Tech showcase, video VCs: pop goes the startup

By GREGORY ZELLER //

With an updated database, a first-ever VC pitch and new iOS and Android apps incorporating a host of innovative functionalities, it’s fair to say the brains behind connectivity technology ObviPop aren’t taking the summer off.

In fact, cofounders Brett Hayden Cohen and Christopher Migliorini, who incorporated Plainview-based ObviPop LLC in spring 2015, have been putting in extra time this summer. Among their additional assignments: preparing for the inaugural technology showcase at LISTnet’s Digital Ballpark, where ObviPop – a first-edition Ballpark resident – shared the stage Monday night.

The entrepreneurs’ face-to-face encounter with the showcase’s other presenters and guests was an ideal stage for ObviPop, a “paperless networking” app designed to provide user-to-user access to a cache of social media and contact information – but only after the users meet in real life, the programmers’ attempt to crack society’s thickening digital shell.

Brett Hayden Cohen: It's brilliant ... once you get it.

Brett Hayden Cohen: It’s brilliant … once you get it.

While confident in the app’s purpose and functionality, Cohen admits ObviPop’s not always easy to define – making a few minutes in front of a receptive audience a golden marketing opportunity.

“Whenever I explain what it’s for and how to use it, everyone compares it to this app or that app, from this end of the spectrum to that end, but it’s never really on point,” Cohen said. “Nobody can really grasp it.

“It falls into its own category, really,” he added. “A chance to explain what it’s really for, to paint that picture, is very useful.”

Monday night’s elbow-rubbing was just the start of a busy week and month for CEO Cohen and CTO Migliorini. With the app emerging from beta-testing and updated versions scheduled for release in August – improved user interfaces, additional social media permissions, greater use of native device functions and more – the cofounders were scheduled to engage Tuesday in their first-ever venture-capital pitch.

Their discussion with HOTB Software Solutions, a California-based software provider with a range of VC “partnership options,” will be conducted via Skype and comes courtesy of the Unicorn App, a “fundraising discovery tool” matching investors and entrepreneurs.

Cohen and Migliorini have long envisioned an investment round of between $500,000 and $3 million, but they’re not going into Tuesday’s video pitch seeking a particular amount. The Unicorn App asks VCs to indicate their level of interest by selecting an investment range and HOTB Software Solutions selected “zero to $500,000,” according to Cohen, but his “vibe” suggests the California investors may have other numbers in mind.

“I get the feeling that ‘zero to $500,000’ is part of the app functionality that doesn’t really matter to them,” the CEO noted. “I think they just pop in and have a discussion with you later.

“If we get less than we’re hoping for, if we get $250,000, we’re not going to turn it down.”

The idea is to pour whatever funds they can directly into marketing ObviPop. With the database upgraded – users no longer have to delete their accounts and start anew with every new buildout – and the new apps hitting virtual shelves in August, ObviPop is ready for a bigger stage, according to Cohen.

Among the coming improvements: a “cleaner” aesthetic look, the CEO said, and enhanced native-functionality interfacing, including use of the iPhone’s “push hard” function, which facilitates instant menu access with a firmer push of the finger.

Also on tap are new in-app features, including easier protocols for moving other users on and off block lists, while programmers are working hard to add new social media to the mix before the August relaunch. They’re attempting to add Snapchat, noted Cohen, who could “confidently say” that Google+ would be joining the ObviPop fold alongside Facebook, Twitter and other social media stalwarts.

With the Digital Ballpark showcase, the VC opportunities and the upgraded tech at the ready, the cofounders’ busy July could lead to a very exciting August, according to Cohen.

“We’ve been holding off from strongly marketing the app, because if we were to do that and then people had to delete their account and make a new one with every new build, nobody would do it,” he said. “That’s an annoying pain in the butt.

“Now we can blindly tell as many people as we want to download the app,” Cohen added. “They’re never going to have to delete their account, because the core app is completed on the back end. It’s ready.”