Startups

A pivot led this DC founder to building a ‘super app’ for retail and delivery

Lessons from his first venture in tow, Edward Mbeche's Halen Technologies will combine delivery, rideshare services and travel bookings all in one place.

Edward Mbeche, founder and CEO of Halen Tech.

(Courtesy photo)

As a founder, it’s important to know where your startup is weak. But other times, you just need to know when to walk away.

DC founder Edward Mbeche first got into the tech game when he founded Global Sedan in 2019, a local rideshare service. But when he went to find funding, he ran into issues when he realized that he didn’t have the tech background to support what he wanted to do.

“Everybody asked me the same questions: Do you have a CTO? Do you have a technology background?” Mbeche told Technical.ly. “So I kept getting hit with these questions, but it was a great learning experience where I learned all these things that I needed to do, even in putting a team together.”

In the end, Mbeche decided to regroup and take what he had learned into a new team for what would eventually become Halen Technologies. Founded in 2021, Halen is a “super app” — yes, it’s a thing — that combines all of our favorite customer service offerings: rideshare, food and retail deliveries and bookings for travel and accommodations. The 13-person company, which also has a six-person advisory board, just launched in December with a $250,00 Wefunder campaign for seed funding.

While he said he could have continued on the transportation route, a nod to Mbeche’s roots as the founder of a limo chauffeur company DC Private Cars, he said that he wanted to pursue a super app because of how much he expects apps, and the internet, to grow. When rideshare giants Uber and Lyft were initially launched, Mbeche said, no one thought they’d eventually need to incorporate additional offerings like takeout, e-bikes or scooters.

“[App tech] is almost like building a house,” Mbeche said. “You build a four-bedroom house, you use a foundation that’s going to support the four-bedroom house, right? You’re not going to be able to say: This is a four-bedroom house foundation, let’s put a bunch of [other] stuff on top of it. That’s not going work with this foundation. So we’re building from the foundation itself to allow it to support those multiple services.”

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Founder Edward Mbeche expects the franchise model will allow for bootstrapped growth after raising the initial round.

Halen, Mbeche said, was built primarily using Flutter, and uses AI and machine learning in its UX offerings. The product is also built using a franchise model where interested parties can buy in and head up Halen’s offerings in their area, managing drivers and local advertising. Mbeche noted this makes the platform more hyperlocal and perceptive to a community’s needs.

The unique franchising model and crowdfunding-style seed round, Mbeche thinks, will be ideal for the company’s growth. He noted that crowdfunding prevents companies from getting largely diluted by investors, and he thinks that the franchise model will allow for bootstrapped growth after raising the initial round.

Going forward, Mbeche hopes to have the Halen pilot running by April and to start selling franchises around three to six months afterward; the first pilot will be in the DMV, owned and operated by Halen, not a franchisee. In the meantime, he hopes to help the area embrace the idea of a super app, which he said has assets in convenience (not requiring the user to remember 15 passwords), security (only sharing sensitive info with one app) and privacy (limiting the number of apps tracking a user).

“Let’s say you have 100 apps on your phone that are downloaded and each one does a different service,” Mbeche said. “Instead of having those 100 different apps, you can change those into 12 super apps that can solve [your issues].”

In other words: strength, not weakness.

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