CACHE VALLEY STARTUP HAS GONE GLOBALPosted on June 4, 2014
Citygro, born in Logan, Utah, is now LIVE in 7 COUNTRIES!
CityGro is an Automated Loyalty Marketing company that started in 2009 out of Cache Valley, UT (formerly called BlueCache, Inc). The company has a mission to create better relationships between businesses and their customers by enhancing communication between the two. Their footprint has expanded from a few restaurants in Logan, UT to hundreds of restaurants, retail stores, salons, and even universities around the world.
Here is their story.
After witnessing thousands of dollars in expired products being thrown out by a local grocery store, CityGro Founder and CEO Jon Parrish asked why. Why not notify customers of the expiring food in order to move it off the shelf? The problem was the inability to communicate with customers at the last minute. In fact, to this day, most small businesses have no access to their customers from the moment the customer leaves their storefront. This sparked the creation of CityGro.
Jon spent the summer and fall of 2009 working with offshore developers to create the beginning of the CityGro platform (then called BlueCache). When time allowed, Jon would take screenshots of the non-existent product down to local merchants and request their participation. CityGro was created as a community wide loyalty program where consumers could sign up for discounts from local merchants in exchange for the ability for the merchant to reach out to them with updates and promotions. Prior to the product being launched, the idea attracted 75 merchants in Cache Valley as well as co-founder, Steve Russell.
Steve shared a passion for entrepreneurship as well as the vision of better communication between businesses and their clients. He became the Chief Marketing Director for CityGro and played a large role in adding structure to the business model.
The 2010 addition of CityGro’s Technology Officer, Ben Oman, brought new opportunities in software and technology advancements for CityGro. The simple community rewards website quickly began to ripen. First came enhanced abilities for businesses to text and email consenting customers, followed by new technologies to capture customer information and eventually the capacity to completely automate marketing messages to customers based on their interactions with a business.
Jon, Steve, and Ben were nominated as the Cache Valley Chamber of Commercem Entrepreneurs of the year in 2011. By that time they had caught the eye of Utah State, who became intrigued with the ability to provide new benefits to students including regular updates about events and activities. They were tied into dozens of restaurants, salons and retail stores throughout much of Utah. And they had meetings lined up with dozens of investors that were curious to know the future of BlueCache. Still, something about the model didn’t feel quite right.
The story of a startup wouldn’t be very appropriate without some mentioned of the hard times. Jon and Steve couch surfed for the first 12 months in order to get things off the ground in locations that they didn’t necessarily live. The group, as a whole, invested time, effort, and other opportunities at their own expense without guarantee of a paycheck. The revenue model changed frequently and there was always a question of how business was going to move forward once the savings ran out.
It wasn’t until two years later that CityGro really honed in on their technology and their place in the market.
Here is where CityGro is today.
The CityGro team now resides in downtown Salt Lake City. They have 12 employees and continue their mission to create better relationships between businesses and their customers.
In 2012, CityGro released what has become their flagship product, the iPad kiosk. The iPad Kiosk allows customers to quickly opt-in for updates and promotions with nothing but a finger and a phone number. This simple interface has made it possible for hundreds of businesses to communicate regularly with their customers.
In the fall of 2013, Luke Gordon, then working as CityGro’s Director of Logistics and Supply Chains, knocked down the barriers to sell CityGro’s software outside of the US. The CityGro iPad Kiosk was launched in a dozen small businesses in the Bahamas, a colony of Great Britain. Since their launch in the Bahamas, CityGro has expanded through Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, and the Dominican Republic.
CityGro continues to visit Logan frequently. One of CityGro’s first merchants, The Pita Pit, located in Logan, UT; has built a network of over 7,000 customers who have opted-in to receive specials and updates. Utah State University has integrated CityGro into a dozen different entities on campus and uses the platform to reach out to tens of thousands of students. And many other merchants along Logan Main Street continue to communicate to their customers through CityGro.
The young company is expanding quickly. They have hopes to be the world’s best communication tool between businesses and their customers. CityGro is not surfing Cache Valley couches as frequently as they have in days past, but they still call Logan home.