Featured Startup Pitch: St. Louis-based Sqwid has built a small business-focused tool for monitoring chatter and engaging with customers through social channels

By Editor February 28, 2013

Sqwid logoCompany: Sqwid

Website: www.sqwid.com

Founder: Chris Sommers

Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri

Year Founded: 2012

Twitter: @getsqwid

Facebook: facebook.com/getsqwid

Company Description: Sqwid allows businesses to monitor chatter and engage with customers on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare, from one web-based, mobile-friendly app.

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Chris Sommers, SqwidBy Chris Sommers, founder

Product Overview

Sqwid is a tool for business owners and managers to monitor chatter about their business across Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and Foursquare from a single easy-to-use, web-based interface. Users can see all feedback coming in and respond instantly with a comment or Sqwid Reward, like a free pizza. Sqwid lets a business owner meet customers where they are; wherever a customer is talking about a Sqwid business, the owner can see, and instantly respond on that same platform. It’s free to use, and currently used by more than 100 businesses ranging from wine bars and pet stores to the St. Louis Science Center.

Founder’s Story

I worked on the West Coast in finance and tech for a number of years, most recently at Salesforce. While living in San Francisco, I fell in love with a pizza crust from a nearby restaurant and convinced the owner to sell me his recipe. Wanting to return to my hometown of St. Louis, I came back and convinced a friend leave his career and open a pizzeria with me. My gamble worked— Pi really took off, and we’ve since opened an additional six restaurants and two food trucks. We learned early on that social was the best way to communicate with our customers, but as most business owners know, making the most of out of social media is tricky.

We knew our guests were talking about us on social media, but we had no efficient way to engage them, thank them for saying kind words about us, or make things right when we didn’t quite meet expectations. I wanted a way to spot an opportunity for interaction and react then and there.

One incident in particular made me realize how badly I needed this tool:  I spotted a Twitter fan commenting that he was driving 130 miles just to eat dinner at my restaurant. Wanting to reward his loyalty and buy him dinner, I blew up his grainy Twitter picture and passed it on to the location’s manager. The manager found the guy and comped the pizza, much to his delight…except it was the wrong guy. This wasn’t the first time I’d wanted to surprise a customer, and it got me thinking—there had to be a better way. So I created one.

Enter Sqwid, the world’s first ‘social hospitality’ platform. Like its multi-armed moniker implies, Sqwid allows business owners to pull in customer comments from Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare, all from one easy to use web-based and mobile-friendly interface.

Unlike my clunky former method of responding to an issue—trying to get a customer’s email, getting his or her mailing address, and then sending a physical gift card—I am now able, with a few taps on my phone, to send a Sqwid Reward link. The recipient can use his or her smartphone at the restaurant for a free pizza, beer, etc. The system is slick, but not only is it time-saving, it also collects the user’s email address as soon as he or she signs up to use the Reward—another win for any business owner.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

Most of our promotion is happening on social while Sqwid is in use. Businesses are seeing other businesses using it to connect with their customers, and want the opportunity to provide that same virtual hospitality to their customers. Each new business that signs up expands our reach, as potential business follows them and sees Sqwid in use. We’re seeing a lot of growth in St. Louis, where we’re based, but we’ve been expanding in other markets as well. There are even businesses in Europe using Sqwid.

Market Opportunity

The market for reaching small business owners is vast. Many are aware of how important social media is for their business, but don’t have the time to do it on their own or the capital to hire an employee to take on the time-consuming task of managing the growing number of social channels and responding to customer feedback. Sqwid has quickly grown from a tool used only by Pi to a useful platform for more than 100 businesses in a variety of industries.

How Our Company Differentiates Itself from the Competition

We’re the only tool of its kind that caters so well to the small business space. As one myself, I know what business owners want: to engage, fix what’s broken, reward what’s right, drive business and constantly improve. There are tools that help marketers monitor and interact on social media, but we take that power and put it directly into the hands of the business owner, and help them do it quickly and efficiently, without needing much previous social media knowledge. Sqwid is designed for even social media newbies to understand immediately. It was, after all, built by professionals who know the challenges small business owners face and understand their needs.

Business Model

Right now, the tool is free to use. Eventually we will charge a nominal fee per month, about the cost of one gift card that a business would otherwise send before they used Sqwid.

Current Needs

We are looking for an additional Rails developer and may be looking to raise capital in the near future.

Sqwid – www.sqwid.com