The odds of a startup winning VC funds on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank” are relatively low. For one, the show typically features consumer products over hardcore tech startups, and for two, the show’s celebrity investors don’t have a track record of following through on their investment promises. Beyond that, the “sharks” are known for demanding egregious equity stakes.
For a better chance, consider tracking down the show’s resident shark Mark Cuban at one of the show’s viewing parties. That’s what Rob Kischuk did, and six months later, he’s cashing a $600,000 check.
Of course, Kischuk didn’t start out with that intention. Based in Atlanta but originally from Indiana, Kishuk flew home to Indianapolis to attend this year’s Superbowl. Two days before the game, the startup vet found himself at a “Shark Tank” viewing party thrown by local entrepreneurs. Cuban usually attends these parties and live-Tweets from them. Kischuk ended up meeting him there and eventually found himself pitching Cuban on his startup idea called Badgy.
Cuban invested in Badgy’s seed round, which closed this week. As did Sanjay Parekh, the founder of Startup Riot, and No Limit Ventures, the new funding arm of several Atlanta-based marketing executives. Sig Mosley, a prolific angel investor based in Atlanta, provided the startup with its original capital, and Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator Flashpoint invested $25,000 in a seed round.
Badgy (not to be confused with the
fake ID maker card printer of the same name) thinks of its product as “SEO for social.” It’s more of a loyalty or reward program for social media activities. Marketers on Facebook or Twitter can use the platform to easily reward their fans with badges or real world rewards for Liking, commenting, sharing, subscribing, or otherwise engaging with a brand online.
Thus far the company has worked with Quilted Northern toilet paper to pump up the conversation around toilet paper, a product people understandably don’t tend to discuss on social media. Badgy offered social media users a year’s worth of toilet paper as a reward for engaging and the brand’s following on social media grew by seven times in ten weeks, Kischuk says.
Kischuk is hoping the connection with Cuban could lead to business from some of the many companies he has his hands in as either an investor or owner. Soon Badgy will offer a self-serve option for marketers, which benefits buyers at the lower end of the market.
The company competes with CrowdTwist, a white label CRM and loyalty platform founded in 2009 and a participant in last year’s TechStars NY program. Kischuk says that Badgy is slightly different in that it’s completely native to Facebook and Twitter as an app on brand pages, so customers can earn rewards without sending users away from their social streams.
Crowdtwist isn’t the only loyalty startup out there. Foursquare, Belly, Shopkick, Plink, Swipely, Cardify, even Square all have loyalty element, but their tracking and actual rewards all vary.