Ugo began his career in finance in New York, but always had a passion for relationship dynamics. From his early days acting as the playground “date doctor” to helping his friends in the city figure out where they should go on date night, Ugo realized that a lot of couples needed an extra hand when it came to researching a great date. Bloveit was born from the millennial couple’s desire for a memorable experience vs. an evening of Netflix & chill. Learn how Ugo is strategically growing the team behind his date night service at the click of a button.
Shantel: Hi Ugo, welcome to the show.
Ugo: Hi, thanks for having me, I really appreciate it.
Shantel: Of course, we're certainly very excited to learn more about your company and what inspires you and ... inspires you into imaging more. I would love to kick things off with sharing with our listeners more about Bloveit.
| A DATE NIGHT CONCIERGE |
Ugo: Bloveit is a date night concierge service and what we do is we help busy couples plan awesome date nights at the click of a button. So think about the last time that you had to plan a date night with your significant other, my guess is it probably involved Yelping a few things, maybe a few Googling sessions, maybe you asked a friend what was the hottest new restaurant in town or perhaps you read a local publication. Here in Atlanta it would be Creative Loafing or Eater or Thrillist or something, there are all these different ways that people use to plan their date nights but I think that what we found and I think a lot of your listeners will probably agree, especially those in relationships, that those methods are time consuming, they can be cumbersome sometimes, and sometimes they can feel like work, they can really feel like a research project. So what Bloveit does is we simplify the entire date night planning process where we can show you new ... awesome new restaurants in your city that match your preferences and really make it fast, easy, convenient, and absolutely delightful for you're to plan consistent date nights that you're going to love. So that's what Bloveit does, a lot of our customers are in serious relationships because we cater to couples, they are married with busy jobs, busy careers, some have kids, and so if you can think about how hard it can be for some them to plan consistent date nights, call it once a month, once every couple of weeks, where they're doing something fun, interesting, exciting, going to new restaurants, going to cool activities and events around their city. You know, you can imagine that that can be a little bit of work and Bloveit takes away all that work. The way we describe ourselves is you know, date night at the click of a button.
Shantel: That's amazing, I ... just got married and my husband and I, we have a weekly date night, we try our best to stick to doing something weekly that's kind of spontaneous and fun and different than just cooking at home.
Shantel: And often times it's just that conversation, where should we go, I don't know, where should we go.
Ugo: Exactly, exactly. It's funny because we've actually created a meme about that conversation because it happens so frequently that couples will have that conversation almost every week and so we just thought it was hilarious. So we have this meme, I think we might have shared it on social as well, but it's just so funny as well because that conversation happens almost verbatim with all the couples we've talked to, you know. Trying to figure out where to go, what to do, what you're going to like, what's going to be your preferences, what you can afford, you know, so their budgetary considerations as well, geographical considerations, how much do you want to travel, what you're in the mood for, and so Bloveit takes all those factors and we optimize that, you know. The recommendations that we're making for you are personalized to your preferences, right, so that's one of the first things you do when you sign up for Bloveit, is you let us know what you preferences are and then we use those preferences to essentially make these personalized, curated recommendations for you. Not only where to go for dinner as an example but also one of the things that makes us super unique is that we allow you to plan your entire night, so if you wanted to go have dinner and then maybe go see a comedy show or go see some live music or do a museum tour, we allow you to literally piece that night together at the click of a button, right. So instead of you going out and doing all the research, trying to find ... oh my God, what's close to dinner, what's walking distance, are we going to like it, what's the price. We literally onboard all those ideas and present them to you in a super easy way so you can plan a night seamlessly.
Shantel: Wow, so is it always kind of centered around a meal and then plus these add on components?
