founder

Interview with Dashible Co-Founder Marvin Johnson

Summary

Small businesses are constantly striving to attract and keep customers. A popular method to get customers’ attention is offering special deals or coupons. However, many of the current tools for deal/coupon creation are costly and aren’t tailored to meet the needs of a small, local business.

Dashible wants to enable all small businesses to offer deals whenever they would like, with the terms that work best for them. The Dashible app provides a key connection point between consumers and small businesses — strengthening the patronage of local companies while providing consumers with deal suggestions that are based on their personal preferences. We spoke to co-founder and CEO Marvin Johnson to learn where the inspiration for Dashible came from and where he sees the company going.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Olivia Strobl
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Marvin Johnson

Dashible helps local retailers find new customers and keep them coming back using customizable Dashible deal campaigns and loyalty programs. Businesses pay a monthly subscription fee to use the program, and we don’t charge a revenue share. Our goals are to enable local businesses to easily create customizable deal campaigns and loyalty programs that work for their specific business needs in an easy and affordable way. For our customers who use the location-based Dashible mobile apps, we offer choice, convenience and a platform that learns their likes and dislikes to help them find new things to see, eat and do while saving money.

Olivia Strobl
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
Marvin Johnson

I was talking to two friends who owned small businesses. One owns a gym and the other owns a restaurant. They both complained to me about recent Groupon campaigns they had run, and the fact that they weren’t entirely happy. I had been a Groupon user for years, and I also wasn’t completely happy. So, I figured that if there exists this large, two-sided marketplace and both sides weren’t satisfied then there must be a better way. We started doing research and interviews with business owners and came up with the concept for Dashible.

Olivia Strobl
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
Marvin Johnson

Tony Carter and I have started and grown technology based businesses in the B2B and B2C spaces before. Dashible — being a two-sided marketplace — combines elements of both. Every business is different and there are always new things to learn, but we are able to leverage our past experiences across the board to help us move quickly in a confident way while limiting “rookie mistakes.”  Dashible brings together many of the experiences and skills I have gained along my entire life — from the leadership and people skills I learned as a naval officer, to the technology entrepreneurship, consulting, product development and management experience [I gained] in corporate America. I have also personally experienced the consumer issues we are solving and have interviewed dozens of businesses to really understand what they need and how Dashible can help. One of the most important set of experiences is the time I have spent in the entrepreneurship trenches with Tony in the past. We work well together, respect each other, have very complementary skill sets and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses well. After all, regardless of the business idea, market size, etc, the most important element of success is the team.

Olivia Strobl
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
Marvin Johnson

The focus will be on local businesses and community. This has been accelerated by the pandemic. We have seen a marked increase in the desire for businesses to cooperate and collaborate to help each other grow. We have been experimenting with several businesses in NYC to create scalable ways to help them achieve this. We also expect the high fees and revenue sharing demanded by current providers will lower. This will enable more businesses to participate. Additionally, location-based services will become much more commonplace.

Olivia Strobl
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
Marvin Johnson

I founded Dashible with Tony Carter. I have known Tony for over 15 years. We met at work on a software implementation project. It was my first project as a project manager and Tony was on my team. Unfortunately when I arrived on Saturday AM the data migration project wasn’t going well but the system had to be up by Monday AM. I watched Tony work from Saturday AM to Monday AM without leaving his desk and he got the system up in time. I was impressed to say the least. We became friends and ended up co-founding iKobo, which was eventually acquired by M2 Financial.

Olivia Strobl
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
Marvin Johnson

Our primary competitor is Groupon. Before we started Dashible, we interviewed a few dozen businesses and found that they had three common needs when it came to running deal campaigns. The need for control, repeat business, and affordability. We solved all of these in the first release of Dashible. We are 100% self-service, real-time and businesses can customize six kinds of deals to fit their needs at that specific point in time. Businesses control when deals are launched and even how many people can redeem them. But, what good is offering a deal and attracting a new customer who never returns? To address this, our contactless digital loyalty program is integrated with the deal functionality and is used to keep those customers coming back. Most smaller businesses can’t afford a hefty revenue share so we offer Dashible as a subscription service at a price that most businesses can afford. Our goal is to be inclusive and allow as many businesses as possible to be Dashible.

For customers, we are location-based, real-time, and intelligent. The Dashible app enables customers to search from deals around them and then take advantage of them in real time without having to buy vouchers in advance. If you find a deal you like, you can take advantage of it right then and there. Our platform will also learn your preferences over time and present deals and loyalty programs you are likely to be interested in without you having to search manually through lists.

Olivia Strobl
What does your business model look like?
Marvin Johnson

We charge businesses a monthly subscription fee after a free trial. We don’t accept payments on behalf of the businesses or hold onto their money, and we don’t take a revenue share. We want Dashible to be a part of our businesses’ every day marketing mix. Dashible is 100% free to use by consumers.

Olivia Strobl
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
Marvin Johnson

I have raised venture capital in the past, and the process was long and expensive. Equity crowdfunding is attractive to use because we are able to continue to build community. It allows us to accept small amounts from friends and family that wouldn’t be able to invest amounts large enough to participate in a VC-style friends and family round. Also, the vehicle allows us to forgo the expensive legal fees associated with a “traditional” round.

Olivia Strobl
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Marvin Johnson

My co-founder Tony and I are well positioned to build Dashible into a great company and a great place to work. We have the benefit of being able to leverage years of experience in different environments, and we work extremely well together. So, we don’t have to worry about founder drama. We have built successful companies together from scratch and complement each other well. Tony is a tech guru, and I manage the business and product side of things.  We both served in the military, I as a nuclear submarine officer and Tony as a cyber security specialist. We have also both worked in corporate America as well. It takes people to make any business successful, and we are starting with a proven team.

Olivia Strobl
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
Marvin Johnson

In five years I expect Dashible to be in all the major metropolitan areas in the United States and expanding overseas. We will have built out the full vision for Dashible to the point where it will be really “smart” and show you new things to enjoy in your city without having to do your own search. We will have done for your real-world activities what several companies have done so well in the digital world regarding understanding your preferences. Dashible will help you explore your city, find new things while at the same time saving you money. Our ideal exit strategy is to be acquired.

We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Marvin and his team take the company. Dashible is currently raising on Netcapital.

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About: Olivia Strobl

Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.

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