By GREGORY ZELLER // Even Ashish Pandhi and James Knaus know it can’t be this easy.
That’s why the entrepreneurs continue to tinker tirelessly on the functionality and marketing of Bettr, a social media-management platform that aims to “give people a voice and make a difference in the world,” according to Knaus. Bettr won’t officially launch until this fall, but the precursors to the final product, Queue+ and Archive Poster, have achieved enough success that the duo have been out shopping the company to potential investors.
Did we mention they’re still in school at Hofstra? More on that coming.
Queue+, which allows users to schedule posts to their Facebook, Tumbr and other social media accounts, already has 150,000 users, and according to Knaus is used for some 2.8 million social media posts daily. All told, Queue+ has been used for over 700 million social media posts since January, according to the cofounders. For perspective, consider that the company Knaus and Pandhi consider their biggest rival – social media manager Buffer, which has been valued at $60 million – has handled half that traffic in its full four years of operation.
Meanwhile, their partner app, Archive Poster, a Google Chrome extension that speeds up social media workflow, has over 220,000 monthly users in 214 countries.
Both apps, which work in conjunction and are being freshened up for the Bettr launch in September, are free to download for Apple and Android products. A premium version of Queue+ that offers statistical analysis and removes the free app’s limit of 600 concurrent queues sells, for $1.99.
Although Knaus and Pandhi have not spent a dime on advertising, the premium version of Queue+ is already generating roughly $3,000 a month in revenue, more than enough to cover the $700 the company spends monthly on rented server space.
“We haven’t spent any money yet, and we’re operating at a profit,” Pandhi noted. “We just keep growing.”
OK, there was the $1,000 Pandhi kicked in to develop the original Queue+ program, which he wrote for his own personal use.
“I built these over the past few years just to scratch my own itch,” Pandhi said. “This was a tool I wanted. I just gave it to a few friends and it grew from there. It dawned on us that this was something people wanted.”
What the duo hasn’t spent is any of the $50,000 Pandhi and then-partner Brian Blanco won as champions of the 2014 CPXi Venture Tech Challenge, the annual “Shark Tank”-like contest launched by Hofstra grad Mike Seiman, founder of NYC-based digital media holding company CPXi. That seed money is sitting in Bettr Inc.’s coffers, waiting to be joined, they hope, by even bigger chunks of venture capital.
Knaus and Pandhi have been on an whirlwind funding tour, presenting to potential investors around New York and even wrangling an invitation last fall to visit the folks at Y Combinator, the California-based venture fund that boosts startups in exchange for a future piece of the action. (No word yet on any Y Combinator investment, but stay tuned.)
The entrepreneurs are looking to raise $800,000 to give Bettr a proper launch in September. When it lifts off, the app will be free, with a paid version akin to the premium version of Queue+ (more stats, fewer restrictions) going for $3 a month or $30 a year. There will also be a business version ($25 per month or $250 annually) offering advanced analytics, unlimited queues and almost unlimited activity – up to 15 team members can link in, Knaus noted, plus any number of Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts.
“Entrepreneurs and mom-and-pop stores are our target market,” Knaus said. “Individuals too. Our model is absolutely consumer- and small business-based.”
That’s what sets Queue+, and will set Bettr, apart from Buffer and other available social media-management platforms, Knaus added.
“We’re going after the consumer and the small entrepreneur, when other people are going after larger companies,” he said. “We’re targeting everyone from the teenage girl to people who want to create a real following in social media.”
Learning the entrepreneurial ropes hasn’t been easy, but realizing they truly understand the needs of social media consumers has given Knaus and Pandhi real confidence in their product.
“Learning to network and learning how to build this up has been a great challenge,” Knaus said. “But the growth has been incredible, considering it’s all been word-of-mouth.
“I talk to customers every day to see how it’s going,” he added. “Even when things aren’t working right and I apologize to them, they say, ‘No, no, thank you for doing this … we really needed it.’”
What’s It? An app that schedules and tracks social media posts
Brought To You By Hofstra University students Ashish Pandhi, a sophomore studying computer science, and James Knaus, a senior studying finance
All In $1,000 of Pandhi’s money, spent on design and programming time
Status Free and premium versions of Bettr precursors Queue+ and Archive Poster available now; multiple versions of Bettr coming in September