Not many business journalists get to ask such serious interview questions as, “What else should I know about Wedgies?” which is why I love covering startups. Wedgies (teehee) is the name of a real startup that’s serious enough to have gathered a round of seed funding. The company has raised $500,000 from Tony Hsieh’s VegasTechFund and Mike Ciklin of SPB Partners, and angel investors Steve Slovick and John Eaves.
The company is based in Las Vegas — co-founder Porter Haney moved there to join co-founder Jimmy Jacobson, a former Zappos employee earlier this year. Wedgies is one of many startups taking on the boringness that is SurveyMonkey with quick, simple survey tools for publishers and media outlets. The company’s surveys are well-designed, instant, and cross-channel, meaning people can chime in on social media, via text, or on a website.
“The big vision is to be the best at polling on the web,” Haney says. Startups like Urtak, used by Glen Beck’s tea party site The Blaze, and Poptip, used by Piers Morgan Tonight, the MLB Fan Cave, ESPN and Frito-Lay, offer somewhat similar realtime polling and sentiment analysis tools. Blurtopia does it for consumers, in an app.
Wedgies has some early traction with customers who pay to embed the tools: USA Today used Wedgies on its site and on Twitter during the election. ThinkProgress uses Wedgies on Twitter. So do some local TV stations. So, unsurprisingly, does Zappos.
Haney says he’s a fan of the Vegas tech scene. His decision to move there was based on his desire to shape the community as an early member of it. “I viewed it as an opportunity to build a company and build a community and city at the same time,” he said. “It’s fun to do both of those things at the same time.” The small, growing community of tech startups is “really moldable,” he says, “because whoever’s here gets to mold it.”
He acknowledged that the Downtown Vegas Project is a long way from becoming Tony Hsieh’s dream of a happy, booming tech community. “It’s really young so you have to temper all your expectations with that. It’s growing and changing day to day, month to month,” he said.
One thing Wedgies doesn’t have to worry about is obtaining the coveted domain, Wedgies.com. The company has possibly the best domain acquisition story I’ve heard — Haney and Jacobson tracked down its owner, a felon out of jail on probation, paid his ankle bracelet rental fee, and eventually a sub-$10,000 amount for the domain.