Gamifo builds social engagement for retailers

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We recently had the chance to catch up with Dr. Ethan Hadar, CEO and founder of Gamifo, a mobile marketing startup based in Israel. We got his take on a range of topics—from the company’s fascinating work around ‘tribal’ relationships, to building their solution with IBM Bluemix, to what it means to be a startup.

  • Tell us about your company and the challenges you set out to solve.

    Today, products and services can all be compared online and large e-brokers charge high commission, which hurts smaller businesses who are required to drive down prices. My vision for a startup was: how can we increase sales for retailers without forcing them to reduce prices? Gamifo provides a social engagement platform which helps businesses easily gather insights for targeted marketing. The platform is a way of automating word-of-mouth–in fact, we use the term “word of mobile,” since this is how people interact today. By leveraging Gamifo’s social engagement and word-of-mobile platform, retailers can promote their products within the context of consumers’ social interactions, which improves sales conversion rates. There is no silver bullet, but there is Gamifo, which seems like a contradiction. What we mean is that Gamifo contains many bullets. Gamifo is like a revolver.
  • One of your “bullets” is your app called TaPrize. Can you explain how it works?

    Facebook is where you gossip with friends and show off. Twitter is where people follow you. TaPrize is your WhatsApp with Benefits-2-Go™. It allows users to receive retailers’ benefits through social activities or friends, rather than running around trying to find the best deal. This is based on what we call tribal influencer engagement.

  • What are tribal influencers?

    You have your cycling friends. You have your go-to-movie friends. You have your closest family. You have your larger family. In each such micro-tribe, there is an influencer who is the center of gravity, and they influence many of our purchasing decisions. If I have a buddy on my cycling team who is the guru, I will trust whatever this person says regarding cycling equipment, because I know he or she knows best. It’s simply easier.

    That’s how we behave. We don’t react as quickly to global marketing influencers. But if my wife tells me something I always obey! Over the years, I’ve learned that she knows best! This is where the gold is. If retailers and marketers can tap into the contextual relationships between consumers, they can also detect the flow of energy between influencers and followers, between friends and families.

We’re in full production mode in less than 10 months. This could not have happened with any technology other than Bluemix.

  • How did you get started with Bluemix?

    I went to a Bluemix Day workshop with some of my colleagues. In a matter of minutes we managed to launch the system, develop some code, run a scenario, and it simply worked. So I met with more IBM folks about Bluemix, and we talked about the capabilities, the roadmap, and IBM’s commitment to helping us build on the platform. Based upon the established relationships, we were reassured. We saw how serious the IBM team was about the Bluemix platform. So we decided to take that leap of faith.

    Now I need to pause and tell you a little bit about my culture. Trust is very important. IBM is not a vendor for us. IBM is our partner. And when I say partner, I don’t just mean sales. I mean a commitment to quality and service delivery. Be there, with my team, in the trenches, shoulder to shoulder.There’s an example when Bluemix was just emerging. It was Sunday, and Israeli businesses operate on Sundays, though the rest of the world doesn’t. A global IT security patch took our system down, which was terrible. And even though it was Sunday morning, US time, church time, the head of services at IBM and his team had a conversation with us to fix it. In a matter of one or two days, the problem disappeared. Since then, for nine months, the system is up and running with no downtime!

    So it’s not just about technology. It’s also about people, the ability to react, and the ability to deliver. The moment my team can’t deliver due to IT issues, that’s the moment I basically have to make a decision to swap an IT vendor. The Bluemix guys were with us in the trenches, and still are.

  • How was working with Bluemix?

    When we started with Bluemix, our deploy time was about 15 minutes. Now it’s one minute or two, which is amazing. So imagine how many development cycles you can save. I can give you an example. I met with a marketing expert who was named one of Forbes’ Top 20 Social Media Influencers. We showed him our solution and he was very excited about our startup. I asked him, how many people and how much time do you think it took to develop what you just saw? So he said, well I think it’s about 30 people, and roughly two to three years. I said actually, it was six months, 2.5 developers, and Bluemix.

    Only a few weeks after launching, 20 businesses, retail chains, and hotels have joined our platform. We’re in full production mode, and growing exponentially, daily. Keep in mind, it’s been less than one year since the company was formed, and less than 10 months after we started development. This could not have happened with any technology other than Bluemix.

  • What’s it like to be a startup?

    Being a startup is basically like trying to build your own racecar in your garage. You start to assemble an engine and some tires and some bodywork and it looks great because in the light of the warehouse everything looks great. But the moment you open the door and start driving, what you thought was beautiful is actually not that great—the wheels are creaking, the engine is making an alarming noise, and you have to fix things as you go. So you put an engineer near the engine to fix it while your car is running because you cannot stop (since you forgot to assemble the brake system). In the meantime you’re trying to drive, instruct the engineer, and figure out where to go all at once.

    So you need to call some repair guy to assist your engineer. But the repair guy also has to be in a moving vehicle because you cannot stop (you did not assemble the brakes yet, remember?). So they need to drive beside you and start passing new engine elements and gasoline and whatever you need, while you are driving, getting distracted, and figuring out how to climb the next hill.

    And that’s IBM. They are our on-the-fly, elements-as-you-go, mobile repair team. They assist us in building our racecar. And when we all hit the finish line, they will be there cheering with us. That’s giving us more and more value as we need it, when we need it, with the best quality, agility, and speed, as we drive towards our goals.

Try Bluemix today!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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