Des Moines’ entrepreneurial environment has changed a lot in the 10 years since Brian Hemesath launched his first startup. “The community has grown, people are talking more than they did 10 years ago,” he said in our recent interview.
“Opportunities for office space and physical infrastructure has grown…also, [coworking]; being able to rent space for a couple hundred bucks a month and have that place where you can get out of your home, have your own desk, have a place that’s separate from your couch so you’re not always chained to working from home.” As well as events like TechBrew, which bring together a diverse spectrum of business people to facilitate conversation, strengthen the local entrepreneurial community in such a way that it’s becoming easier and easier to get ideas off the ground.
And Brian should know. A serial entrepreneur, he currently leads three businesses out of his office at the Temple for the Performing Arts. We sat down to discuss Catchwind, a mobile marketing venture he co-founded four years ago, specializing in “broadcast, SMS or text messaging technologies.”
According to Brian, the idea for Catchwind came about after learning how mobile marketing is done in other countries. “The US is about five or so years behind Europe on some of the mobile marketing technologies, texting and general mobile phone technologies…one of the [original] partners had been over in Europe, saw what was going on there and said ‘I can bring this here.'”
Catchwind offers businesses an innovative way to connect with their customers. “It all begins with a call-to-action,” Brian explained. Companies reach out to their database of consumers who have “opted-in” to be marketed to via a message that conveys some sort of special offer, contest, coupon or other information about the business. The consumer then responds by sending a campaign-specific keyword back to the “short code” (a five or six digit number set up for this specific purpose). Catchwind then has the platform to analyze the data received, manage which keywords are sent to which short codes, allow the businesses to further correspond with the customer and, in general, make more informed marketing decisions.
In today’s era of a social internet with technologies like Twitter and Foursquare getting many of the headlines, text messaging can be easily overlooked. Brian notes that emergence of such platforms is “fantastic” for Catchwind but it’s not the business he’s in for a specific reason. “People sometimes get us confused with social media and we’re really not in that space…we’re giving [a] business the exclusive ability to communicate with [a customer] immediately” as opposed to social technologies like Twitter, where “a customer may stumble upon four other competitors along the way.” That doesn’t mean that Brian discounts the potential of social media to market your business. “You should be considering both technologies [they are] very, very complimentary,” he said.
Brian has specifically chosen Des Moines as the venue to launch each endeavor for specific reasons, such as the proximity to the agricultural industry and, in the case of Catchwind, the opportunity to be a “local” mobile marketing firm for cities like Minneapolis, Kansas City and Omaha, in addition to Des Moines.
View the video below to see Brian speak more about his experiences in Des Moines, how mobile marketing technologies work, as well as his latest technology startup, VolunteerLocal.
Note: I’m personally working with Brian to help in the launch of VolunteerLocal, the volunteer management software platform for athletic and civic events that he discusses in the interview.