There is bootstrapped, and then there is living and working out of a van, showering in gyms, and scrounging for something to eat. Dealflicks founders Sean Wycliffe and Kevin Hong have embraced that grind. The big idea is to remake the market for movie tickets. All told, they estimate that 88 percent of seats go unfilled. If they can change that by offering last minute discounts, in the model of Priceline or HotWire, Dealflicks could grab a nice slice of a $40 billion industry.
The pair went through a period they refer to as the "dark ages," when they were enduring constant rejection from theater owners and investors, while scrambling to keep their team and website from falling apart. They realized that to get deals done, facetime was required. So Hong traded in his Acura for a minivan, and the pair set off on a cross country trip, pitching every theater owner they could find.
Two years in a "Man Van"
"There are all these extra things you need to think about when you're coming from a 'Man Van' to a meeting," says Wycliffe. Brushing teeth and finding clean underwear are suddenly high priority. Theaters owners in rural areas were impressed when the pair showed up with a pitch.
"There have been numerous startups that were very similar to Dealflicks," says Hong. "They are an exact replica of what we do." The difference? "They just weren't able to close deals."
Now it's got theaters, but can it scale customers?
After two years on the road, the company has gained enough traction to convince investors and is now an established startup. The question that remains is whether or not it provide enough value to scale its customer base to a mass market. Saving a couple bucks on movie tickets and popcorn sounds nice, but will people who use the app once come back again and again? And as movie attendance continues to decline, can they find a way to move beyond filling seats and provide additional value to the connected consumer?