Rachel H. van Gorp of GYDO: “Know Who You’re Selling To:”

Know Who You’re Selling To: There is always a moment when I tell someone what I do, their eyes either light up with excitement and they get a big smile on their face, or they politely say something nice and change the subject. Find the people who light up when you talk about your business, […]

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Know Who You’re Selling To: There is always a moment when I tell someone what I do, their eyes either light up with excitement and they get a big smile on their face, or they politely say something nice and change the subject. Find the people who light up when you talk about your business, that’s your ideal customer. Focus on them — what do they like to do? Where do they live? Where do they hang out? Who do they hang out with? Don’t waste your time trying to convince others of your idea or worth. It’s a waste of your time and theirs.

As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel H. van Gorp.

Rachel H. van Gorp is a mom, first-time entrepreneur, globetrotter and co-founder of GYDO (Get Your Drink On), a social gifting mobile app that allows users to buy their friends a drink at any bar, brewery or winery in the world.

Originally from Santa Barbara, California, van Gorp left her previous career to follow her Dutch husband to UAE where they lived for 6 years. With friends and family located all over the world, van Gorp was constantly missing out on birthdays, engagements, graduations and other special moments that she would otherwise be present at if it weren’t for the distance. Frustrated with not being able to celebrate with her loved ones, van Gorp teamed up with her friend and fellow expat Ryan Williams to create GYDO as a meaningful way for users to make up for those moments that cannot be attended in person.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started GYDO?

Like so many businesses during the past year, COVID-19 was a major challenge for us in the beginning stages of GYDO’s development. We launched GYDO’s MVP in Santa Barbara with about 20 wineries and breweries in December 2019. Our first version of GYDO was a two-sided marketplace. It required venues to sign up in order to offer drinks at their venue. Drink Recipients would receive a QR code that they would take to the bar, the bartender would scan the code and then give them the drink that was purchased. We started to get some early traction with venues in January and February of 2020, but then all the bars were shut down due to COVID-19 closure mandates, and owners were struggling to keep their businesses alive. It wasn’t the right time for us to be approaching venues about joining the GYDO community.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I was living in the UAE when the shutdown happened. The laws were very strict there and you were not allowed to leave your home for any reason without first obtaining government permission. If you broke the rules, then you would be subject to heavy fines and prison. Having GYDO to focus on during that difficult time is what kept me sane while I was confined to a house with four other people, and unable to go out of our front door.

Instead of giving up, we saw the shutdown as a chance to problem-solve. We had a few hundred users and a little bit of data collected from the three months after we launched our MVP in Santa Barbara before the pandemic. Our biggest challenge to solve was how to scale the mobile app with a two-sided marketplace — the classic chicken and egg scenario. After brainstorming a few different ideas, we found that our answer was simply not to be a two-sided marketplace. Thanks to an early partnership with Stripe, where we got to beta test a new product that we were able to integrate into GYDO, we eliminated the need for the venues to sign up to accept GYDO gift vouchers. Now, when using GYDO to buy a friend a drink, the friend receives a GYDO Drink Card, which is a digital Visa gift card that is stored in their smartphone’s digital wallet. As a result of the pandemic, the prevalence of contactless payment terminals has grown enormously, and we were able to find a way to scale our app globally.

How are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

How is it going? Great! When we first started, we set up an email notification each time someone downloads the app, buys a friend a drink, or crowdfunds a drink. We used to get a few notifications a week. Now, I love waking up to scrolling through the pages of email notifications from people who have joined the GYDO community and are buying their friends drinks. Every email notification is like a little pat on the back! We may have to turn those notifications off soon, but I still enjoy seeing them.

