Tell us about yourself
My name is Jesse and I am the co-founder of The Spesh Corporation. I grew up in Calgary and I’ve always been in the energy business. Over the last few years, obviously, the economic downturn hit and a lot of people lost their jobs and/or had their income cut back. At that time [I noticed from] some friends of mine that ran restaurants that there were a lot of great deals popping up and a lot of opportunities for people to save some money. So we came up with the idea to start an app to showcase all the specials at pubs and restaurants for people that are looking for happy hours, wine deals, beer deals, wing deals, patios, sporting events, live music etc. It would be just an easy few clicks away. We’re currently over 12,000 downloads of The Spesh, 450,000 clicks and 250 places on the app.
How many people does your team consists of?
There are just three of us. Two on the tech side and then me on the business development side. We allocate time to The Spesh when we can.
When did you start?
We started about two and a half years ago, but we went through about 19-20 different versions of the app. Then we got to a test phase period and eventually were able to launch our newest version of The Spesh app last year, which is the best version.
What you did prior to this venture
I still work in the energy sector; we’ve been able to create & build The Spesh by spending a few hours a week on it and it’s gone pretty well so far.
What problem does your business solve?
Two things. It provides opportunities for people to go to new places - because in general, people seem to go to the same two or three places - and to help save some money. There are always good deals out there and people are always looking for half priced wine, beer, or wings. It is also good for the restaurants to bring people in during slow times and to attract new people to their places. The Spesh app also showcases some of the different things that establishments might be doing: speciality beers, vegan nights, showing sporting events, or just weekend and weekday specials. We help get their promotions out, and people seem to really like that. The app is not just about the specials, but trying new places and having fun while you’re doing it.
How do you solve this problem?
It’s a mobile app on IOS and Android, and within just a few clicks you can find whatever you’re looking for. There’s lots of different categories.
When did you notice a gap in the market?
Kind of during the downturn in 2015-16, when everything was going downhill in the city. There were lots of layoffs and [previously] restaurants didn’t usually put on a lot of deals, then suddenly they were popping up everywhere. I started noticing it at places I used to go to; so we decided to speak to our friends who ran restaurants about getting these promotions out. We started with 20-30 places and then it grew to 250 places as we have grown our network.
What is your company culture?
It is just myself and two fellow co-founders, so it’s fun and we have a good time. We do lots of events and stuff in the community with our friends and The Spesh supporters. We like to support different things around town and luckily our energy company supports a lot of charities and community events, so we get out and attend a lot of great things and meet a lot of great people around town. We have a lot of fun and we also go out to eat at places in The Spesh’s network and support them whenever we can as well.
Three words to describe company with?
We would describe the company as: fun, innovative, and creative. We’ve tried a lot of ideas and marketing things, including a lot of things on social media which has been big for us. We now have close to 10,000 followers on all our social media accounts.
Why did you choose The Accelerator?
I had some friends that were a part of it; ParkChamp, who were in the batch before us. Also, I met some people at the ATB Booster events that The Spesh helped sponsor, and I met with Thomas and Sam. It’s been great. I’ve met some really great people and it has been great to be involved. Coming from the energy side, I never knew this type of stuff existed in Calgary, and there is kind of an underground tech movement/uprising that not many people know exists here. It has been fun to get exposed to that and be involved in all the events. The ideas just blow my mind- it’s crazy to see what people are actually doing and how creative they are.
How did you find out about it
Through ParkChamp. I knew them from one of the events we did with ATB at Booster Night. Also, Phil who is part of The Accelerator, met with me last year and we discussed their MyPersonalMenu idea and he mentioned it too. After several people mentioned it, I sent an email to Thomas and it went from there.
What has your experience with the The Accelerator been like?
It has been fantastic! All the events they have put on have been great. Each event we’re exposed to something different and new people. That pitch event to Vahalla- the creativity, ideas, and seeing people getting help with their presentations was great to watch. There’s just so much value in these things. It’s really good for everyone, and everyone is so nice. It’s just really great people in a creative and fun environment. Sam, Thomas and Pieter are all excellent people and really great to work with. It's amazing to see what they are putting together on the tech side in the city.
What the program has connected you with
The Valhalla Pitch night was really neat to see. Especially, how it was organized and what questions were asked. I got to see what people were looking for on certain platforms and hear some direct feedback for participants that needed some guidance. With Pat Lor, everyone got put in their place for everything that they were doing wrong, and you don’t get offended by it, you get better from it.
What has been your biggest lesson you learned while in the program?
To know how to pitch in a short precise amount of time so that people understand [the business]. You don’t make it too complicated and you don’t ramble on about stuff that your audience doesn’t want to hear. You need to be direct about what your business is and how you can grow it, then let people ask you questions for the finer details if that is what they want. Obviously, as with anything, preparation is extremely important too. If you’re not prepared a pitch just comes off poor and there is no hiding it. For me when I’m talking about The Spesh it’s a lot different than how I would talk about energy. So it was a good wake up for me, cause it caught me off guard and I was terrible at first. It’s fixable though, you have to put some real thought into it, and when you have limited time you have to use all your words properly to make the biggest impact you can in a short period of time. Otherwise you lose people or you sound like you are unsure of your own business model.
What has been a major accomplishment for you this year?
Getting over 10,000 downloads and getting to 12,000 was pretty big. Obviously, getting over 450,000 clicks on the app is huge as well. We continue to see The Spesh grow and I think we’ve done pretty well for the time we’ve been able to put into The Spesh. We know the concept works and we know that people really like the app.
What is next for you?
Raising some money and hiring someone full time to work on our marketing side. Also, starting another strong advertising campaign with our various partners and connections in the city to increase our downloads. Then going into different cities and really growing our user base and content within The Spesh network. Follow us on our social channels @thespeshyyc to stay up-to-date with Calgary’s best specials!