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Find shops or retailers for products in Google image searches with HOVR.IT!
Have you ever had the elation of finding the perfect item on Pinterest turn to complete and agonizing frustration when you begin the search to actually find a place to buy it? Toronto-based startup HOVR.IT is looking to bring an end to the fruitless Google searches with a new browser plugin that will give you a retail link to nearly any product image you hover your mouse over.
The platform uses an image recognition database, enabling the plugin to quickly find websites where that product can be purchased, eliminating the hours of frustration spent looking for that awesome Twin Peaks keychain you just saw. You knew it was out there somewhere.
We chatted with HOVR.IT CEO Adam Jarczyn, who talked with us about the New Year’s Resolution that got him started with startups, his regret in promising each of his family members a Ferrari of their own, and the pivot from location-based chatting that turned his company into what it is today.
What is the backstory behind HOVR.IT?
The majority of the team has been working together on apps for about two years now. The first app we ever did was a new take on location-based conversation.
We came up with this neat idea: we thought that every venue, every location in the world should have a chat room that people can interact with in an infinite number of ways. It’s kind of a Twitter meets Foursquare, but without the checking in, the following, or the friending.
We thought that it would be really cool to see what was going on in different parts of the world without having to physically be there, and without having to check in there but engage in a location-based conversation with an infinite number of people.
We went in and tried to build this application. We actually had a partnership with Social Media Week - Toronto back in February of last year to launch the application. We had this idea, said “Okay let’s do it,” built the app, and it was great, but then we got into an incubator in June of last year in Toronto called INcubes, which is a privately-held incubator.
We got in with our app, but when we got there we realized that we’d developed a solution to a problem that no one really has. It’s hard to find people who have an issue where they need to talk to strangers about information they need on-demand at some location.
So we thought, Well what’s some other cool location-based stuff that we can do? Where we really fell into is that a lot of people discover things on Pinterest, but how do you buy those things you see? Especially people like my girlfriend, who wants to touch everything before she tries it on. How do I help someone like her find a retailer who sells an online product she found through a non-retail venue?
That’s where we really fell into the HOVR.IT concept we have today.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Probably when I started writing down all of my ideas in my phone.
I kind of had an interesting school experience. I was doing my undergrad in biochemistry and math and stats. There was a time when I thought I’d be an actuary scientist; I like the probability, especially since it’s so interesting for me, but soon after that I wasn’t ready for the real world so I jumped into my MBA and I was doing that with a bunch of friends. I guess when you’re in that particular stream you end up having these “what if” discussions with your friends all the time.
“What if we made a business that did this?” and “What if we did something that did that?” I just started seeing all these little silly business ideas all over the place and writing them down in my phone. I’d be talking to my girlfriend about all these things that I thought would be cool and then one day -- the beginning of 2012 -- she basically said to me, “Your New Year’s Resolution is to pursue one of your ideas. I’m tired of hearing you just talking about it.”
I think when you start it you don’t really have any idea how to do it, but when you start immersing yourself in everything then things become a lot clearer. It’s about finding people that are equally enthusiastic and want to join you on this journey that you don’t really know where the end is going to be.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Oh man. Well, the first thing I learned is that no matter how I plan the day, it will never go the way I expect it to. There are so many moving parts and you try to keep track of everything going on with the business that, on any given day, I’ll walk out the door and say, “Today, I’m just focusing on sales. All I’m doing all day is just sales.” And the second I get into the office I’m doing not sales.
The typical day I’d say the whole team gets together first thing in the morning. We generally do a daily update, so that would be 15 minutes roundtable: “What’s everyone working on today? What did everyone complete yesterday?” Just so everyone is clear. We’re really focused on making sure that everyone knows what’s going on and there’s a lot of transparency around what we’re doing.
After that we go ahead and start moving through the tasks that we have for the day, but we stick together, we all face each other at a large table. Generally we don’t take lunch; we all starve. I’ll have some carrots on a given day and then get home some time around six or seven and finally have a meal, which is pretty consistent with the rest of the team. It’s a good thing from a health perspective but it’s too bad for our situation.
We’re currently working out of the incubator space that we’ve been in since June, so there’s always a group of mentors coming in or interesting people coming in and out of there that we can talk to, whether it’s investors, people with expertise in accounting, business model development, and more.
It’s a very flexible day, but the standard day is pretty much get there first thing in the morning, do a debrief on what we’re trying to do during the day, and then just kind of go at it.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do as an entrepreneur?
It’s a pretty big sacrifice to your family and your friends. Luckily for me my friends are really supportive and my family’s really supportive. You take a huge step backward socially. You generally take a huge step backward financially as well.
I think the hardest thing is just to recognize that every day you’re pursuing something where the end game is not the most tangible thing, but you keep pursuing it and continue to progress. We joke about it at the office -- we’re pretty much all in this thing where we have no risk aversion.
From a professional perspective and a financial perspective we’re pretty much as non risk averse as possible. The biggest thing that surprises me around this whole thing is the juggling -- how do I make time for my family, my friends, and girlfriend?
I think one thing that has come up lately is that we have this feeling that we never get enough accomplished on a given day. I’m really happy that we have that feeling because it’s inherent in our motivation and our enthusiasm for what we’re doing.
We get a lot of things done, but we leave wanting more, and it keeps us moving forward every day
To get back to the original question, I would say the hardest thing I’ve had to do is basically put the rest of everything on hold while I pursue this thing. Or maybe that’s just me being very bad at time management.
If you sold your company today for $1 billion, what’s the first thing you would do with the money?
I think I promised everyone in my family a Ferrari at some point. I know it’s a joke but I think if I were to sell the company for $1 billion they would probably hold me to that.
I’d definitely go on vacation. We’d probably party in Vegas. I mean, we’d do a lot of stupid things.
What does 2013 have in store for HOVR.IT?
A lot of plans. We have just over a million products in our database. My expectation is that we’re aiming to have at least 10 million products by the end of the year, but that’s definitely not as high as we want to go.
Right now we’re focused on Pinterest, but we’ll be launching into an internet-wide version in the next 60 days or so, going on all different platforms. We want to have a plugin for all the major browsers; there will be a mobile component.
We want people to HOVR on products anywhere online and find retailers who sell those, so it’s really a focus on building a large database and creating the best possible experience for our users. We’re really focused on those two main things.
From a user perspective we just want to make a really cool product that really helps. What is exciting for us is that we're not that destination of discovery like Pinterest. We’re really trying to just provide a tool to people who have a really hard time finding products. I’d love to see that people are getting a lot of value out of it.
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