Finalist Q&A: WOMbeat!

The WOMBeat! mascot.

The first finalist Q&A presentation is for WOMBeat!, an online source of recommendations for local businesses from people you know and trust.
Information from their grant application is available here. Read below for more, and if you have questions for our finalists don't hesitate to ask them in the comments section.


Idea Cafe: How did you come up with the idea for your business, and what were your influences and sources of motivation?

Linda Olson: To be completely honest, WOMbeat! was sparked by a dream. Literally, I was woken from a deep sleep and began writing down what I could remember. Some people dream of trips or romances, but I dream about new business ventures, and this one was much different from the rest.

WOMBeat! founders Linda Olson and Marc Mandt.

Coming up with a name was another story. Suffice it to say, the “WOM” in WOMbeat! stands for Word-of-Mouth. The “beat!” refers to the nature of our giving user the inside scoop from trusted sources, like a news beat. Plus, I liked the fact that the name had an action verb and was fun to say.

While the dream produced the business idea, I have to credit several influencers in my life for turning this dream into a reality. First, my father was quite the creative inventor type himself, almost fancying himself as a modern day Da Vinci. Growing up in this environment planted the entrepreneurial seeds from a young age.

My most influential experience was the 3 years I worked for a VC-funded startup web venture in Boston. While my primary role was in finance, I was forced to wear many hats. I touched nearly every aspect of growing this company - from having input on new products and go-to-market strategies to having responsibilities for setting up subsidiaries in foreign countries. It was the never-ending thrill of new challenges and constant need to succeed that woke me out of bed every morning. Since then, I have hoped I could find another exciting startup to work for. Good fortune has brought me my very own venture to pursue – even better!

Finally, but not last, over my lifetime I have built up a personal network of friends and business colleagues who share my entrepreneurial spirit and fortitude. These wonderful people are a constant source of motivation and influence. Taking a business from concept stage all the way through execution stage is not easy. If it was, everyone would do it.

What do you consider to be a unique feature of your business?

WOMbeat! is not just another local directory website with a new twist. Instead, we are actually what I have coined “an online word-of-mouth recommendation engine” for small businesses.

Think about it: If your toilet breaks, do you run to the yellow pages? Or do you think of someone you can call for a plumber they could recommend? I know what my inclination is. WOMbeat! provides that same level of trust by leveraging the people you already know in the ‘real world’. It’s quick, easy, simple, useful and FREE. Plus, since this is what business owners of all sizes and types really want – more word of mouth recommendations – we built a business model around our platform that can actually provide real benefit to our customers. Businesses can reward our users for their recommendations without offending that does not involve spam or a loss of privacy. Our model is win-win-win!

In addition, I have seen many web venture founders who do not understand how difficult it is to attract volumes of users or even how to monetize those users. WOMbeat! has actually solved this ‘chicken and the egg’ dilemma with a revenue model from day one and with tools that help business owners pull their customers onto WOMbeat! for us.

In fact, what we are doing is so unique, we have a patent pending on our technology.

What are your thoughts on the future of small businesses in a slowing economy and their importance to the vitality of the local community?

As someone who has a varied professional background, from consulting with the Fortune 500 companies to working on the ground floor of successful small ventures, I have seen much in my career. I am convinced that if many of America's largest corporations had remembered their roots and operated with an 'entrepreneurial mindset' - that of lean, efficient organizations that focus on innovation and fiscal responsibility - perhaps our current economic situation would not be as gloomy. And while the correction period may be long and hard, I believe that stronger and smarter companies will come out ahead. "Small is the new Big"

This slowing economy will have a much more significant impact on larger companies than it does on small companies. Not that small companies will not feel some pain, but we are entering a very important opportunistic time. Large companies with concerns like stock valuations, quarterly reporting, investor relations nightmares, etc., just might become sleeping or distracted giants - ripe to become caught off guard. The time for small companies could not be better than it is now.

Why should the Idea Cafe regulars vote for you?

I believe WOMbeat! is going to become the biggest success story of Idea Cafe. With your generous grant, we can achieve our goals and help elevate the Idea Cafe brand to a new level - because we certainly plan to "spread the word" (Hey! Sorry for the shameful plug, but we know how powerful "Word of Mouth" can be!).


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