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Teens harness tech for better restaurant recommendations

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By Will Grandbois

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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This week, a local entrepreneur and his team are taking the next step toward launching an innovative new app with the launch of their Kickstarter campaign.

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In addition to raising at least $5,000 to get GoRound off the ground, they hope it will demonstrate widespread interest in a different kind of dining app. Already, the company is incorporated as an LLC, with officers in markets around the country.

The twist? None of them are old enough to vote, and some aren’t even ready for a driver’s license.

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Chief Executive Officer Bear Matthews is a sophomore at Basalt High School. Chief Operating Officer Daniel Barnes, 17, and Market Researcher Alex Seibert, 16, are also from Basalt, while Algorithm Developer Ayden Arbar, 14, hails from Glenwood Springs. Beyond that, the team is spread from Manhattan – Chief Design Officer Sebastian Rodriguez, 16, and User Interface Designer Blaise Lowen, 15, – to Newport – Chief Financial Officer Christopher Elwell, 16 and Web Developer Spencer Dellenbaughs, 15, – to Boca Raton, where you’ll find Head of Marketing Max Gregori, 16.

“There are so many bright minds around the world that are practically unused for 18 years,” Matthews observed. “To bypass our goal would be not just a huge pat on the back for my team, but it’s proving something to every teenager in the United States that you can create something brilliant and you don’t need to stand by the expectations of your society to be successful.”

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The idea, and Matthews’ drive to transcend teen stereotypes, predates his arrival in Basalt about a year ago. Although his English accent belies his time there, he’s more recently from New York City, where he and several of his fellows attended The Browning School. Though not a coder himself, he brings a lot of ideas to the table, from the minutiae of design to the big picture of teen empowerment. The concept for GoRound, in particular, came during a short stint in Los Angeles.

“I found myself entering in parameters of what kind of food I liked and where I like to go, but I found that to be an unnecessary step since my phone is always tracking me,” he explained. “Knowing what restaurants I go to and how frequently I go there, it can figure out what I like.”

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The app, consequently, dispenses with reviews and instead pays attention to where and when users dine. Your phone is probably already storing that information, so it’s ready to go when you log in without the need to set anything up.

The team hopes to release the free app on May 23. Ideally, they’d see tens of thousands of downloads right off the bat and hundreds of thousands in the first few months, providing the behavior data their algorithm needs to do its work. After that, the free app for iOS, Android and web would start bringing real value to their equity through advertisements and affiliate marketing.

“I’m looking forward to getting the project online and seeing what people have to say about it,” Gregori said. “Reaching out to people and letting them know what we do and how it can positively help them is something that genuinely interests me.I’ve been having an incredible amount of fun, but I’m also learning what it takes to run a business.”

“Before no one would ever dream of starting a company at 16. Now the world has evolved that it’s becoming more and more usual for kids like us to generate their ideas and bring them to life,” he added. “If you have an idea, you should go for it and try to bring it to life. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your mentors and ask them for advice. There are people with amazing ideas out there, and sometimes it’s a struggle because it just seems so vast to accomplish.”

Matthews agrees. Long term, he hopes to create an organization that will help other teens pursue their own big ideas.

“Anybody can create a company today. This went from an idea on a napkin to an employee with 30 employees on its way to a million dollar valuation,” he said. “In a way, the world is a lot more accessible to you, but you have to fight to get your company of the ground because everybody’s doing it. It’s finding that unique idea within your mind and then pursuing it with the best team you can find.”

Published in The Sopris Sun on January 19, 2017. 

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