About Astia

Monday, November 9, 2009

Astia talks with GenGreen CEO, Charisse McAuliffe

Astia client, GenGreen recently joined forces with its competitor 3rdWhale and we wanted to find out more.

GenGreen, founded in 2007, is the owner of the largest database of green and healthy living businesses in North America, which it delivers via web, mobile and licensed API agreements to such clients as National Geographic and Gannett. The company has strategic partnerships with Green America, Live Earth and Ecobroker.

3rdWhale Media, founded in 2008, is the leading provider of mobile solutions in the LOHAS space. It introduced the leading green LBS (location based service) iPhone app, 3rdWhale mobile, in January of 2009. The company has also built mobile applications for iPhone, Android and Blackberry for such clients as Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace France, 350.org and Brave New Films.

SV: Just a few short months ago GenGreen and 3rdWhale were considered fierce competitors! What lead to this intriguing development and how did you decide you'd be a stronger force as partners?

CM: I met the team from 3rdWhale at the LOHAS event in Boulder over the summer, and within a few minutes of sitting down together it became clear we wanted to find a way to work together. We had complementary strengths, GenGreen and its database, and 3rdwhale and its mobile development. GenGreen's core expertise was in developing the leading proprietary database of green businesses and organizations in the U.S. GenGreen was beginning to monetize the database and was looking to mobile as a way to extend our brand into a fast growing segment where location-based services are hot. 3rdWhale had a much smaller database, with some Canadian listings, but its core competence was in mobile application development in the green space, including their leading location based service. Combining forces has led us to immediately have an even larger lead on the database side (65,000 in North America) and immediately have the 1-2 punch of web and mobile.

SV: GenGreen has been described as the "Green Yelp," could you give us a quick overview of how the company got started and what you set out to achieve?

CM: I started GenGreen with the intention of trying to make it as easy as possible for people to find the environmental resources they needed on a local level. I realized that there must be many people like me, concerned about my health, the health of my children and of the planet and that there was a need to provide access to a directory of screened businesses that people could rely on as their trusted source of local, healthy, green business. While we started in Colorado, we began receiving requests immediately to expand to other states, and so we quickly became the leading national directory of green businesses. Today we get requests from the Netherlands, Mexico, Australia and other countries. While globalization is in the plans for GenGreen, we are focusing on executing our near-term North American strategy first.

SV: Our lives are becoming increasingly mobile-device-centric, how will GenGreen Digital Media leverage this and how will it change GenGreen's original business model?

CM: Mobile, and particularly smart phone technology is definitely revolutionizing how people live and interact with others. To paraphrase, there is basically an app for everything these days. At last count the iPhone app store has 100,000 apps in the store and has experienced 2 billion downloads since last July. Our merger with 3rdWhale has positioned as the leading green digital media company in the local directory space. We now have apps live on the iPhone, Android and 2 coming for the Blackberry (Storm and Curve). GenGreen was already working to go mobile but the merger with 3rdWhale just accelerated our move into mobile. One of the technologies 3rdWhale had already built and is beta testing in Vancouver now is a mobile coupon management system. Mobile couponing is a disruptive technology to paper couponing and we aim to own the market in the green mobile coupon space.

SV: GenGreen Local is set to be a key initiative of the merger - can you talk us through this offering?

CM: We are very excited about this. GenGreen already had a significant amount of technology investment in enabling a local experience to our web users. We had implemented a GeoIP system that recognized where the user was based on their IP address and immediately delivered up local directory information to the user. As part of our combined vision for the newly merged company, we have decided to expand on that by enhancing the local experience when users come to GenGreenlife.com There will be a unique URL for each large market (e.g. www.gengreenlife.com/sanfrancisco), similar to Yelp, but with local sustainability content that goes beyond just the directory and user ratings and reviews. For example GenGreenlife already has an event calendar and job board and these will be further localized in the new GenGreen Local experience.

SV: Localization is at the heart of GenGreen's mission, how will 3rdWhale help to support this value?

CM: Localization is a movement within and outside of the green movement. If you look at the growing popularity of location aware mobile apps such as Loopt, Four Square, Yelp and many others, you realize that mobile technology is actually being used to bring people together with each other and to local businesses. Our mobile team from 3rdWhale is the leading team in the world in building mobile apps to reach the green consumer. Besides the apps already built for iPhone, Android and Blackberry that now contain our 65,000 listing database, they kept the lights on while extending their brand by building apps in partnership with Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace France, 350.org and others, and for that were identified as one of the "Top 10 Ways to Change the World through Social Media" by Max Gladwell. While you suggest our website is moving local, our mobile apps allow us to be hyperlocal. That is we know exactly where the user is leveraging GPS within the smartphones, and therefore we can give our users an even more localized experience than on the web. Our local web strategy and hyperlocal mobile apps complement each other extremely well.

SV: Having worked with Astia for several months now, how has your approach to your business changed? What do you do differently having completed the Doing it Right program?

CM: Astia really helped make it clear to me how valuable and important it is to have a solid supportive network behind me as a CEO. The advisors I have gained, the introductions that have been made and the experience that I had during the program have been proved to be extremely valuable. I have also been able to help other entrepreneurs that I met during the program which has been very rewarding for me on a personal level.

SV: What's in the pipeline for GenGreen Digital Media in 2010? Can you talk about new apps, offerings or initiatives?

CM: Execution on our core vision of hyperlocal web and mobile experience, significant growth in key metrics including, of course, revenue. We will be expanding the mobile coupon model including introducing an SMS text coupon program for businesses in our directory and larger corporations seeking to reach our green web and mobile consumer base. We have some more tricks up our sleeves but we'll wait to go public with them.

To read more about the GenGreen and 3rdWhale merger as well as other news, you can follow them on the GenGreen Blog, Facebook and Twitter.

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