Have you ever been looking through your friend’s Facebook photos or cruising around on an infotainment site (Note: I heard that word on an old This American Life recently and I’m fully committed to bringing it back into the lexicon) and stumbled across a super cool thing that you just had to have? Could be part of an outfit, could be the lamp in your very trendy friend’s apartment, could even be the scarf that’s flying away in the wind as your friend drunkenly chases after it.
So you see it, you love it, you want it. But how do you get it? You don’t know where it was bought, what the brand is, nothing except for the fact that it’s totally badass. You’re doomed to admire it from afar, pining and wondering why fate brought that perfect thing into your life without giving you a way to get it.
Until now! Well, until later this month when the website HOVR launches. One little browser update gives you the HOVR tool, which then makes all images into a clickable product search. The HOVR technology then brings up comparable items from all over the internet so you can comparison shop and make the best decision about where to spend your hard earned dollars. Bonus: the mobile site will even direct you to stores in your area that carry the product so you can actually go check it out in person.
This is one of those ideas that just makes so much sense that I can’t see how they’re not going to do well. Co-founder Adam Jarcyzn and I had a long talk about what makes a good startup team, why collaboration is essential, what we can expect from HOVR in the future.
Is this your first startup?
It’s not the first product I’ve made. The team that’s working together on HOVR built a previous product in a location based conversation space; an app called Boomurang. We basically created a forum for every location on the internet, for every location in the world, and the goal there was that people should be able to communicate just by leaving information in a chatroom type experience. People could jump in and out and there was no friending or checking in.
That was our first go at something in startup space and that started in March of last year. Then we came into INcubes in June and a few weeks later we had changed our concept. A few weeks after that we had our prototype and when we released that to a few individuals we got some really good feedback there. Now we’re purely focusing on that.
What was your background before you got into the startup world?
I did my undergrad in biochemistry and math and stats and then I did my MBA right after that. But I’ve always kind of been—and I think I can speak for the rest of the team—we’re all pretty entrepreneurial. We all went to school together and it’s the kind of thing where we’ll all sit around someone’s living room and throw ideas at each other, saying “Well wouldn’t it be cool if…” and then filling in the space after the “if.” Boomurang fell out of there and then HOVR fell out of Boomurang.
So it’s you and how many other founders?
It’s three other founders. All four of us were involved in the previous product we made.
You guys are a good team, then.
Oh yeah. We all went to undergrad together and then Dave and I did our MBAs. He actually did a CMA as well. Our developer is actually a master’s in finance guy so we’re all very academic but we all knew we wanted to do our own thing. Sometimes you need to congregate around a common thing that keeps everyone going forward and that’s what led us to this.
We also collaborate a lot. There’s a lot of chalk dust in our office; we use chalkboards instead of whiteboards. Personally I can’t work without a dry erase marker or a piece of chalk in my hand. Collaboration is a big part of it. If I can’t collaborate, it doesn’t work because I’m only one brain and I need other perspectives. We all agree that that’s the way we get things done; everyday we ask, “What do you think?”
I’ve done a lot of reading recently about how our generation (people in their 20s) were brought up to collaborate and how that’s become a problem in traditional workplaces. We were taught from a very young age to share and work together and work in groups.
From my end, I just don’t know how people did it any other way.
Would you say that collaborative personality type is essential for a startup founder?
Yeah, absolutely. What’s most important for me is that everyone knows what’s going on and that ultimately everyone is getting the feedback they need about contributing and feeling valued. It only happens when you try to consistently engage everyone in some way.
If I just said to someone, hey go figure this out on your own, they’ll get it done but the way we task management is we ask, what do we want to achieve this week? Let’s lay out all the things and talk a little bit about support things, other things to think about. When you go away you’ve got this scope of of what four people are bringing to the table, not just you.
For me it’s all about communicating and collaborating because otherwise we can only arrive to a certain level of quality in our product.
Where’d you get the name “HOVR?”
One of the co-founders is a genius namer and originally he came up with the name “Hover Over” because he had this really nerdy math way to put it. It was H[OVER}2 and it was very creative and we really liked it but it was just too long.
