(Photo by Tyler Woods)
Dave Cascino — a man who escaped grizzly bears on the beaches of Alaska in an ATV stuck in the sand, who dropped out of college and worked at a tree farm in Minnesota — was subdued Friday afternoon.
“I think I spent all my excitement today,” he said. “We’ve been high-fiving. Yelling. In a good way. Irrationally and rationally exuberant at the same time. We built something that’s working. And we’re seeing the results. That’s pretty satisfying.”
He’s talking about his new app, Crescendo, which soft-launched over the last few weeks, but which had its first major test earlier that day with a ticket giveaway campaign for the Tribeca Film Festival.
Some 250 of the film festival’s 500 followers opened the push notification the festival sent out, and did so in less than five minutes. That’s what Crescendo does, it allows companies to set up accounts and grow an audience and send them push notifications, a bit like Mailchimp is for email or Squarespace is for websites. Instead of a company having to develop its own app and include push, a project which can cost $300,000, conservatively, they can sign up for Crescendo, which has already done that heavy lifting for them, and then customize their page.
“Every other mechanism for reaching audiences is falling off,” Cascino, who is also the founder of the popular web service Thunderclap, said. “Organic reach on Facebook with its new algorithm is around 1 percent. Twitter is around there, too. We’ve seen an exodus back home to email, but email is fraught with its own problems, too. Email has the promotions tab, messages still go to spam quite often, it’s just this messy-ass place. The open rates even on a great email are 10-20 percent on a good day. So if you have an audience, it’s hard even to reach your own freaking audience.”
The open rates on Crescendo, though it remains early in the product’s lifecycle, are over 50 percent in every test so far. In fact, 50 percent is the baseline Crescendo expects, and has come up with a new stat, 0 to 50, which is the time it takes from a push being sent out to it reaching a 50 percent open rate. The two main clients thus far have been Trap Karaoke (which is a successful side product of a Thunderclap staffer) and the Tribeca Film Festival. Both companies have 0 to 50 open rates at five minutes or below. That means that when they send out a blast, people are actually reading it, and reading it fast.
Cascino thinks Crescendo can put brands at the forefront of opt-in marketing, meaning marketing to people who actually want to receive messages from a brand. A lot of email marketing comes from lists or from hidden checkmarks at checkout that people don’t uncheck. Posts on Facebook and Twitter would be considered opt-in marketing, since people have to like or follow the brands to get messages from them, but because of the algorithms and the push to actually make brands pay Facebook and Twitter to reach their audience, it’s harder to do. Crescendo will operate as software as a service, charging companies a monthly fee to maintain their page.
Raising money will be the next step, though Cascino said that since Thunderclap is now bringing in revenue, fundraising is not as pressing as it was the first time around. He’s looking for a Series A somewhere in the $1 million to $2 million range. I asked if he was concerned about raising in a time marked by down-rounds and VC belt-tightening.
“Not really. If you have traction and an actual product that’s working and you can show the numbers and it’s not just a PowerPoint and a dream and you have a business that makes money already…” he trailed off. That’s enough reasons.