Is DVP’s Quest to Get Startups to Detroit Working? Ask Shawn Geller
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and the companies already working with Linkner’s ePrize.
Linkner invited Geller to fly to Detroit and check out what DVP had to offer, including space in the Madison. “I fell in love with the building immediately,” Geller says. “It’s a good culture of people legitimately interested in helping entrepreneurs succeed. It was a good fit, especially since Josh had the existing business with ePrize.”
Geller is now in final negotiations for a first round of DVP financing as he prepares to expand Quikkly futher. (The name was changed from Student Coupons to reflect the company’s mission to eventually expand beyond the student market.) He recently hired an Ann Arbor native currently living in New York City as his chief technology officer, and he expects to have two or three additional employees in six months. [An earlier version of this paragraph mistakenly said it was a second round of financing and had the incorrect title for the chief technology officer. We regret the errors.]
Quikkly’s platform has expanded to push offers from national brands out via text or Facebook. The quicker the response to the offer of a deal, the better the price point. It’s free to sign up for the service, and much of the company’s growth is through digital word-of-mouth—Geller says every time someone claims a deal, it gets posted to their Facebook wall, where an average of five people click through the offers and two register to join. Quikkly is available on approximately 1,050 college campuses despite the fact that Geller hasn’t set foot on most of them.
Geller says that although Detroit wasn’t a place he ever imagined himself, it’s turned out to be a “no-brainer.” The day we talked, he had just put a deposit down on an apartment in Midtown, where he says he’ll get his bearings before deciding on a more permanent dwelling.
“I had never been to Detroit, and initially I was hesitant because of the reputation,” Geller says. “But the more I check out the city, I really do see that everyone seems to be here for a reason and seems part of the movement toward change. I’m seeing [Dan Gilbert's] vision. There’s an outrageous amount of people involved in entrepreneurial ventures, and that’s more relevant to where I’m at right now.”