Ugo: Yeah, so that's our first sort of foray into the market, is that we found that the dinner date night use case is almost sort of like the first step, right. It's ... when a lot of people think of date night, it normally involves food, so we decided let's make that our first step to get that sort of dinner experience down pact and have it where we're making great recommendations. We actually do something interesting where we are one of the first services that allows you to be able to order something at a restaurant before you get there, so you actually order your meal on our platform. So what happens is when you get to the restaurant you experience what we call our no menu no bill experience and what that means is you place your order on our website based on a menu that's been curated for you and your significant other. When you walk into the restaurant, you don't have to fiddle around with the bill or a menu and you never see a bill at the end of your meal, you can just get up and walk out whenever you're done and so we've not only created a great way to plan a date but we've also created a pretty unique dining experience while you're there. Then on top of that you can say you know, I want to add this other cool event or activity to my night, you can consider that sort of phase one, and in the future we're working towards phase two where your date night doesn't necessarily have to include a meal. You could just go do something fun, so we're definitely working our way there.
Shantel: And the dinner piece, do you have to order through the website?
Ugo: Right now you do but very soon, in about two or three months, we're actually launching a new feature where it's more like if you've ever done like a chefs table, where it's more sort of surprise what you'll get at the restaurant. So at a typical chefs table, you know, you go, you sit down, the chef asks you if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies and you know, and you tell the chef what those are, and the chef essentially will make something for you. Most of the time it will be a surprise to you but it'll be things that you like and things that are representative of the chefs creativity and what the restaurant is all about, and so the way that we are positioning this is that we want every date night to be a unique experience, right. You're going for delicious food, you're going for delicious drinks, but if we sort of have you think about it like every Bloveit date is going to be a new and different experience, and we want you to go out there and try new and interesting things, you know. No one wants a ... well, most people don't want to go to the same restaurants and have the same experiences, people want to try new and interesting things, and so that's another feature we're bringing to the platform where you can either pick your food ahead of time based on your preferences or you can have a chefs table like experience where what you're eating is a surprise. Especially for those people who want to be a little bit more adventurous.
Shantel: And so is the ... I mean, is that kind of a revenue stream with you guys, so you order with the restaurant and you get a cut of that in addition to the subscription fee, is that kind of why it's set up in that way?
Ugo: I would say that the set-up is kind of killing two birds with one stone, I would say that one of the things that we heard from our couples early on when we were doing our research is that you know, a lot of people don't like waiting for the bill, a lot of people just like ... a lot of people ask this ... hey, is there a way you could remove that from the process, you know, that would be cool, not sure if you guys can do that. So we thought about it and we said that's actually pretty interesting and then we heard a lot more feedback about just people not wanting to really deal with the whole ordering process, they'd rather just focus on the date experience, right. They'd rather focus on enjoying conversations with the person that they're there with, they'd rather focus on enjoying the delicious food and drinks, almost like removing all the transactional sort of layers from the experience and just keeping the good stuff. So it definitely works from a user experience standpoint but to your point, it also works from a business model standpoint where you know, where we can be a part of the transaction and take a cut from the bill.
Shantel: Yeah that totally makes sense, I guess do you ever come across any experiences of someone wants to add a salad or dessert or the waiter is doing a great job upselling them and then they don't have the opportunity to kind of close that deal because it's already been processed beforehand?
Ugo: So yes, while you're at the restaurant you can make changes to your order, and so we still leave a little room for our guests to have the freedom to make additions and substitutions, so you know, if you end up changing your mind on the night or if you end up just kind of wanting a different entrée or a different appetizers, you can definitely make changes. Then from the servers perspective, you know, I think that a lot of servers will ... are sort of being encouraged to upsell, not because it's something that's a very natural part of the experience but you know, it's something that ... makes the bill a little bit larger and so it makes their tips potentially a little bit larger. So what we've done is we've gone ahead and made sure that the servers are well compensated so that they're interacting with our guests not from the standpoint of you know, how can I upsell them so that my tip can be larger but how can I just give them an incredible experience because what we do with our servers is we guarantee and 25 percent tip for all Bloveit servers.
Ugo: So instead of them focusing on upselling or anything like that, they're really just focused on delivering a great experience because they know that they've already been taken care of. So it actually works out really well.
