Loyalty apps and any other services geared towards restaurants and small businesses share a highly competitive market. For this reason, the entrepreneur engaging in this type of business has to be tenacious and patient – trust me. Local intrapreneur turned entrepreneur Luke Aulin, seems to be making some early progress with his marketing and digital strategy startup, RTOWN.
1. Who are you? Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
My name is Luke Aulin, Co-Founder, also known as the “Mayor” of RTOWN. RTOWN is a growing team of digital professionals aligned around a very audacious mission: to help 10,000 local businesses each increase their revenues by $1,000,000. We offer an integrated suite of digital marketing products and services.
We help local businesses acquire, listen to, and retain their customers. We do it for them, in their authentic voice, and report the results in actionable terms. It’s such an amazing feeling to see business owners’ eyes light up when they see everything we can do for them.
Thanks to the talented people on our team, this video explains what we do better than I can in words:
RTOWN was born out of the following:
1) A strong desire to help smaller businesses eat big businesses’ lunch
2) The changing media and technology landscape
3) We wanted to do things differently than many start ups in Vancouver. The perceived gap in the Vancouver startup scene in early 2013 was that for every dollar invested, 95 cents seemed to be going to developing the next feature instead of getting customers. Everyone was building but few were actually getting customers to see if they wanted what was being built. We landed our first customer before we were even incorporated. We now chuckle about the fact that we registered as Cart Before Horse Holdings Inc. (I still can’t believe that was available for registration!) Since then we’ve been building around the needs of the customers we are rapidly acquiring.
2. What makes your approach to loyalty different from others in the industry?
The RTOWN Loyalty App is right on the customers’ smart phones. No more bulky paper and plastic rewards cards in over-stuffed wallets. No more forgotten cards and lost rewards. Our Loyalty App is free to consumers and allows merchants the ability to track their customers’ spending habits.
Once again, our team produced a video that explains how the RTOWN Loyalty App works:
3. How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of your company?
Aside from helping spawn the idea for the company, the startup community in Vancouver has been amazing. The willingness to share knowledge and make connections is jaw-dropping. Everyone wants and supports everyone else’s development. We must think the “pie” is limitless!
4. What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
RTOWN’s tag line is “we’ll focus on the cloud, while you focus on the ground.” The challenges most local business owners face is the same:
A) Traditional methods of marketing are expensive, un-measurable and declining in effectiveness
B) They can no longer ignore how adopting technology is imperative to growing their business
C) Their time is taxed making it difficult to learn the technology themselves
D) Their marketing budgets are limited
RTOWN is the aspirin for this headache. We work for our clients in a world where consumers now gather most of their information online when making their buying decisions. RTOWN cost-effectively handles this for businesses so they don’t have to break the bank, learn it themselves, or delay getting into the game any longer.
5. How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
I have a great mentor named Vik Khanna who co-founded another Vancouver success story called Faronics. He first enabled me to become an intrapreneur at Faronics and then kicked me in the ass to become an entrepreneur after I left to travel the world for a year and returned home in 2013.
As far as challenges go; on the personal side, balancing time for family and friends during the start of this business has been tough. On the business side, the challenge we’re facing now is growth. Our customer base is in the triple digits and we’ve seen over half of them arrive to RTOWN in just the last 2 months. As we keep saying to our team: “buckle up!”
6. What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
I think of everyone working on the RTOWN project as an entrepreneur. So the honest answer is that our team is my inspiration for running this business. What makes them all so special, and entrepreneurial, is that they care about RTOWN as though it’s their own. We are all passionate about helping other entrepreneurs succeed.
7. What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
Sorry to be obvious but RTOWN is deeply entrenched in the social media business and Ryan Holmes would be the best addition to the team. I also know we share a passion for youth entrepreneurial development – something that is connected to RTOWN’s core.
8. If you could tell your younger self something what would it be?
Shoulder check before opening your cab door in the scooter-filled city of Hanoi, Vietnam.
9. What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
I can’t say enough about the Rockefeller Habits training that comes through Vancouver every once in a while. I’m a big fan of meeting rhythms at RTOWN to keep the team aligned, connected, and focused on the mission.
Google Hangouts has also been a great resource for team video conferencing. RTOWN has people working all over the province so it’s been a tremendous support. But now our team has outgrown it and we’re looking for another solution. If anyone has an idea, I welcome an email to [email protected] Thank you!
10. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Go and get customers. Listen to them. Iterate. And keep them.
*End of interview*
It’s always very difficult to gauge how the cards will play out with startups like RTOWN. They definitely do have the fundamentals of a good team, product, and customers so they’re off to a great start.
Luke and his advisor Vik used to be my bosses when I interned at Faronics believe it or not! Both are classic intrapreneurs (alongside entrepreneurs of course) which I learned a lot from. It’s funny how small Vancouver is when you see your bosses either working in the same industry as you or pitching a week before you on Dragons’ Den.
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.