Friday Nooner: Shaner’s Experience As A Fresh-Out-Of-College Startup Founder

This week’s Friday Nooner was on a tight schedule to accommodate guest David Shaner’s “hard out” after a half-hour. But before Shaner—the Founder and CEO of Raleigh-based Offline—joined the show, Joe addressed an A/C problem he encountered with his Tesla in the midst of this week’s warm weather. Although Joe hasn’t fully ‘de-Musked’ yet, Elon should certainly shed some tears when he realizes he’s lost the GrepBeat Godfather as a prized customer.

After Joe’s addition to his list of grievances against Mr. Musk, Jackie joined the team from the ambiance of Mateo (thanks to the magic of green screens). The tapas restaurant is just a stone’s throw from past (and future; the next is March 16) GrepBeat happy hours at Bull McCabe’s in downtown Durham and is one of the restaurants featured in Offline—thus very apropos for today’s guest.

Apart from conversation around tapas and food-sharing, Jackie’s presence also brought announcement of recent GrepBeat news. This week, GrepBeat profiled startups Beloo and Able Device while the For Starters podcast featured Ricci Wolman, the CEO of Durham-based Written Word Media. By now show host Anil Chawla has created an impressive audio persona, and Joe thinks he should’ve scrapped the whole startup thing and jumped into broadcasting as a career. And in big news, Erkang Zheng, founder and CEO of unicorn-status JupiterOne, was announced as the second keynote speaker next to Bill Spruill for this year’s Grep-a-palooza 2.

Before David’s anticipated appearance, Joe and Pete briefly touched on the Supreme Court’s consideration of cases involving YouTube (owned by Google) and Twitter that could potentially lead to big changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That section of the law is basically a bulletproof vest against liability for social media companies for content posted by third parties, and if it were struck down or severely narrowed, it could spell big problems for internet companies. The early speculation from oral arguments this week is that the Justices seem reluctant to make huge changes, so they may largely dodge the issue and/or kick it back to Congress to “fix,” and good luck with that. But we shall see!

Joe also noted Facebook’s move towards paid verification and commented on social media companies’ general trend from ad-based to subscription revenue, which was the perfect segue to introduce David’s subscription startup—Offline. Here are some highlights from their conversation.

  • Offline is a $15/month subscription platform that curates two restaurant recommendations for users and provides them with time-sensitive coupons to encourage people to actually explore the fun food spots in their city. Currently, Offline is preparing to expand into Nashville, Tampa, and Atlanta this year to join its existing markets in the Triangle and Charlotte. 
  • David said the hardest part about his startup’s unique business model is balancing the number of restaurants and quantity of subscribers using the platform. Although calibrating this supply and demand can pose difficulties, David’s team has experienced incredible success with crowdfunding and recently acquired $75,000 in subscription revenue from their Nashville pre-sale campaign. 
  • While media often drives the narrative that startup success happens overnight, David described how his initial entrepreneurial idea for connecting people more with activities in their cities went through many iterations before becoming what Offline is today. Though some might think it was his youth and naivety that contributed to his success, David said his largest motivation for getting Offline off the ground was honoring the support (and $$$) that his friends and family invested in him and committing to personal success—plus a fear of failure. 

You can watch the full episode on LinkedIn here and Facebook here.

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