Shantel: Well that's super interesting, I mean definitely not something I've heard of in the past and have lots of questions that are kind of coming to mind, but I would love to hear a little bit more about how it got started, how did this idea come about?
| RELATIONSHIP DYNAMICS |
Ugo: Yeah, it's a pretty ... interesting turn of events. So I started my career in finance in New York and I worked at Citi Group doing investment banking for two years, then I went to Morgan Stanley and did private equity for about two and a half years, and so it's interesting sort of how I transitioned into the date night relationship space and the way that came about is really, I've had a passion for relationship dynamics for a really long time. Really since I don't know, maybe as early as middle school, I would say I was the playground date doctor, you know, you would come to me and you would ask me why someone wasn't texting you back or how do you get that person to go on a date with you or what do you wear on that date or where should you take them, that was essentially me all of middle school, high school. I just loved helping people out with their relationships and just getting the best outcomes for people. And so I just took that passion and I took it to New York City where I did banking and you know, if you've ever seen the movie Hitch, where he kind of helps those couples with their dates, you know ... I did something very similar. Kind of banker by day, date doctor by night kind of thing, that was me, you know, for about two years I would help friends and friends of friends kind of figure out where they should go on their dates and kind of help them out with that, and you know, I never charged for it or anything. It was just something I was super passionate about and so that's actually where I ended up realizing that a lot of couples want to do more fun interesting date nights on a frequent basis but they just don't have the time to set those dates up. They don't have time to do the research, they don't have time to you know, work out all the different logistics, they don't have time because they're so busy. And so that's where the initial idea came from, is that you know, for me, I had the thought, I wonder how many other couples are having this problem, and after doing some research I found out that most couples, a lot of couples have this issue of you know, it takes so much effort and time to plan great dates that we're just gonna either go to the places we've already been before or just kind of stay home and watch Netflix, right. That's the couples dilemma, especially when it comes to date night, and so that experience in New York was really the inception of the idea and then everything else just kind of took off.
Shantel: And then at one point you decided to quit imagining and move to Atlanta or kind of what was that tipping point for you?
Ugo: Yeah, so I had worked on a startup right out of college and you know, I got a lot of really good experience. That business didn't end up working out but I learned a lot and I feel like in the back of my mind I always thought I would go back and try something, something new, and what I wanted to do was I said all right, well what if I could merge my passion for relationships with technology. You know I went to Georgia Tech here in Atlanta, so I was definitely familiar with tech and sort of how it worked and how I could use technology to sort of scale and idea and so I was just looking for a way to combine those two things and so you know. After my experience in New York and after I thought about this idea and how if we built something it could potentially impact and help thousands and thousands of couples, that's when you know, I decided to make the move.
Shantel: That's amazing, so as your building this new company, are you ... I mean have you been able to invest in it full time or still working on some other projects on the side to help ... start it up?
Ugo: Yeah, I would say since day one I've been full time, you know, it's one of those things where I was like if I'm going to do this, I thought that the potential ... I still think of course that the potential is huge and so I said you know, you might as well just do it, you know. So funny story, I actually ended up liquidating both of my 401ks from Citi Group and from Morgan Stanley just to make sure that I had enough money to boot strap til a certain point, so yeah, it was a pretty deep dive into the startup world.
Ugo: And yeah, it's funny because I actually ended up ... once I liquidated those 401ks I actually ended up putting it into Bitcoin which is ... that in itself is a crazy story but I ended up putting it into Bitcoin, traded Bitcoin for about a year, and then basically liquidated my Bitcoin holdings and that's what I used to finance the company for like the first couple of years.
