Interview with Brandy Alexander-Wimberly (Buyvite)
Buyvite is a service which organises the collection of money for group purchases.
I interviewed Brandy Alexander-Wimberly, Buyvite founder to find out more. This is the hundred and ninety ninth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Brandy!
How would you describe Buyvite in under 50 words?
Buyvite is a social payment platform that allows friends and family to split the cost of any group transaction like vacation rentals, team fees, concert tickets and group gifts. This is a crowded space so we’ve differentiated ourselves with our new social payment badges and private label API.
Why did you decide to launch Buyvite early 2011?
The main focus of the platform is to allow a group organizer to send invites to friends and family to contribute to a transaction so no single person has to foot the bill for an entire group. The idea came from constantly buying concert tickets for friends and not getting paid back right away, or getting paid back with cocktails etc.
How did you find your advisors?
We are not based in a very active tech startup community so we branched out and through a mix of networking at national level events, and organic outreach were able to have a group of very talented and experienced people join our board of advisors.
You run Cheetah Interactive alongside Buyvite. How do you divide your time between the two projects or are they run side-by-side?
My experience launching a consumer facing technology company has really helped me take Cheetah Interactive to the next level. We call ourselves a digital marketing think tank serving progressive brands because we’re much more than just a services company.
Cheetah Interactive offers the following services: Digital Marketing, Web Design & Development, Content Creation & Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Email Marketing, iOS & Android App Development, Software Product MVP Creation & Consulting. So we function like a traditional agency but also offer a unique skill set for startups looking for knowledgeable consultants and a one stop shop that can take a concept from idea, to MVP to market, to promotion.
How long did it take to put together the initial version of Buyvite?
It took about a year in production to build. When creating a new product there is the danger of thinking about every single use case and creating an appropriate response. We were one of the first social payment company’s to create a crowd-funding style platform but geared towards friends and family. Over the course of that year in production we developed a rock solid system that we felt confident could address most of the use cases we thought through in discovery.
How have you funded Buyvite?
Buyvite is funded by a mix of private equity investors and Rocket Ventures of Ohio.
What technologies have you used to develop Buyvite and which were the most technically challenging development problems?
When creating a new product there are always a unique set of challenges. Late last year we created a private label version of our software that is a rails API. We had a tight timeline on delivery but worked collaboratively to actualize the API so our client could use our social payment platform but customized to their look and feel. We also do all of the transaction processing so its literally a plug and play API for developers seeking an easy way to implement group payments on their site or app.
Who do you see as your target audience? How are you reaching them?
Our vertical is really Payment in general, but we have obvious use cases that are the primary reason people use our platform. These include organizing group payments for vacation rentals, concert tickets, team and league fees, and group gifts. That is why we created our social payment badges. These allow any retailer to offer group payment on their site via a social media style button.
Security is a major concern for internet transactions. What security do you have in place on your site, and how would you reassure your users that their information is safe?
Being a transaction based company means you have to take every precaution to make sure your environment is PCI compliant. Which we have done through our partner e2e Payments of Illinois.
What’s your pricing structure?
We believe in a simple fee structure that’s easy to understand. Here is our fee structure:
Up to $100: $1.50 fee
$101-$250: $2.50 fee
$250-$500: $5.00 fee
Above $500: 1.5% fee
Has Buyvite got the feedback and growth you expected since launching in March 2011?
We have been on a slow and steady climb, especially recently. With the explosion of crowd-funding consumers are looking for new ways to pay. Buyvite offers a crowd-funding model but geared towards friends and family, so more locally focused. We say we take the “crowd” out of funding.
How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?
Our social payment platform is unique because of the suite of products that we offer. A lot of companies that get a lot of buzz are simply apps with no revenue model. We offer real innovative solutions to our customers and business partners and also have a solid revenue stream attached since we are in the payment space.
What is your primary focus in terms of new developments at the moment?
We are really focused on on-boarding as many retail partners as possible and growing out our API business for developers. We offer payment solutions that include: group payments, “pay me back” from the cart and private label group payment API for developers. Essentially if you want to group pay for something as a consumer or offer the functionality as a merchant, we’re your one-stop-shop.
Where do you see Buyvite in 5 years time?
Our concentration right now is to build out our brand which includes our customer base and retail partners. In 5 years our goal is to become the first place people look for while shopping online to be able to split payments with friends and family whether that be our consumer facing social payment badges or via our private label API.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Like any startup we face challenges of ramping up for additional funding and getting the word out about our products.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
The biggest challenge that startup founders face is lack of experience. People come to me all the time with ideas, but they don’t know how to put a website together, let alone build usable software. This space is not easy and it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s almost the only professional space that novice’s seem to think they’re experts at, or at least try to instantly become successful.
I worked in digital marketing 7 years before launching this company. I would say, “you’re not the next Mark Zuckerberg.” In fact I think he wasn’t so much a genius as someone in the right place at the right time. Get some solid experience working for another company before launching your own. Your success rate will be much higher just knowing some basic things first.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
I’m most excited about enterprise productivity. The companies that actually make businesses work better are sustainable and more immune to fickle consumers, most also have a built in revenue stream.
Can you convince the reader to start using Buyvite in under 50 words?
If someone owes you money for a group transaction, you didn’t use Buyvite. Also- if you’re selling group style products and are looking for any easy way to offer cost-splitting payments, we’re your company. Buyvite is essentially crowd-funding for retailers.
Finished reading? Check out Buyvite!