When the creators of UMeTime were looking for an ideal place to test their app, a college campus full of hungry students quickly came to mind.
UMeTime Corp., an Austin-based startup, helps users find new spots to eat on campus by offering daily deals to college students.
Childhood friends Tim Rothwell and Brett Berman first started the business after graduating from college. They were inspired to create the app after realizing the majority of their money in college went to food from accessible and convenient restaurants. They wanted to change this by finding a way to offer students cheaper, better options.
Chief marketing officer Kristian Zak and sales and marketing director Kyle Nathanson, friends of the co-founders, joined the team and, after building and testing the product in Los Angeles, moved to Austin to target UT students. Austin is the first city to have access to the finished app.
“The culture in Austin is ideal,” Zak said. “It’s attractive to us to build a company around other startups who are in the same situation. UT is probably the strongest brand in the nation and, if we could crack UT, we feel like we could expand anywhere.”
UT grad Robert Varela joined the team after he saw its information posted on the McCombs job board.
“I saw a great opportunity, plus I envisioned exactly what I’m living right now,” Varela said. “If I have an idea to present, I’ll just share it with the team and, more than likely, it’s going to be executed the next day. It’s everything I’ve wanted and even more.”
The app shows three-hour deals called Blastouts, with the geographically closest deals listed at the top. Each restaurant offers several deals per day, so the app is constantly updating to reflect the time, with breakfast coupons in the morning and more snack items in the afternoon. Rather than spending money on the app and maybe never redeeming the offers, users can only click redeem once they are physically inside the restaurant and show the app to the employee upon purchase.
This stream of deals specifically targeting students, combined with on-site purchases, set UMeTime apart from companies such as Groupon. Right now, about 50 on-campus restaurants participate.
“[Businesses] see the value of connecting to students in real time,” Zak said. “[They] are seeing the value of staying connected with current customers and getting new ones when they might not be busy. They love the way it is embedded in students’ routines in the moment.”
Currently, UMeTime is one of the top most-downloaded apps in the iTunes store for the area, and over 20,000 UT students have downloaded it.
Varela mentioned that it’s taken some work for businesses to get on board with the app because of the technology involved.
“Some are a little bit old-school in the sense that they still aren’t up-to-date with mobile,” Varela said. “They’re starting to notice their target audience is starting to be more mobile. Once they understood, they wanted to have fun with this.”
Even with the initial learning curve, the team has seen its business take off, each month topping the last in terms of downloads and profit. The app will expand to the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin this May.
“You might completely fail, but it doesn’t matter because you learned something along the way,” Zak said. “If you have an idea, just go for it and make it happen and don’t be afraid of it failing.”