Tim Varner and Burton Miller of Notice Software
Meet Tim Varner and Burton Miller of Notice Software, a push notification company that recently closed a $350,000 seed round, led by the Rocket Venture Fund.
What is Notice Software?
At root, Notice Software is a push notification company. Notice believes that the utility of push notifications will continue to expand as mobile device adoption becomes universal. We’ve tried to be forward thinking in this area.
A couple years ago, Fred Wilson wrote something that was interesting. He said, “I think notifications will become the primary way that we consume on the mobile device and may be the reason we move away from downloadable software and back to web based software on our mobile devices.” His words provide a nice backdrop to our vision.
What we’d like to do is leverage the power of push notifications to create better engagement between users and the mobile web. Put simply, users who follow our push notifications consume content within their web browser, not within a particular app.
But we’d like to go a little further than this. We’re interested in building industry-specific solutions around our push technology. We’ve recently soft-launched Smartloop.io
, which is a compliance messaging solution for enterprise. It’s a mobile workforce engagement tool built on top of our push technology.
Smartloop is a b2b play, or better put, a b2e play. That is, business to employee. Later this summer, we plan to release a second product that is consumer-facing.
How did you come up with the idea?
Notice Software’s two founders, Casey Haakenson (CTO) and Burton Miller (CEO), developed a kind of all-purpose mobile web push solution in 2011, but were encouraged toward a more specialized approach by early adopter clients. One client in particular asked us to help them solve an internal communication problem. That solution matured into Smartloop.
In late 2012, Notice Software decided to move away from a bootstrap mentality and began pursuit of investment capital.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
Striking the delicate balance between developing a technology with broad applications and focusing that technology for specific business cases has been the biggest challenge with Notice Software. Our notification platform is extremely versatile, but adapting it to narrow business cases while maintaining our flexibility has been a real challenge.
Where did you find your first employee?
Our very first employee had been my boss at Lockheed-Martin, my first job out of college. He's a brilliant guy who has done great work with us.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
We live in the “Lean-Startup” universe. Our daily shuffle currently revolves around refining our product-market fit. This includes design and refinement of marketing materials, sales pitches, partnership meetings and micro-pivots derived from customer feedback.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
Notice is based out of Toledo, Ohio, which will sound crazy to your readers, but the early stages of a startup community are taking root here, as with other places in the Midwest. Steve Blank recently quipped that if you want to start a new company, you should look to Ann Arbor, not Silicon Valley. Well, Toledo is 50 miles south of Ann Arbor. Toledo sits in the shadow of the Detroit Venture scene and all the cool businesses coming out of the Madison Building.
Toledo-area developers and strategists are following suit and an entrepreneurial ecosystem is beginning to emerge. In that sense, the best part about working here is being on the bleeding edge of something really cool.
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
and University of Toledo
Innovation Enterprise are investors, and their wiliness to capitalize our work is obviously indispensable. But each group has gone out of their way to contribute mentorship and guidance along the way. Our offices are on the University of Toledo’s campus, which as it turns out, is an awesome place to set up base.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
Without divulging the companies name, one of our earliest adopters is a Fortune 500 that reached out to us via the contact form on our website. If you’re positioned on the right side of trends, customers will find you.
What inspires you?
It’s cliché at this point, but living in this moment of history inspires us. The entire world is being re-imagined. It’s a kind of global construction project where pixels and code serve as brick and mortar. We’re happy to play our part in the rebuild.
Can you share some of your favorite off-time activities or hobbies?
The chief task of an entrepreneur is to figure out ways to smuggle work into “off-time.”
What’s next for you?
We believe push notifications can service more aspects of the mobile experience than merely our orientation to apps. We want to run hard toward those places – mobile web browsing, push as a solution for common business problems, push as a means of gathering data-rich analytics – in an effort to expand the utility of push notifications.
Our principal focus of the moment is Smartloop, which is a corporate compliance solution that leverages push notifications to better engage mobile workforces.
Interview by Joe Baur