For our latest Hoyapreneur profile, we are excited to sit down with our fellow GEA board member and tech aficionado, Cherian Thomas (G’14), Co-Founder & CEO of Spotluck.We are are also proud to announce that Cherian will be honored during our Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards Celebration on November 2 for “Best Mobile App.” Let’s get started.
1. Tell us about Spotluck. How'd you come up with the idea and how does it work?
Spotluck started as my capstone while at MSB. Back then, it was just an idea but once I got the right people involved, it took off! Spotluck brings dynamic pricing to the restaurant industry, pioneering real-time discounts that fluctuate based on day, time, and weather. Spotluck’s gamified spin on "deciding where to eat" makes the app fun for users, while their proprietary software maximizes restaurant occupancy (and profits) through smart discounts
2. You started Spotluck as a class project while in graduate school at the McDonough School of Business. How influential was that experience to the successful launch of Spotluck?
MSB really helped to vet the business. I was able to utilize my professors, classmates, and online databases on campus to test assumptions. Essentially, it was a great environment to see “if I build it, will they come?” Since my cohort was made up of 30+ business executives from Walmart, 3M, Bayer, Merck, etc., my business plan went through some serious professional scrutiny, and passed!
3. How have you seen the tech community grow at Georgetown? In your opinion, what still needs to happen for Georgetown to truly become a startup hub?
The tech community at Georgetown has certainly grown but still has room for improvement. I always try to hire from GU but its been a challenge to find students (or grads) with relevant technical expertise. We’ve had several marketing and business interns at Spotluck coming through Georgetown but most of our tech interns funnel in from Carnegie Mellon, University of Maryland or Purdue’s Polytechnic Institute. I’m seeing a shift at Georgetown over the past three years as MSB seems to be offering more computer/data science programs. Especially through MSB’s Exec-Ed course offerings.
4. You're a part of the Entrepreneur in Residence Program through Startup Hoyas on campus and President-Elect of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Alliance. What are your goals for strengthening the alumni entrepreneur community?
I currently serve as an EIR at Startup Hoyas to help current students understand what it takes (or lessons learned) when starting a tech company. It’s certainly fun and I’ve enjoyed allocating a portion of my week to help passionate students in the “idea” phase of starting a business. On the flip side, my involvement on the GEA board helps me give back to the alumni community of entrepreneurs. Here, most of the community is far past the idea phase, looking to raise VC money, scale their product/service offering, or even exited a few ventures of their own. Both are equally fun and allows me keep in touch with the tech community and GU innovation as a whole.
5. What was your favorite class and/or professor during your time on the Hilltop?
My favorite class was Human Social Capital with Professor Brooks Holtom. He really reemphasized the importance of people in organizations. I truly feel that in business, you can have the best idea, product, or technology on the market but without the right people, it’s impossible to execute and stand the test of time. That mantra has stuck with me and Spotluck and a true estimate of our successes through people. We’ve built a great product but this team is magic!
6. Has the Georgetown alumni network benefited you in launching Spotluck?
The Georgetown alumni network has been great for launching Spotluck. We have a direct B2B2C play so it’s important to raise massive awareness of our brand. Leveraging the alumni network has been instrumental for early market penetration. I’ve been able to speak at MSB several times while simultaneously testing new product features on campus. Also, there are several Georgetown owned businesses that like to support their alma mater…Spotluck included!
7. What's next for Spotluck?
We’ve got a good foundation but a long way to go! I’m looking forward to expanding into new markets but more importantly, enhancing our total product offering. It’s tough knowing the product in my head, isn’t the product in the consumers hand! Over the next few months, we plan to enhance gamification within the app through badges, leaderboards, and even augmented reality. Look out Pokemon Go ;-)
8. Finally, how do you feel about Patrick Ewing as coach? Is there a tournament bid in our future?
Big fan! I grew up in Chicago during the Michael Jordan era so there’s always been a MJ & Pippen vs. Ewing & Starks rivalry for me. Safe to say my loyalty is to Georgetown now and I’m pumped to see what coach Ewing can do. Looking forward to March!