lot on their posts? I began thinking of ways in which we, as fans, could be involved in the decisions of these celebrities. The classic example I use is Steph Curry on Arbit asking “What shoes should I wear before tonight’s game?” Fans vote and could get a free pair of his shoes if he does a giveaway. Then they see Steph wearing those shoes on the court and they get the sense of “I picked those for Steph”.
As we conceptualized the application more, this was only the tip of the iceberg for what we could accomplish with Arbit. We are growing Arbit to be a debate platform on everything from the latest topics in sports, pop culture and politics to product polling for brands. It is a way for people to engage openly as a community.
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What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Arbit extends far beyond just connecting with celebrities. If a company had a product decision to make, whether it be a certain color on a pair of Under Armour shoes or a new design of shirt for a clothing brand, consumers can be a part of the strategic decision making process for companies. These businesses could in turn save millions of dollars in market research and poor product delivery just by testing market sentiment before they release something. This was extraordinarily powerful to me, and I have been entranced in making this possible.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
We have what I called “IP” Players. Most of the time, someone will ask “Do you have a patent?” “Can someone copy this?” There are quite literally hundreds of Instagrams and Facebooks out there that people don’t realize exist. But these two big names rose above everyone else. And they made it happen fast, while also building a loyal user base and attracting some popular names to their platform first.
We have three athletes who invested and are extremely well connected, which has already started paying dividends. They have all leveraged their relationships to drive big names to the application. We have had Kobe Bryant tweet about us. Mark Wahlberg and Dwyane Wade are on the application. This is extremely hard to match for competitors. Steve Blake, Anthony Tolliver, and Caron Butler are incredible to work with. They are just as competitive and passionate about this as we are. As a team we are out to make Arbit recognized globally.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was initial growth channels. During the first month of launch in December, we only had 1,000 downloads. We were not using the right channels. Soon, we realized that we needed to go directly to social media’s most active users (a la Instagram). We reached out to a lot of Instagram aggregator accounts, which involved humor, sports, etc., with hundreds or thousands or millions of followers, who then would download Arbit and want to seize the opportunity to grow their following on the app. In return, they would post to their accounts on Instagram asking their followers to download Arbit and follow them. This took us from 1,000 users at the start of January to 50,000 as of March 10.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
I would have liked to explore more convertible note fundings as they are easier to get done and pretty beneficial to both founders and investors.
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Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
Yes, and I say this jokingly and very seriously at the same time – What do our users want? – Any founder will ask this same question. You can get people onto your app, but what is going to make them salivate for your product and how can you go about finding that sweet spot? It is a lot of testing, trial and error, and studying the data.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Because we grew so fast with teenagers, we are exploring multiple ways to make it more engaging and appealing to an older demographic as well. We are confident we can do so by creating more relevant debate topics for people to vote on and discuss, and by drawing in popular media brands that users love. We are making a push into artificial intelligence to make feeds more customizable. Of course, all of these things are very challenging and time consuming. It is a matter of prioritization at this point. What things do we need the most NOW for the app and what can we put off?
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Talk to your users/customers! Understanding them is the best hack you will ever have. Don’t be “above” them. Humble yourself, work with them, and talk with them. They want to be heard and you will find ways to improve your business that might not have seemed clear prior.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Arbit is starting to a make a splash with more celebrities and athletes and pushing to have Arbit streamlined across multiple social media platforms. We have doubled our users each month and look to continue that trend through 2017. We are starting to connect with companies who want to promote on the platform, especially as the user base grows.
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