Can you share a story about a funny mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

You can’t be everything to everyone. When we first started working on GYDO, everyone we spoke to had a great idea of things we could do with the app. Our first version of GYDO had a ton of features. Not only could you buy a friend a drink, but we also had one-time offers, drink specials, loyalty rewards, crowdfunding, merchandise, and table orders. It essentially was a combination of Groupon, the Starbucks app, and Yelp. The biggest challenge that we had at this point was that we weren’t able to articulate what the app actually was because it was so cluttered. As a solution, we decided to strip everything out of the app and focus on the one thing we that set us apart and that people loved — buying a friend a drink.

Now, when we have a “great idea” or we receive advice from a friend or mentor, we think about it in terms of, “will this advance our mission?” If the answer is no, then we add it to the “great ideas” pile that maybe we can do something with later. But for now, we are on a mission, for anyone, anywhere, to buy a friend a drink at any bar.

What do you think makes GYDO stand out? Can you share a story of when you knew that GYDO was going to make an impact on its users?

I had to go to Urgent Care a few months back for a strange rash on my arm. The doctor was trying to discover the source of my rash and asked me, “What do you do?” My response was a quick description of GYDO, and that it wasn’t the cause of my rash. When I told the doctor about the app, he seemed genuinely interested in the idea and said he would download it. I assumed that he was being polite, and just wanted to start a friendly conversation. Later, after I left the exam room, I doubled back down the hall to use the restroom and I heard my doctor talking to some nurses and staff telling them about GYDO, and what a great idea it was. I received a new download notification a few days later, and saw the doctor’s name on a new GYDO account.

I was pleasantly surprised and taken aback by how impactful this small interaction was. From that moment, I knew that my co-founder and I were creating something that would help others stay connected with their friends.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the start-up space to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

If you are wanting to start a business on your own, find a co-founder. I probably would have quit this seven different times if it wasn’t for my business partner, Ryan. Having someone to share the load and share this success with is priceless. The success rate of companies that have at least one co-founder is statistically higher, and there is a reason for this. When you have a partner, you have accountability, support, someone to talk to and someone to challenge your ideas.

I also recommend finding a community. Being a startup can be lonely. A lot of people in our lives don’t understand what we do or what it takes to actually build a successful startup — they think it’s all Shark Tank and Silicon Valley. There are so many virtual communities and resources out there for founders. I joined a few while I was in the UAE, and through that experience, I was able to ask questions about problems that I had no idea how to solve. These communities were a safe space for me where I felt like I could share ideas and connect with others who were going through similar experiences and challenges. I was also able to meet a lot of other great female founders this way, and ultimately, it really helped me know that I wasn’t alone.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story of how they helped you?

The owner of Island Brewing Company, Mark Matthews, in Carpinteria, California. Not only did the idea for GYDO start at this bar, but it would not have been possible to create GYDO if Mark had not graciously allowed us to beta test the early versions of the mobile app at his brewery. He has also been a great supporter and wealth of knowledge for us along the way.

Our initial app was built around Square Merchant Processing, which had world-class customer service, beta development and API. We were given early access to some of their Beta API’s which enabled us to create a platform to collect and distribute funds in a simple, streamlined manner. Their customer service and response times were also phenomenal. Without access to the Square Developer Portal, we would not have been able to make any of GYDO’s development possible

How have you used your success launching GYDO to bring goodness to the world?

With the shutdown of the bars in March 2020, we saw all of the owners and bartenders, who had taken on the early adoption of GYDO and helped promote it to the patrons, out of work. It was really scary for them, and we wanted to do something to help. We ended up starting a COVID-19 relief fund for bartenders and servers in which we raised money by selling T-shirts on a crowdfunding platform. As a result, we were able to distribute thousands of dollars to our partner venues to financially support their staff in the form of gift cards. This way, they were able to buy groceries before the government started rolling out grants and stimulus checks.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a brief story or example for each.

You Have To Do More Than Just Build It: In the movie, The Natural, there is an iconic line at the end “If you build it they will come”. This may have worked for an imaginary field, but you have to do more than just build it. We were naïve in the beginning, thinking all we had to do was build a great app, get one viral video and the rest would take care of itself. You can have a great product that people love, but getting it out there to the masses takes perseverance, grit, creativity, and time.