Shantel: That's so exciting, so are you still wearing all the hats or do you have a team to help ...
| A HARDER PROBLEM TO SOLVE |
Ugo: So yeah, I have a team, it's a pretty lean team right now, it's only two of us full time but we do have six other folks part time. So there are definitely a lot of people who I would give a lot of credit to that are helping to push this concept forward and you know, we're staying ... we decided to stay really lean right now because you know ... when you look at the space that we're in, a lot of the innovation, a lot of the apps, a lot of the websites and ideas that have been launched in the relationship space are really around the singles side of the market and when I say the single side I mean sort of the match making side, right. So like your Tinder's your Bumbles, your Hinge, you know, League and OK Cupid and Match, you know, that side of the market is super saturated and there are a lot of solutions for people who are looking to meet other people, right. But if I were to ask you to name me one awesome brand in the couples space that helps couples who are already together stay together and keep their relationships fresh, interesting, exciting. My guess is you probably wouldn't be able to name one, you know, a lot of people ... it's funny because it's one of the things that we realized is that it's a space that has been neglected for a really long time but it's a space that is actually bigger than the singles market, you know. It's a space where the problem is definitely a known problem but it's a little bit of a harder problem to solve. So we've decided to keep our team lean because we realized that we would probably have to iterate in the space for a while in order to find the right solution and so you know, we run experiments here all the time, we're always really close to our users, talking to them every day. There are a lot of things about our offering that are pretty innovative, our business model, you know, our offering is pretty unique. So that's one of the reasons that we've kept the team lean, so that we can keep expenses low and just keep iterating until we found sort of like the right mix, you know, for our solution. I know it was kind of a long winded answer for that question but I kind of wanted to give you some context.
Shantel: Yeah, no, it's really helpful, I think as business owners there's always kind of those multiple hats that you're wearing in the first few years. I mean we're six years in and there's still some hats that I'm excited to pass off one day, but no, that definitely makes sense. Thinking about how those experiments that you're running, what are something that are in the pipeline that you guys may be testing if you're open to sharing or [crosstalk 00:20:08], where do you hope to be?
Ugo: Yeah, that's a great question, right now as we mentioned you know, there are ... when you plane a Bloveit date, right now it's kind of centered around the dinner experience and then you can add something to your night. So as I mentioned, we're going to be a lot more flexible with that whereas if you decide that you don't want a dinner experience, you can just go out and do something fun you know, and book a comedy show or live music and you can just come on our platform and do that. You can build a date night itinerary around that, so that's definitely one thing, the second thing is the surprise option that I mentioned, you know, if you're an adventurous couple and you've been using Bloveit for a few months, maybe you've gone on four or five dates and you're like man let's do something, you know. Let's do something fun, let's just pick a restaurant and Bloveit will work with the chef to be able to put a meal together for us and it'll basically feel like a chefs tasting wherever we want to go, you know. You can jump on and select a surprise option and you can plan your date faster and have a pretty unique experience that would be really hard for you to replicate on your own. So those are some things that we have coming out, we're gonna be redesigning our website, we're going to be redesigning a little bit of our pricing model as well, we're going to be moving away from the subscription. So right now if you go to our website you know, Bloveit, we market ourselves from a subscription stand point but we're going to be sort of moving away from the subscription and allowing you to for example go on a one off date if that's something, you just want to try us out. Then you can select whatever cadence that you would like, so for example the same way that you'll have Dollar Shave Club or Stitch Fix, you know, where you can select like how often you want to receive the service, you'll be able to do something similar on our website. So you can say I want to go on a date once a month, I want to go on a date every two weeks, I want to go on a date every two months, and then we'll just plan one for you accordingly. So those are some of the things that are going to be coming out, it's all going to be part of our version two in about two to three months.
Shantel: So exciting, I can't wait to follow along, how can our listeners learn more and follow and how do they sign up if they're a couple in a relationship?
Ugo: Yeah, no, great question, so right now we're only live in Atlanta, so if any of your listeners are in Atlanta, Georgia, please come check us out, it's Bloveit, so that's the letter B L O V E I T. You can go to our website to sign up, you can follow us on Instagram, that's where we have most of our social media activity, and you know, for your listeners, if they sign up using the promo code BloveitSpecial, so just our name, Bloveit and the word special, all one word, they can get 25 percent off their first date.
Shantel: Great, well thank you so much for carving out some time to connect we're excited to see as you guys continue to grow and follow along.
Ugo: Awesome, thank you so much, we really appreciate it.