Israeli startup Capple Factory, wants to help couples grow their relationships through mobile apps (Capples) that require two mobile devices in order to work properly. The company’s first product is called “Just Us” – a romantic gift app to publicly display your relationship status on the iPhone, showing publicly that a couple is now exclusive and no longer “just dating”. The company is currently bootstrapped and the app is launching next week.
Ofir Beigel and Karin Levi, the co-founders of Capple Factory are both graduates of Israel’s Zell Entrepreneurship program, which is quickly gaining the reputation of Israel’s Y Combinator. Four “Zell startups” exited this year alone, most recently with the acquisition of GiftsProject by eBay for an estimated $20 million. (disclosure: I’m an alumnus of the program).
I connected with Ofir to learn more about Capple Factory and Just Us. As app startups are growing in numbers and in popularity (taking Israeli startup Shaker who was crowned the winner of TechCrunch Disrupt yesterday), I was especially interested in the early stage challenges of launching an app and driving adoption. Read the full interview after the jump:
Since you can’t really download the app yet, here’s a video of Just Us to put things in context:
VC Cafe: Tell me about Just Us – what was the original concept?
Ofir: Creating Smartphone apps that “bond” 2 devices together and help nurture relationships. Since today many people are emotionally connected to their cellular device, using this platform as a means of nurturing intimate relationships seems as the next logical step.
VC Cafe: What are the main benefits for the user?
Ofir: The main benefits for the user from using “JustUs” is the creation of a what I like to call a “cellular relationship status” with his significant other, by linking their phones together. Furthermore nothing beats the feeling you get when out of the blue you get a message that someone is thinking about you.
Because the message is sent INDIRECTLY (meaning it is delivered the moment your partner opens the app, without him actively doing anything) you get the feeling as if someone “told” you the she’s thinking about you.
VC Cafe: How are you planning to market the app? Did one channel work more than others so far?
Ofir: We have 3 main marketing strategies;
Online strategies – We are approaching app review sites, dating review sites and relationship advice websites. Also our app is integrated to Facebook so when you first connect with you partner you can post it to your profile. Later on we are thinking about twitter integration as well.
Online collaborations – We’re approaching many online retailers of romantic gifts such as flowers, chocolates and so on. We wish to add our product to existing orders and utilize these already existing marketing channels.
Offline strategies – We’ve printed 500 condoms with our logo and a QR code that leads to our 60 second video (http://capplefactory.com/
VC Cafe: What goals/metrics are you tracking and what would you consider ‘success’ at the end of year one?
Ofir: We’re tracking downloads of course. We’ve decided we want to get to 60,000 users by Sept. 2012.
VC Cafe: Have you heard of ‘lean statrup methodology’? if yes, how are you implementing it?
Ofir: Yes, I have heard of it. Basically what we’re doing is a bit similar since we’re trying to put a product out there as quickly as possible in order to get some initial feedback. It isn’t really similar since our next projects aren’t going to be the same as this app.
VC Cafe: Are you monetizing this from day one, or is the focus building usage?
The app will cost $1.99 for each partner and will be available either directly through the app store or through a dedicated website which will “wrap it up” using designed emails at a total cost of $3.99 for both partners. First 2 weeks we are promoting the app for $0.99 targeting our ideal customers, which are Americans aged 13-28 who are starting a new relationship.
VC Cafe: What has been the most challenging phase of the venture so far, and what would you have done differently?
Ofir: So far we find 2 great challenges:
1. Testing the product through all possible scenarios so that we will no there are no major bugs when we launch.
2. Getting the word out with out any major budget. Basically most of our time is spent sending out emails and trying to network with relevant people who can spread the word. Since we’ve only been operating for 3 months we haven’t encountered any major mistakes (yet), but we can’t wait to make some :)
VC Cafe: Sounds like you did a great job bootstrapping. Are you looking to raise funding?
Ofir: We have invested some of our own cash to get this far and we’re now looking to raise a seed round.