“We believed that local was the magic and you could help cyclists utilize the internet in their communities to find stores they’d like to visit and shop at.” - Mark Graff
Neither of Mark or Barry
This was the summer of 1999. Google.com was registered only 2 years earlier, and Wikipedia.com would not appear for another 2 years.
Conceived on sticky notes
Graff and Brenner brainstormed and distilled ideas on how this web platform would look on self-stick easel paper that quickly covered entire walls in their respective homes.
“We didn’t just want to offer software,” Graff recalls. “If competing services were to emerge we expected those to be software-only providers without the same retail focus we baked in. Every feature and service of our business had to add value to consumers on behalf of our clients. To bring more value to clients and separate us from the typical software services, we had three pillars to our business—content, software and customer support.”
The software had to be easy to use and be designed specifically for the needs of prospective bike shop clients.
To get their idea off the ground, Graff and Brenner set up meetings with firms that specialized in creating software including executives at IBM and Compaq, who expressed strong interest. But those companies wanted too much control, so Graff and Brenner decided to bootstrap their venture and hire a software development contractor.
The big idea was shaping up into something worth pursuing, but there was a lot of work to do.
Stayed tuned for part 2 in the series about how we funded our startup, and learn why they chose the name “SmartEtailing”.