On heels of Ruxter 2.0 release, a Q&A with co-founder John Epperson
When doing business these days, it's all about mobility. Ask John Epperson of Ruxter how companies can make their business mobile, and he'll tell you it's simple: by using Ruxter 2.0.
Ruxter aims to help businesses reach mobile customers and bring in new ones with the mobile web — QR codes, text messaging, mobile coupons and advertising.
In my experience, there are two cool, useful features that make Ruxter worth using: easy setup and invitation process. I had an opportunity to demo Ruxter, and I found it extremely simple to set up and get a mobile site launched within 10 minutes. The other cool feature is how easy it is to invite people (i.e. customers) to the site. If you have a list of existing customers' phone numbers, you can text them your mobile website and they will have immediate access. That way, you can start marketing your services to them from the palm of their hands.
Ruxter officially launched in August 2009 and took off in November of that year. I exchanged emails with Epperson, Ruxter's president, to learn more about the company.
Silicon Prairie News: Who makes up the Ruxter team, and what are each of your roles?
John Epperson: The Ruxter management team is comprised of John Epperson (left, photo courtesy of Epperson), Mike Craig and Jason Cahoon. John is president and also works with technology development. Mike is VP of business development and handles most sales and marketing. Jason is lead developer and keeps the development pipeline flowing. As in most young companies, there’s a lot of cross-over as well.
SPN: What does Ruxter do and how does it help your customers?
Epperson: Ruxter addresses a problem all small businesses are now facing – how to reach an increasingly mobile customer base. Ruxter solves this problem by giving small businesses a simple way to manage mobile content, maintain customer loyalty and acquire new customers — all through a low-cost, self-service mobile marketing platform.
Business owners are currently faced with a tectonic shift in the way they market and advertise their services. On one hand, advertising in traditional mediums such as newspaper, television and direct mail is declining in effectiveness. On the other hand, the mobile space is emerging with a multitude of marketing opportunities including advertising, texting, applications, social media and mobile web.
Ruxter provides small businesses with non-technical and affordable tools to engage in mobile marketing, whether they’re beginning the transition from existing mediums or are already experienced mobile marketers. We think that making these tools as accessible as possible is important, as do our over 700 current customers, and we expect many more will be looking for effective mobile solutions very soon.
SPN: What should customers and users of Ruxter look for in the new release?
Epperson: We just released Ruxter 2.0, which was a major update for us and included many significant enhancements and new features. With Jason joining us full-time earlier this year, our future releases will be on a much shorter and more regular cycle and will focus on new features to help our customers more effectively engage their customers.
More specifically, we're working on a mobile coupon and loyalty card platform. Groupon and its clones have proved to (be) popular marketing tools but are not always the best solution financially for local businesses. To give our customers another option, we're developing a mobile daily deals platform that's built from a merchant's perspective rather than a tool for the coupon publishers. Our customers typically have many connections through social media and email campaigns, and we’re going to help them leverage that social graph for mobile coupons and loyalty.
Advertising is another major feature in the pipeline. In keeping with our goals of local, low-cost and simple-to-use, it's going to be another powerful tool for local businesses to acquire new customers.
As part of our 2.0 release we added support for international sites. This was in response to the unexpected interest in Ruxter from outside the U.S. Although we're not quite ready to offer texting campaigns beyond the U.S., our mobile sites work anywhere on the planet that has an address — if Google Maps can find you, Ruxter will support you with a mobile site.
Other changes will be designed to keep our customer sites looking great — more color site layout options, improvements in image handling, some QR code customization tools … the mobile web is a rich environment, so there's always something amazing we’re working on for our customers.
SPN: What do you think about the entrepreneurial activity currently uproaring in and around Kansas City? Do you think it has an effect on Ruxter?
Epperson: Kansas City has been an excellent launch market for Ruxter. In addition to being familiar territory for us, KC’s diverse base of businesses and strong networking environment have allowed us to launch our product while gaining valuable feedback on how to make it even better
Kansas City’s startup community is really beginning to blossom. Over the last two years, the energy and enthusiasm for early-stage startups from successful incubators and accelerators, such as Y Combinator and 500 Startups, has begun flowing into KC. A great example is the new venture between Think Big Partners and the Angel Capital Group. KC has a great talent base of entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, and early-stage incubators are an excellent and capital-efficient way to turn a good idea into a great investment.