Interview with Shruti Challa–CEO of PINCHd

Venture Background: PINCHd is a free web-based service that leverages your social graph and existing means of communication to answer the the question “who’s down” to go out. As a member you will be able to see who is down to hangout when you are, toss ideas around for what to do or where to go, and finally see what everyone is up to in one place. See who wants to hangout, figure out what you want to do, and actually make things happen. Our mission is to create simple technology that helps friends get together in the real world.

Amara Humphry, Chris Baclig, Eric Ma, Shruti Challa

We had an email interview with Shruti:

Q1. Tell us something how the concept of PINCHd was formulated? What led you to choose the name?

The concept for Pinchd emerged from our own pain point and struggle to maintain our friendships. After we graduated from college, it was a major struggle to meet up with friends. It was not a question of distance, most of our friends all moved to San Francisco. There was nothing that existed to help us out. In fact we felt that Twitter and Facebook were awesome for maintaining virtual relationships, but did not facilitate physical interaction.

There are a couple of key reasons for the name Pinchd. First the name felt light, easy, fun and quirky! We wanted getting together with friends to be all of those things. Secondly, as you know our mission is to create technology that facilitates physical interaction. The action of actually “pinching” someone is something that can only happen in the real-world. This was very powerful to us. The last reason was that all the founders loved it. This was all the reason we needed to move forward with Pinchd.

Q2. Tell us about your team. How the team members of PINCHd came together?

The four of us actually met at Stanford. We started working on a project completely different than Pinchd but realized that we loved doing entrepreneurship and working together. So instead of pursuing traditional professions we all decided to take a leap of faith and start this venture together. We really support each other.

Q3. What is your target audience?

This is an interesting question because most answer this question with data about demographics. We answer it with a need. Our target audience is anyone that struggles with keeping in touch with friends in the real-world. With this said, we notice that people between the ages of 20 to 30, educated, living in urban cities tend to use our technology the most. These are our evanglistis and so we design our product for them because we feel that they have the biggest need. With this said, by designing for the group that has the largest need our product becomes stronger for everyone else. The need that we are solving for is universal. We see mothers in the Mid-West to young teens on the East Coast using it. The opportunity is great.

Q4. Tell us something about your business model. Given that there are so many networking sites, how you distinguish yourself from others?

We focus on something called intention or future-time data. This is different than real-time data. We don’t focus on what people are doing now but rather what they want to do in the future. Focusing on this is extremely interesting from a revenue generation perspective. To give you a loose understanding of our business model, we focus on enabling enterprise (resturants, clubs, spas etc.) to influence people’s decisions when they are malleable not when they are made. A second channel is focused on empowering the innate bargaining power of groups to secure deals. Reverse auctioning, brokerage model type of play. Most of the decision data captured now is not helpful because the decision is already made. Pinchd is unique in that it captures the decision making and thus can influence the actual decision. This is a powerful concept if you think about it.

Q5. What marketing methods do you adopt to let your services reach your customers?

For us, keeping our CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) close to zero is priority. Most of our demand creation is from the viral component. One thing we do spend time on, is reaching existing networks of people. You can see this through our efforts with groups and organizations.

Q6. How has been the response of customers? Any feedback from their side?

We have recieved good feedback. We truly believe that our end-users drive our design and vision. Every step we have taken is because of observing their behaviors or responding to their feedback. The reason we created “Availbility” on Pinchd is because our users wanted something light to engage in.

Q7. Do you feel you can further innovate on this model?

Yes, if we did not feel this way we would not be working on Pinchd in the first place.

Q8. How do you feel you personally grew as an entrepreneur with this venture?

I think our entire founding team has grown tremendously. We are a very young team so the learning curve was steep. Initally we thought our youth was a hindrance. Now we view it as our secret weapon and our competitive advantage. We are able to absorb information faster, work longer and adapt quicker. Finding confidence in ourselves was the major area of growth for all of us.

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