Thomas Neuert | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Thomas Neuert

Background:  

The Neuert brothers – Andreas, Thomas and Markus – founded Downtown Crawlers as a way to help promote downtown Tampa's bars, restaurants and other businesses to young professionals and build an audience for Kyngo, a localized messaging app they developed while living in Silicon Valley. Downtown Crawlers hosts classic pub crawls as well as food-sampling crawls, and it can facilitate private events and parties for groups.

The Mistake:

The mistake that we learned from Kyngo is that you need to first develop a community. That’s why we are now doing Downtown Crawlers.

We recently submitted the app to Apple’s app store, and it went live. Our goals were simple: 500 downloads in the Tampa area within the next couple of months. We accomplished that. The second goal was to get 100 users on the app every day. We checked that off as well.

But the most important box we haven’t yet checked off is that we need to get a certain number of content creators on the app. From the 100 people who are using the app each day, about 95 percent are just content consumers. It’s like with the Uber app: You push a button and within five minutes, you get picked up. But we don’t have enough Uber drivers on our road. There’s not enough content being created for the app to be useful.

We wanted to show bar owners how to use the app, and hopefully, that would kick-start Kyngo. But you don’t want to push something down people’s throats – you want them to come to you. If you tell them to use an app because there are 500 people in their area on it, and they should get on the app and post something about their daily specials, they’ll be totally lost. They’ll say, “You’re telling me that if I do this app post, 50 people are going to walk in here? Nah, can’t happen.” But if you tell them you are going to bring 50 people into their bar or restaurant to spend money, now you are speaking their language.

Now we just realized that we did the right thing, by accident.

The Lesson:

You can invent something completely crappy, and people will use it because they are invested in the community behind it. They see the fun in it. Facebook wasn’t all that great in the beginning, but it started with a really solid community of college students. MySpace had similar user profile functionality, but Facebook had the better community.

That’s where the Downtown Crawlers come in. We live downtown; we like downtown. I think there’s a stigma about downtown Tampa that there’s nothing to do and everyone goes to South Tampa or Seminole Heights. We want to shift the tide back into downtown because downtown is about to explode. We are trying to highlight the restaurants, bars, and other businesses, and that’s how we came up with the Downtown Crawlers idea.

The bar owners didn’t have much interest in the app, but they were really interested in bringing in more people. So we branded and made official this pub crawl idea. It snowballed very organically from one into the other. And now we just realized that we did the right thing, by accident. Now that the community is up and running, we have bars and restaurants contacting us, wanting to be part of our crawls. And we can use the same strategy with Kyngo.

Follow Downtown Crawlers on Twitter at @DowntownCrawler and Kyngo at @KyngoApp.

Pictured from left: Andreas Neuert, Thomas Neuert and Markus Neuert. | Photo courtesy of Thomas Neuert

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