ReTickr: Day 104 could bring the stress some entrepreneurs pray for
By Milt Capps
If the founders of ReTickr are lucky, today they'll experience clenched teeth and hyperventilation, along with another spike in downloads of their still-evolving content-filtering application.
After all, as ReTickr's (hereafter, retickr) recent experience reminds us, birthing a startup requires swallowing a daily cocktail that's two parts exhileration and one part crisis. It's been roughly 104 days since retickr's app was launched.
Along the way, there have been "troughs of sorrow and peaks of amazin' excitement," 25-year-old co-founder and COO Brian Trautschold told VNC.
retickr is pursuing A-round capital and is negotiating with its only outside investor, Lamp Post Group; it hopes to close the round yet in 2011, said Trautschold, who declined to cite the round's target for publication. Ideally, he said, retickr won't need a B round, but a second raise is conceivable within 18 months. Three of the company's four co-founders invested a total of about $25,000 during its bootstrap phase, and its monthly burn has ranged from about $11,000 to $18,000 during the past nine months or so, he said.
The Chattanooga startup's ambition is to offer its currently Mac-only users a personalizable stream of news and social-media updates (something akin to a crawling stock-market ticker), in an effort to avert the clutter of RSS feeds and mailboxes full of random tweets. retickr will also enable users to repost and share social content.
Chattanooga-based Lamp Post Group, a venture incubator, is represented by LPG Partner Jack Studer, who is also a partner in Chattanooga Renaissance Fund). Lamp Post made a seed investment of undisclosed amount in retickr six months ago; Lamp Post also provides backoffice and related support, as part of the deal.
The startup has seven team members: Co-founders in addition to Trautschold include CEO Travis Truett, CTO Adam Haney and marketing chief Jared Houghton. Its two non-owner employees are Senior Software Engineer Josh Marlow and just-arrived Developer Dustin Cannon, he added. Lamp Post system administrator Micah Hausler is also dedicated part-time to retickr.
retickr is pre-revenue; its business model envisions a future in which it generates ad dollars from businesses marketing to consumers (about whom which retickr intends to amass deep data). Advertising sales strategies are now only being explored, due to the management team's own bandwidth constraints, he said. Provided the startup remains on-track, retickr plans to develop in late 2012 a Windows counterpart to its Mac application; and, it may begin exploring both business-to-business and B2C advertising, said Trautschold.
Truett began work on ReTickr 14 months ago, according to retickr's website. The startup became an LLC in January 2011 and took seed Lamp Post Group investment in April.
It launched its app August 10th and became available in the online Mac App Store Aug. 24. Users quickly climbed from more than 100 on Day One, then to more than 2,000 by Oct. 25, according to tweets logged by the retickr team.
retickr has now sailed past 16,000 downloads, and the team is working on a host of issues, including improving the percentage of downloaders who become users, Trautschold said today.
Along the way, tweets and blogposts by the retickr team suggest that every major surge in exposure and for retickr has been followed, at least figuratively, by heart palpitations and actual episodes of temporal mandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), among some clench-jawed team members.
In mid-October, retickr gained mention on Reddit and in Y-Combinator-linked Hacker News, which spiked traffic and produced a brief website downage, according to one retickr tweet. That Hacker News exposure was apparently triggered by a heartfelt blogpost by Truett about the joys, fears and strains that go with entrepeneurship.
Truett's post attracted the attention of Hacker News' readers, a few of whom offered-up criticism regarding retickr's opting to first develop for Mac, rather than for Windows. There were other jabs about retickr's early website design, its server strategy and its guessed-at burn rate.
That techie blowback elicited polite thank-you's from Truett and from Lamp Post's Studer. Studer also stressed in his personal reply to the Hacker News community that, in his view, failure is as much a part of the startup investor's life as success. Separately, Trautschold weighed-in wiith a blogpost that restated retickr's commitment to transparency.
Truett and Trautschold separately moved to Chattanooga more than a year ago. Truett is a 2009 graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he earned a management degree.
Trautschold's previous experience includes an account-manager role with Hewlett Packard in Little Rock, he said. Earlier, he studied finance and economics at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. VNC