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Cleveland, Ohio

Trevor Shaw of Barkudo

Meet Trevor Shaw, founder of Barkudo, a mobile marketing company with three employees that allows bar managers to create exclusive drink specials that are viewed and redeemed directly on smartphones.

How does Barkudo work?
The offers created through Barkudo can only be redeemed once per night per customer, so they give bar managers a powerful way of driving quantifiable traffic to their venues.

Barkudo is free for both consumers and nightlife venues. We generate revenue by working with alcohol manufacturers to broker placements for their brands and to create promotions that will drive on-premise demand for their products.

How have you “reinvented” happy hour?
From the perspective of a nightlife venue, the traditional happy hour has always presented an interesting challenge: If bars cut the price of a drink in half, they need to double the volume of sales in order to maintain profitability.

Barkudo helps venues avoid the pitfalls of the traditional happy hour by allowing bar managers to create "one-and-done" specials that actively drive traffic while protecting the margins of their business. 

This new approach to active advertising, along with the novelty of the redemption process taking place on the customer's phone, has led us to describe Barkudo as a happy hour for the 21st century.

What advice do you have for someone starting a business in Cleveland?
The single best piece of advice I could give entrepreneurs is to get out of the building. Many entrepreneurs, me included, are inclined to plot the future direction of their business while seated comfortably behind their desk. 

In reality, I think the most important thing you can do, especially at the early stage of a business, is go out and get in front of potential users and get feedback. Listening to the feedback and desires of your potential client is the key to building a product that solves their challenges.

What has been the biggest challenge in starting Barkudo?
Barkudo often faces the classic chicken-or-the-egg problem when we expand our business into a new region. Venues are interested in using Barkudo only when there are a large number of active users, and users are only interested in using Barkudo when there are a large number of exclusive deals being offered by venues. 

At the end of the day, we are able to overcome this challenge by reminding venues that there is virtually no risk in creating Barkudo deals. If Barkudo succeeds in building a user base around the venue, the owner will benefit greatly from the extra traffic we provide. As a free service, if no one comes to redeem the deals created by the venue, the owner will have only lost the five minutes it took to create those deals in the first place.

What inspires you?
I find inspiration in working with Barkudo co-founder Brad Philips. On the surface Brad and I come from different backgrounds and have different skill sets, but at our core we both have a passion for progress and innovation. Brad's incredible versatility in programming and design inspires me to apply equal passion into my responsibilities on the sales and marketing front. Together, we've got a great relationship that keeps Barkudo looking and moving forward.

Where do you want to see the business in five years?
While our business originally focused entirely on the relationship between the consumer and the venue, Barkudo's recent growth into offering solutions to manufacturers and distributors has really evolved our business into a full-service marketing platform that connects the dots across the three tiers of our industry.

Over the next five years I am excited to see Barkudo continue to find innovative ways to help align the interests of different businesses along our vertical. Whether it's implementing a nationwide marketing campaign for an international brand, or helping a small-town college venue create excitement for a weekend event, I think Barkudo is building a platform that will enable businesses to engage with customers in a quantifiable way.

Interview by Karin Connelly

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