Boston Startups Find Success

If you’re a 21+ college student in Boston, you know what a typical weekend night downtown looks like. Each bar and club has a long, tedious line. From Avalon to JJ Foley’s to Ned Devine’s, there are lengthy lines full of people trying to get in. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll get into the bar before 12:30 a.m. and maybe enjoy a $10 watered down vodka tonic. It almost makes you want to go back to campus and hit up T’s. However, the small start up company Line Genie — based out of Cambridge — is determined to change that.

Trevor Schwartz — a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and his partner John Cliffords, a recent Boston College graduate, saw the problem with the lines first hand.

“John was going to a going away party straight from work and knew he wouldn’t make it on time and that he’d have to wait on the super long line and miss part of the party,” Schwartz said. “We both realized the problem that kept popping up and thought that we could solve it.”

The two formulated plans in 2010 and Line Genie formerly went live in July of 2011.

“It was very hard at first. Originally we would go to the bars we had agreements with and give our cards to the people on line,” Schwartz said. “Spreading by word of mouth is really how we’ve grown.”

The concept is simple: Line Genie has agreements with Ned Devine’s by TD Garden and The Harp on Causeway St. Patrons go on Line Genie’s website, pick which day and bar they want to go to and purchase a gift card to the specific bar. When the patrons go to the bar on the night they’ve reserved, they skip the line and cover charge and use the gift card inside on drinks and food.

KEEPING CUSTOMERS HAPPY

“We’ve gotten great feedback so far. The bars love it and the customers love it,” Schwartz said. “The bars want to see people are going to be committed and willing to buy drinks so they’ll give us the gift cards and let the preferred customers skip the lines and fees.”

The concept has gone over well with BU students.

“It’s a great idea,” said Gugandeep Kaur, a senior in College of Arts and Sciences. “The lines are so bad sometimes it makes you not want to even go out. I’m surprised no one thought of this idea sooner. I love that you can just go online and make a reservation. It’s so simple.”

Both partners took multiple business classes together and knew that making the company online would increase “scale-ability” and get the word out quicker. The Line Genie has it’s own website and Facebook page, as well as an active Twitter handle.

“I actually found out about Line Genie through Twitter,” said CAS senior Lauren Thompson. “One of my friends tweeted to them to say thank you and I looked at it and then checked out their website.”

Thompson isn’t alone in her online discovery of the service.

“Because of our online presence, people in New York and other cities tweet at us asking if we have deals with bars there,” Schwartz said.

Line Genie is currently in talks with about ten other bars in Boston at the moment.

“We’re looking to expand and hoping to reach new deals very soon,” Schwartz said.

Justin Monestime – a recent graduate of Boston University who works for PubGet, another online startup, said those new deals are key in Line Genie’s popularity.

“If Line Genie could make deals with more bars in Boston, I know a lot more people would use them,” he said. “Ned’s and The Harp are really popular, but so are the Regal Beagle, Alibi, and Hill Tavern. Some of those places are notorious for crazy lines.”

Schwartz said that he and his partner have been able to fund the whole operation on their own so far.

“If we reach 7-10 bars in Boston and are looking to expand to other cities, then we’ll be ready to talk to investors,” Schwartz said. “We just love where the company’s at right now and we’re letting it grow and take over.”

MORE PLAYERS IN THE GAME

The startup scene is active in Boston. LoadnVote.com is a new company created by Maxx Yellin, Matt Waxman, and Jon Doman.

“LoadnVote is a concoction of YouTube, with a pinch of Facebook, and a hint of American Idol,” said LoadnVote’s Campus Relations Manager and School of Management senior Brett Kohan.

On LoadnVote, users can submit their own videos or find videos to submit for contests on the website. Other users vote for the best choice and the winner receives certain prizes. Some recent contests include: Original Unique Talent, Cutest Pet, and Most Awkward Reason to Break Up.

“We just partnered with imgur.com and College Expert Travelers in our Write the Caption contest, where the winner will receive two all inclusive spring break packages to Electro Beach,” Kohan said.

Since its launch, LoadnVote, which is backed by Canrock Ventures, a venture capitalist firm in Jericho, N.Y., has had more than a thousand signups and 65,000 page views.

“Talent or no talent, so long has users have creativity and some free time, prizes are guaranteed,” Kohan said.

LoadnVote offers a new way for unknown artists of all types to get recognized. The sign up process is brief, and users may connect by signing in with Facebook.

On the homepage, there are six bars to choose from, and the “Contests: Loading” and “Contests: Voting” sections drop down to show the user which contests are available. On the bottom of the home page there is a leaderboard, which shows the current and all-time leading users.

“This site seems awesome,” said Kelly Okamura, a Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences freshman, after looking it up. “Some of these prizes are really good and signing up and participating is free, so it makes people really want to join and win the prizes.”

As an online startup, Kohan said the process has been dificult, but it’s great to finally see one of the group’s ideas come to fruition.

“The biggest challenge, at least for me, has been making sure to continue the friendship aspect of our relationship,” he said. “Sometimes you know you’re headed into a heated argument about a business decision, and you can’t let that affect the fact that you’ve been friends with these guys for years and you’ll see them on the basketball court later that night.”

A BOSTON MOVEMENT

“Although we have some great ideas for Loadnvote going forward, we’re still in the process of communicating to everyone what the site is about,” Kohan said. “Now that we’ve come this far, we can’t wait to see where the site takes us.”

According to areastartups.com, there are 1,423 startup companies in the Boston area. A few of the top 15 startups listed were: Helium (an online community for writers), HubSpot (a software company for businesses), and Brightcove (a cloud media service).

“People want to be where the companies are, and companies want to be where the wealth of intellectuals are,” Monestime said. “Boston literally has every type of company anyone can possibly dream of and the way this is continuing it’s only going to get larger.”

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