Lessons From Serial Entrepreneur Brian Wiegand, A WI Exit Master

6/20/14Follow @XconomyWI

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cutting out and using each of the nearly 1 billion coupons being distributed, on average, each day, Wiegand says.

“It’s like dropping money out from the sky,” he says. “Think about a model where you’re spending billons of dollars and have no idea who’s getting that value.”

With Hopster, consumers create a profile on the site, and it tracks each user’s purchases with the personalized discounts, which can be redeemed through either printable coupons or syncing the discount with a retailer’s loyalty card, Wiegand says. Individual user data can also be shared with brands if the user agrees to it.

“Now they can build a relationship with you,” Wiegand says. “Then they can do targeted advertising to you. That’s the holy grail of advertising.”

Wiegand thinks Hopster’s model—brands essentially paying consumers for their data—is the future for balancing privacy concerns with targeted online advertising.

One of the startup’s biggest challenges, of course, is making Hopster a household name and attracting a critical mass of consumers. Its strategy for achieving that involves striking deals with clients for exclusive coupons and having Hopster power the clients’ branded coupons on their own websites and social media pages, so the corporations basically spend their advertising dollars to drive Hopster users, Wiegand says. Hopster has spent virtually nothing on advertising, he adds.

“I’m in the business of giving away money, so in a connected, viral world, that spreads very quickly,” Wiegand says.

So, does Wiegand have a secret sauce for building successful startups? Not exactly, although he says it’s less about the idea (“ideas are cheap”), and more about finding a “disruptive angle” in a marketplace, raising money, hiring the right people, and executing. (He admits the execution and fundraising are made easier with experience and a proven track record.)

But Wiegand’s white whale is an exit that eclipses $100 million, he says. Sure, he could’ve held out for bigger deals with his past companies, but it’s difficult to turn down a good offer because who knows if another one will come around, he says.

Attaining that big, national headline-grabbing exit was one of the goals he set for Hopster, he says.

“Whether we get there or not, I don’t know,” Wiegand says. And if he does another startup, “that would be the reason to do it.”

Jeff Engel is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @XconomyWI

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