Author’s note: The Velocity Accelerator Program is hosting five companies for its winter cohort. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll bring you profiles of these startups. On Wednesday, we published the first profile of Drifter Events.
Andrew Klawier had never heard of Lean Startup methodology until co-founder of GroomHQ, Pat McMahon, suggested the idea of applying to Velocity. Klawier spent 10 days, full time, working on the application, living in a Heine Brothers coffee shop trying to master the Business Model Canvas. He sought out advice from Hollis Gargola, Velocity office manager, and Greg Langdon, serial entrepreneur mentor.
Though they’ve since been accepted at Velocity and are three weeks into the program, Klawier is reluctant to label his teammates with titles or call GroomHQ a “company” quite yet.
GroomHQ will be a free, web-based service and community “to give grooms the tools and knowledge to accomplish any wedding task assigned to them,” Klawier says.
The GroomHQ team is now Klawier, McMahon and Chris Wiedmar, co-founders, and Max Hartz, who joined the team right after Christmas as the technical co-founder.
Currently, Klawier is the only one working full time on the project, but everyone is working hard in their spare time. There are nightly phone calls between the four, and the other co-founders try to make it to Velocity as often as possible, especially when there is a mentor coming in that specifically speaks to their area of expertise.
And Klawier’s area of expertise is leadership.
Upon graduating from University of Miami of Ohio with a degree in finance, Klawier found himself interviewing for entry-level jobs with no chance of leadership opportunities. All his life, his father, a Marine, had been nudging his son toward a career in the military. And all his life, Klawier said he was “never going to join the military.”
But then he realized that because of his degree, he would enter the Marines as an officer, undergo leadership training, and then be thrown into the fire. If he was good enough, some senior officer would probably take him under his wing and mentor him.
And despite all of his previous protests, suddenly the Marines seemed like a better prospect than being a number cruncher in a cubicle.
The St. Xavier High grad served as a Marine Infantry Officer and ran light armory reconnaissance in Afghanistan. When he left the Marines after four and a half years last August, he’d been a company commander in charge of 170 Marines.
Following his stint in the military, Klawier says he was an “amateur vagabond,” visiting friends, learning to ski, surfing on the West Coast, visiting regions he’d never visited. For four months he traveled pretty much nonstop.
In October 2013 he returned home for a few days to attend “Big Blue Madness,” the first men’s basketball practice of the season — at midnight — for the University of Kentucky.
That’s when Pat McMahon first talked to Klawier about his ideas for GroomHQ. McMahon, Klawier and Wiedmar have been friends since their freshman year at St. X.
Both McMahon and Wiedmar were married; they felt pretty certain that this idea for a “Virtual Best Man” was marketable. But neither of them were in the position to quit their full-time jobs and commit to the project; they parked it as an LLC but didn’t have any time to execute.
Although he’s never been a groom himself, Klawier had been in enough weddings to know quite a bit about being a best man and a groomsman and how communication and planning is almost always a problem for wedding parties.
And every time Klawier mentioned the idea to newlywed women, he says, “their eyes just lit up.”
“Seriously, I was looking for anything to prevent me from going to business school.”
Through Groom HQ, grooms will establish an account and the service will help them track and plan the choices they have to make. Certain features will be shared with the bride or the groomsmen or even the groom’s parents.
Typical (or traditional) parts of a wedding that are planned by the groom: his attire and the attire of his groomsmen, groomsmen gifts, the honeymoon, the DJ or band, bachelor party and the rehearsal dinner.
The typical timeline for planning a wedding is around a year. Klawier says that eventually the service will be able to predict grooms’ “pain points” and approximately where in the timeline those pains will occur, in turn sending the grooms the right tools to deal with the problem at the right time.
“Groomsmen’s gifts are a good way to start” working with vendors, Klawier says, and GroomHQ plans to work with vendors on both a national and local scale. While many men gravitate toward traditional gifts — an engraved flask, an engraved beer stein, pretty much an engraved any-kind-of-drink-related-gift — there are plenty of unique and quirky gifts. Like a “Man Crate” — manly gifts packed in a real crate, delivered with a crow bar or a wooden six-pack holder (both of which could probably be engraved).
Currently the founders are working on creating content for the site — answers for Frequently Asked Questions — either that arose in their own experiences with weddings or suggested by friends and people responding to social media.
The landing page for GroomHQ just recently went live, and now the company will begin its email and newsletter campaign.
“Tell us your problems, and you’ll be part of the building process,” Klawier says. If you have a wedding-related question, they’ll help you answer it and possibly make the answer part of the website content.
The big push to attract users will be through social media and SEO experiments.
The service will be free to users, and Klawier expects to monitize the service through partnerships, affiliate programs, data mining and maybe some small ads. User experience is paramount, assures Klawier.
“We want there to be no reason a groom wouldn’t want to use it.”