by Sandra Desrochers
When Diana Robbins was a young girl she would accompany her mom to popular scratch-and-save retail events at Sears. Diana’s mom always let her scratch the card to reveal the discount. Diana loved scratching the card and her mom loved getting the deal.
Years later during Robbins’ career in marketing and sales, she could see first-hand how the high cost of traditional advertising didn’t always translate into high returns. She also noticed that local businesses weren’t reaching on-the-go mobile users in an effective way. What about combining the fun of a scratch-and-save promotion with a convenient on-the-go mobile App? Scratchd was born.
Diana Robbins partnered with co-founder James Lynch to develop Scratchd, a new marketing channel for consumers to engage in brands whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them, and a way to empower retailers, event promoters and online businesses to engage consumers with digital scratch-and-win offers.
Scratchd was launched with the help of VentureStart, a program funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). VentureStart received $7.5 million in funding through FedDev Ontario’s Scientists and Engineers in Business (SEB) initiative. The program provides emerging entrepreneurs in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields with training, mentoring and seed financing to develop their ideas, commercialize their products and grow their companies.
“I think FedDev Ontario, our federal development funding agency has it right,” said London West MP Ed Holder. “FedDev Ontario supports VentureStart entrepreneurs to kick-start their big ideas and give them a chance to succeed. Diana Robbins is a terrific example and I am very proud of her.”
VentureStart, co-ordinated by the RIC (Research, Innovation, Commercialization) Centre in Mississauga, is delivered through 13 provincially funded Regional Innovation Centres in Southern Ontario. This includes London’s TechAlliance, where the Scratchd founder received mentoring. Through FedDev Ontario’s support, VentureStart is helping program participants like Robbins increase their business and management skills and their capacity to create successful companies and career opportunities.
To get started, Robbins completed the online VentureStart training and now receives support from Bob Maloley, her assigned Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at TechAlliance. EIRs like Maloley have a wealth of experience when it comes to both starting and growing technology companies. They provide strategic direction and leadership to promising companies in their community.
“Bob helps us set goals and milestones, and helps us steer the direction of our product based on what makes the most sense in the market,” said Robbins. “We appreciate that he is available for second opinions on the logistics of running our business.” Through Maloley’s mentorship, the Scratchd founder could set realistic business goals and reach the milestones they set out. Frequent meetings with mentors to problem-solve and brain-storm ensure the new business stays on track.
Scratchd also benefitted from VentureStart seed funding. With these funds, the start-up could purchase equipment, get legal advice, rent office space and hire a sales manager. The funding also enabled Scratchd to develop and launch Scratched On-Site, their new iPad-based application which merchants can use to up-sell and reward existing customers at point of sale. “VentureStart has been a key part of our success and will continue to have a positive impact on our company’s development over the next six to 12 months,” said Robbins.
Scratchd features a variety of ways to participate in digital scratch-and-save campaigns. Once the free App is downloaded on a smartphone, the user chooses a brand that interests them, then rubs a finger over the image on the mobile screen to reveal one to four levels of available offers.
“There is a scratch-and-save event every day of the week, with savings on everything from food, to fashion to entertainment,” explains Robbins. “You can share your age and gender to view scratches catered to you, or you can search for “scratches” by business, location, or category. And, the geo-location feature finds “scratches” nearest to you.”
Engaging consumers with Scratchd allows brands to improve the in-store experience, provides incentives to return and leaves a lasting impression with patrons. Scratchd is already seeing happy customers. “It’s cool to know that we have created a platform that helps businesses grow,” said Robbins. “Customers feel valued while they’re having fun and saving.”
Scratchd is also helping community businesses understand the importance of keeping up with technology to gain new customers and keep their existing customers. In return, many London businesses are working together to help grow the Scratchd platform.
Robbins would like to see Scratchd become the go-to solution for running local digital scratch-and-win campaigns. “With the world going mobile, it’s more important than ever for businesses to reach customers on their mobile phones,” said Robbins. “As the use of smart-phones continues to grow, mobile ad spending is expected to increase by 100 per cent from 2012 to 2013.”
Diana Robbins seems to be on the right track with Scratchd — an easy way to save on what you need, when you need it. Who knew being “advertised to” could be such a positive experience.