Don’t be afraid of getting out into the field — nothing beats a face-to-face interaction with your user community.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Colodny, President/ CFO of Chargerback.
Brian Colodny co-founded Chargerback in August of 2010. He is also the founder of Colodny Fields LLP, a professional accounting firm formed in 2013. Prior to Colodny Fields, Mr. Colodny co-founded Kohn Colodny LLP in 1997 as a professional accounting company. He served as co-managing partner of the firm until 2013. Since inception Kohn Colodny LLP provided professional accounting services for companies, non-profits and individuals, the firm was one of the top five accounting firms in Northern Nevada. Mr. Colodny has been a Certified Public Accountant since 1983. Mr. Colodny has extensive experience forming several startup companies including Cobro Motorsports LLC and Premier Properties.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My name is Brian Colodny, President/CFO of Chargerback, the leading provider of cloud-based lost and found software. Chargerback was born in August of 2010 after a Wall Street Journal article came out about how many items were being lost — I recalled my own experience earlier in the year when I left a charger at a hotel while traveling. I instantly called an old friend, Michael “Mac” McLaughlin, Chargerback’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, as he had a background in computer technology and logistics. We began drafting up plans to create a cloud-based lost and found solution for the travel and hospitality industries, and after breaking through the Las Vegas strip, it’s been history ever since.
Chargerback provides a cloud-based Lost and Found software solution for inventory management, customer communication, and shipping solutions in one easy-to-use platform. Chargerback, which is free to use for partners, creates an overall positive experience for guests who have lost a beloved item (say, a little one’s treasured teddy bear that doubles as a sense of security, or a symbolic family heirloom traveling with loved ones) by enabling travel and hospitality brands to easily reunite lost items with their rightful owners. We are the only Lost and Found SaaS company that has a patented process. In fact we have been issued 10 Patents on our SaaS from the USPTO.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
After returning home from a national hotel brand during a visit in Southern California in 2010, I realized that I left my phone charger in the room. I called the front desk to see if they had it in their lost and found. At that time, chargers were a bit more expensive than they are now, so I was really hopeful that they had it in their possession. After speaking with their team and realizing that I was just a dime a dozen, the experience really sparked the branding for the then-early company that I was working on — at the end of the day, I simply wanted my charger back! (Hence the name of the company).
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Give up? Never crossed our minds as we knew we were developing a product that was badly needed by businesses and consumers. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew based upon our years of business experience we would find a way to adapt and overcome.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
What started around a kitchen table from my brainstorm with Mac has grown to a team with more experience in the lost and found arena than anyone. We support thousands of partners in the hospitality, travel and tourism industries.. This includes the two largest airlines in the world, all major hotel casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, every major amusement park in the United States and numerous other Fortune 500 brands.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When we first started, being in Reno, NV, we knew people in the Casino/Resort Industry. Glenn Carano with the Silver Legacy (now a part of Caesars Entertainment) put us in touch with his Hotel Director, Jean Patay. We met with Jean and showed him the first version of our software. Jean took one look and said: “I would never use it”. Of course we were deflated, so we asked what we needed to improve and if we could come back in a few weeks with the requested enhancements. After a few weeks we showed Jean the changes and he said, “Now you have something”. From there we continued to work closely with Jean until we launched the Silver Legacy as our first Partner in April 2011. The takeaway, we realized we had much more to learn about Lost and Found. Subsequently, we have visited the Lost & Found and Security & Housekeeping departments of every hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, international airlines and major amusement parks, becoming the ultimate experts in Lost and Found.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our story is our team of people. We recognized early on that while SaaS is hands-off, our Partners and their guests and passengers need to know and be able to speak with a human when the need arises. Our Partner and Guest live support is the best in our industry and likely better than other industries. We are located in the USA, Nevada to be specific, and all of our team are here in Nevada. We have received accolades from our Partners and their guests that they have never before experienced the support and responsiveness that we provide. In addition to support, many of our Partners request special features. We thrive on being responsive with our IT Development Team on timely development of these new features. It is part of how we grew so fast. Very few software companies develop custom features, and roll them out quickly, all at no cost.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Most importantly, you must love to work with people and always listen to what they have to say. Show that you really do care, if you really do not care then I recommend you get out because it will show. Remember that from every person that you meet or speak with, you learn something to improve yourself and your business.
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?
Two gentlemen from my career as a CPA, Walt Drew and Hank Adler. Both mentored me in my career. They inspired me to do my best and told me that you have to give 115% when doing something new. Whether it be a new project or locating to a new area, you had to show that you were better than your competition. And my father, who taught me that if you were going to do a job, do it the best that you could or just don’t do it at all as you only get one shot to prove yourself in front of people.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
Millions of consumers have used our web app to report and recover their lost belongings from thousands of venues. We have already spoken at length about providing excellent customer service to our partners and their customers. Secondly, if you are a tech company you better be on the cutting edge of your industry. Finally, but maybe the most important, is to surround yourself with good people and create a positive work environment. It is easier to get everyone to row in the same direction when they know their talent is appreciated. Here is a bonus for your readers, don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you!
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
We collect a small fee on each successful reunification of a lost item with the rightful owner. We find that with this model we can provide our software at no charge to our partners. Our business model works because everyone has the same goal. We continue to explore other models, but to this point have not found one as effective.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.
#1 Hire experienced coders
#2 Give them autonomy to determine their equipment and tools needed to be successful.
#3 Listen to and prioritize ideas from your frontline staff who are closest to the users
#4 Don’t be afraid of getting out into the field — nothing beats a face-to-face interaction with your user community.
#5 Don’t be afraid to fail or let “perfect” get in the way of damn good.
At the end of the day, your business can only succeed if you are attuned to the needs of your users and have the right team in place to constantly iterate and improve your product to respond to those needs. Our experience building Chargerback showed us that if we have a team that is talented and committed to constantly seeking feedback from our partners, we will continue to prosper as a business. That’s a model that any SaaS can use to find success.
You are a person of great influence. 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. 🙂
Just like our business is dedicated to helping lost items get back home, I’m personally passionate about helping lost and abused animals such as dogs and cats find loving homes. Our company has donated a portion of our profits to animal shelters and my family recently adopted a dog of a dear friend who recently passed away. I would start a movement to ensure that every animal had a good, loving place to call home.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Your readers can follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chargerback or on Twitter with the handle @chargerback_web.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!