Imagine you’re driving to work and want to grab a cup of coffee and a bagel on the way. Push a button, tell your car computer and it will respond with a nearby deal, along with directions. As you’re walking into a grocery store, you get a text message telling you about a discount on one of your favorite products. On vacation with the family, you’re pinged with special offers at local museums and attractions.
This vision of the future is becoming reality, thanks to Danny Newman (Aero ex’01), the 31-year-old co-founder of Roximity, a rising star in the fast-moving mobile app market. Launched in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, Roximity sends customized, time-sensitive, location-based offers to a user’s cell phone or car computer.
Ford was so taken with Newman’s idea that it will install Roximity in the voice-activated SYNC dashboard computer of more than 4 million of its cars in the next year.
“We’ve been thinking about location-based marketing for a long time,” says Newman, a creative force who does some of his best work between 2 and 6 a.m.
But the idea wasn’t technically viable until September 2011 when Newman’s team cracked the code and won the Ford SYNC App Developer Challenge at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. They had only 24 hours to develop a working prototype of Roximity before delivering a one-minute pitch.
“It’s the holy grail everyone has been talking about,” he says.
Unlike such established companies as Groupon, Roximity users can control how often they receive deal alerts and can tailor offers to their particular interests — anything from sporting events and arts to restaurants and clothing. Co-founder Austin Gayer notes, “It’s not prepaid. That’s one of our big differentiators.”
Roximity already offers deals from more than 10,000 merchants in 150 cities. Newman and Gayer also are working with other auto manufacturers to integrate the app and are talking to major national and international brands about product deals.
“He’s an idea person, but he’s unique in the sense that he’s also very technically capable,” Gayer says of Newman. “When he has an idea he can execute it. He can implement a prototype and meet and articulate that with a potential brand.”
In other words, Newman isn’t going to run out of gas anytime soon.
“I love being able to have an idea and make it happen,” says Newman, who owns a design and development firm with Gayer and has several other business ventures under his belt. “I really just like creating cool new things.”