The name spun out of how we wanted people to experience it. When you hover over an image with your mouse, there’s a little call to action icon that pops out the image. It’s very small. When you click on that icon, that’s what launches the search experience and opens the sidebar and you get all kinds of variables.
The hover is really the key ingredient, so I guess the name came out of saying, well, what’s the easiest way we can communicate what we do? HOVR felt like the best way. We didn’t want to go with, say, EasyFashionFinder.com or something like that because that pulls you into a certain product vertical. HOVR is just super simple and it really reinforces why the experience is so easy.
Can you talk a little bit about your experience with the INcubes accelerator?
The INcubes experience was pretty amazing. Travis and Ben, the guys who are running it, did a really great job.
There could be incubators out there that are trying to force you in one direction or the other. What Travis and Ben did was build a whole experience where for three months it wasn’t so much that they were forcing us down a path as spending the time questioning us if the path we were going down down sense or not. It really gave us a lot of flexibility and freedom.
During that time it was pretty much a revolving door of mentors and investors. People came in who wanted to learn about us and it was really great for the exposure. We met a lot of people in a very short time, all of whom were very supportive of what we were doing. I think we definitely have INcubes to thank for building that kind of community around us and getting us involved.
What do you like to do when you’re not working on this project?
I spend a lot of time playing sports. I play soccer once a week, I play baseball once a week, probably start playing basketball soon. Right now it’s getting cold and I don’t honestly know why I agreed to be playing soccer up until mid-November outside but I did.
We all kind of have our own little hobbies… Dave is a professional poker player. Before we started pursuing this stuff in a full-time capacity, he was playing poker full-time.
We also hang out a lot together, not just in the office. Trying to hold on to those younger years.
That’s one thing that always amazes me: just how much you guys work when everyone is still pretty young!
Yeah, I’m getting a lot of complaints from my brothers and my girlfriend that there’s just not enough time in the day for everything. I would say organization and scheduling is huge because you don’t want to neglect your friends and family.
Would you say having a startup has effected your social life?
You know, the connections you want to stay close to you’ll stay close to. The connections that are a little looser sometimes can become a little more loose than you’d like them to be. It’s really individual. Some people are really great at managing time and some people are not so great.
It’s all about priorities as well. For me, my friends and my family are my top priority so I try to make as much time as I can to talk to them. I let them know I’m alive and I make sure they’re alive. That’s usually my first question: are we all alive today? Yup. (Laughs)
What’s your vision for HOVR? Where do you see this going?
Our big vision is to be a tool for people to get from discovery to retail as efficiently as possible while providing them the comfort they need to make an informed decision. That sounds like a lot of jargon but what I mean is that online shopping is really no different from shopping in a store. You see something you like, you consider if you want it for that price or if you want to find something different. And the search, whether it be online or in real life, can be challenging.
What we want to do is be there, wherever you are in the process of searching. People spends tons of time online in the entertainment zone online and our big vision is whenever you’re online doing that and you see a product you’re interested in, you can use HOVR to get more information about it.
Any last advice for other startup founders out there?
I would say the most important thing is making sure everyone is on the same page. The most frustrating thing is when you’re carrying other people.
And that’s not to say you can’t be friends or whatever, it’s just to say that it becomes frustrating when you have a vision and you want people around that vision. You want to make sure that you’re all working equally. You want to be successful and you’re all there to be successful so spend some time at the beginning laying a little bit of the groundwork. Those are probably the uncomfortable conversations you don’t want to have but they’re really important to do now because you don’t want to have an increasingly uncomfortable environment.
The other thing I would say is don’t get too married to your idea. We had this idea, we formed it into this app, then we ended up at INcubes and now we’re working on something completely different.
If you’re thinking about starting something, take your entrepreneurial passion and apply it to the problems that you’re experiencing today. The coolness factor is only going to get you so far. If you can’t answer, “The problem I’m trying to solve is X,” it’s going to be very challenging for you to take this idea to it’s conclusion, no matter how cool it is.
Courtesy of startup founder Adam Jarcyzn | HOVR