Not Everyone Is Going To Get It: People ask us all the time, “why would I use this when I can just use Venmo.” And it’s a valid question, but they are not seeing the big picture. Venmo only works in the US, between two venmo users. GYDO is a gifting platform that allows you to buy any friend a drink, anywhere in the world. Also, drink funds gifted on GYDO can only be used for the intended purpose, to buy a drink.

Build A Team Of Doers: When Ryan first told me about his idea for GYDO, I knew right away I wanted to be a part of it. His response was, “Great, but I need someone who will pick up a broom.” Maybe it’s a South African saying. When I asked him to explain he said “I need someone who will not just point out that there is a pile of crap in the middle of the floor, but will get the broom and clean it up.” Most people are willing to offer you ideas and suggestions, but very few are willing to actually get their hands dirty and get shit done. Experience is great, but what is more valuable when building a startup is someone who is willing to figure it out and get it done.

Be Willing To Go With The Flow: As a startup, it’s important to be fluid and open to change. What you start off with is rarely what you end up with. Your original vision may very well be completely different to the finished product. That is OK. When we first started talking about pivoting to eliminate the two-sided marketplace model, I will admit I was hesitant. I felt like we were straying from our original idea. But as we started developing the Stripe integration and seeing how it eliminated so many of the limitations we were facing with our original idea, it was a no-brainer.

Know Who You’re Selling To: There is always a moment when I tell someone what I do, their eyes either light up with excitement and they get a big smile on their face, or they politely say something nice and change the subject. Find the people who light up when you talk about your business, that’s your ideal customer. Focus on them — what do they like to do? Where do they live? Where do they hang out? Who do they hang out with? Don’t waste your time trying to convince others of your idea or worth. It’s a waste of your time and theirs.

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder?

I have heard so many podcasts and founder stories of people who burn out. They have been working 20 hour days, 7 days a week, have no social life, and then they hit the wall. This, luckily, has not been our experience. Don’t get me wrong, we work hard, and there are long days, but from the beginning, Ryan and I have had to balance our responsibilities as parents and partners to others. I have about six hours in the morning while my kids are at school to work on GYDO, so I have to be efficient and prioritize. Then at 2:00 p.m., it’s time to change modes and focus on my family’s needs. Once the kids are in bed I can get a few more hours of work in, or just veg and watch Schitt’s Creek with my husband. I often find myself a little jealous of the founders who have zero external demands on their time, but those demands are also what keep me balanced.

Highs or lows, we support each other and we do our best to have a little fun as well. When it’s been safe to do so, we’ve held meetings at a local brewery, instead of in our home offices. We have socially distant GYDO family days at the beach. We participate and sponsor virtual brew festivals. We also pick up the slack when one of us needs a break. I recently relocated from the UAE back to the U.S. on very short notice. During that process, I had to take a step back from my responsibilities with GYDO and focus on moving my family, selling all our stuff, and closing up accounts we had in the UAE. Ryan kept me informed of what was going on, but he handled everything while I was busy with the move. This level of collaboration that we had is what kept both of us balanced through the changes that can come with getting a startup off the ground.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger 😊

When I reflect on being a startup founder, who also happens to be a woman, something Ruth Bader Ginsburg said pops into my mind: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” I think the movement that would bring about the most good for the greatest number of people is already happening — more women are launching their own startups and taking on leadership roles in the tech sector. Despite these glimmers of progress, more work needs to be done industry-wide. While women make up nearly half the population, tech companies founded solely by women received only 2.3 percent of VC funding last year. Companies with both male and female co-founders received 9 percent of funding. I believe everyone in the tech industry, including VCs, founders, investors, and other leadership, have a responsibility to strive to create equitable and equal opportunities for all founders.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

People can check us out on Facebook or Twitter @GYDOApp

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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