Validated entered the Shark Tank in Season 8 with their app that allows users who dine and shop at their partnered businesses to gain credit for transportation such as parking and ride shares. Since it launched in 2014, it has amassed thousands of users and is enjoying continued growth.
We interviewed the trio behind the idea, Ian Lyman, Alex Wilhelm and Tov Arneson, whose appearance on the Tank came after one of the show’s producers read an article on them in Geekwire. Some national brands they work with are SEE, Arc’teryx, Marine Layer, and Tanner Goods, but they also partner with local boutiques as well. “The big idea behind Validated is to connect commerce and transportation to make it easier and more affordable for people to explore and enjoy a city, ultimately helping cities work better and enabling brick-and-mortar businesses to thrive,” Arneson explained.
Here’s what else they told us about…
How It Works
Wilhelm: Users download the free app from the App or Play Store. As soon as they open the app, they are presented with a geolocation-based list of merchants that will validate their transportation. Users can also search by name, neighborhood, or zip-code, sort by category, or browse the map to see what’s nearby. Users select a merchant to see how much they have to spend and how much they’ll receive as reward in return. If a user hits a spending target, s/he submits their receipt to verify their purchase and claim their credits. They can scan right away or later from home. Users can stack credits from multiple shops and restaurants, redeem their credits right away or save them for later. When ready, users can push their credits to listed transportation options, directly and dollar-for-dollar. Users have one year to redeem the credits they earn and while Validated businesses are currently concentrated in select cities, they can use the credits ANYWHERE the transportation provider operates.
How the Idea Came About
Arneson: Brick-and-mortar retail is taking a beating from e-commerce, which offers customers free-shipping when spend thresholds are met. After looking at the landscape, we had the idea to apply the same business mechanics to physical stores to even the playing field. The solution is a far better alternative to a typical sale, discount, or coupon insofar as it preserves the integrity of the brand and enhances the customer’s experience. In parallel, urban mobility is at a tipping point. How people get around is changing and the challenges and increasing expense of transportation compounds the problem experienced by brick-and-mortar businesses.
Advice for ‘Tank’ Contestants
Lyman: The trickiest part is juggling multiple conversations at once and being able to address a wide range of opinions and objections in a very short time. Don’t let yourself get distracted and do your best to take charge of the room. It’s high energy and be prepared for rapid fire
Running a Business in Seattle & Portland
Arneson: Seattle and Portland are great for enterprise tech and have extremely supportive tech communities, but consumer facing products aren’t adopted as quickly as they are in a place like San Francisco. That being said, both cities are ahead of the curve in terms of integrated transportation and urban mobility options. We are thrilled to contribute to their smart cities initiatives spanning transportation and economic development.
Plans for a ‘Validated’ Future
Arneson: We’re actively expanding our footprint, onboarding new merchants and growing our transportation network. We’re also in the process of developing a SDK that large brands can plug into their own web and mobile initiatives.