A Q&A with Tony Alfaro, founder and CEO of Ribbon, a social mobile app that targets travelers and event attendees. The app launched on the Apple App Store in early May after raising $2 million in Seed funding. The San Francisco-based company was founded in 2011.
SUB: Please describe Ribbon and your value proposition.
Alfaro: Ribbon is a free utility for people to share upcoming trips and events with friends. Ribbon believes the next evolution of social is knowing where friends and contacts plan to be in the future. By reinventing the map and calendar into a combined interactive tool, Ribbon is the ultimate application to engage with friends based on future plans.
Ribbon aims to solve the problem of missed connections and create new ones by uncovering opportunities to meet up in the real world. Ribbon alerts friends when they plan to be in the same place at the same time—we call these Ribbon connections. Using Ribbon results in friends meeting up and sharing experiences that may have not been possible without Ribbon. Ribbon also creates value for event partners by driving event awareness and attendance.
Whether planning to visit New York or London, the Bonnaroo Music Festival, the ad:tech conference or the Bears game, update your Ribbon and uncover social and business meeting opportunities—and never miss the chance to connect with friends again.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Alfaro: Any relatively social people worldwide.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Alfaro: Ultimately, I think all the large social applications will want and need to be solving the problem that Ribbon solves.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Alfaro: 2011. My main initial goal was to hire the best mobile-first development firm that had world-class design. I moved to New York in January, 2011 to be near Fueled and work out of their offices in SoHo which has become known as the Fueled Collective.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Ribbon? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Alfaro: I have lived in the Fiji Islands for much of the last ten years. Originally from California, I would travel back to the U.S. a few times each year to see as many friends and family as possible. Planning my trips was difficult because I didn’t know where my friends would be, or what they would be doing, during his limited time back ‘home.’
In the months and weeks before travelling, I would email, text, call and message my friends asking about their future plans during my travel dates. The result was a significant amount of time spent reaching out to friends and making notes of their future travel and event plans. I resorted to an Excel spreadsheet in an attempt to keep track of this information. This became my ‘travel map,’ and it literally guided my travel plans.
Thinking there had to be a better way, I recognized an opportunity and began to envision a solution whereby a single application should exist to coherently organize travel and event plans among social and professional networks. Thus, the idea of Ribbon was born.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Alfaro: Coming up with the name ‘Ribbon’ was a collaborative effort between myself and some strategists at Fueled. My main requirement for the brand was that it somehow represents a ‘future timeline.’ I also wanted the name to appeal to women given that I believe we are solving the location privacy problem with users selecting large geographic areas such as big cities for their future location plans. An actual ribbon is flowing in nature, comes in all colors like people, and intersects into bows at places which represents people connecting with their friends at certain times during their lives. I also like how ribbons are associated with gifts and ceremonies—which represents celebrating being with friends and family. We are aiming to reinvent the calendar as we know it—your Ribbon is your future.
SUB: You recently secured $2 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Alfaro: It is easy to raise money for great ideas.
SUB: Do you have plans to raise more funding in the near future?
Alfaro: Yes. We plan on raising a much larger round of funding later in the year.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Alfaro: The most significant obstacles have been the significant resources required over 18 months to perfect the logic and technologies related to the back end. This includes re-mapping the world to Ribbon’s location methodology and curating a vast amount of data related to being able to capture where people might be going in the future related to music, festivals, sports games, business conferences, and several other categories.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Alfaro: Ribbon provides a very unique value proposition to travel partners. For example, Ribbon will often capture people’s future travel plans before they make hotel and flight reservations. Ribbon also provides unique value to brands that value the engagement of their communities and fans planning to attend their events. This includes such brands as music artists, sports teams and any type of ‘big event.’ We’ll work closely with travel and event partner brands to provide users with added value to their Ribbon experience.
SUB: What are your goals for Ribbon over the next year or so?
Alfaro: Our plans over the next year include raising a larger round of financing in order to continue building a strong team and continue to developing the product in order to be a meaningful and exciting utility for millions worldwide.
Ribbon – www.ribbon.me