Sooligan is a mobile app that makes it quick, easy and fun to ask questions, receive answers and get up-to-the-second tips on everything you need to know about a city from the people who know it best—the locals. The official launch date is February 1st, 2013, right before the Super Bowl, but there is a version live in the app store now!
The name of the app derives from the combination of the words social and hooligan. Founders Nikka Umil and Natasia Malaihollo consider themselves Sooligans, not hipsters, and you will, “soon see them everywhere.”
SBN got to chat with Natasia about the startup and how they got from California to Arkansas to spreading the word about Sooligan in cities across the country.
What type of person is most likely to use the app?
Sooligan has two kinds of users, the locals and the mover/shaker. Sooligan is a platform for locals to share what they like or dislike about their city, while it is also a way for users that are moving or traveling into a new city to easily find local information. So these people may be entrepreneurs, businessmen and women, travelers, vacationers, but especially college students.
What city has been most receptive so far?
Fayetteville, Arkansas and Berkeley, CA are tied for having the most enthusiastic Sooligans right now. Berkeley most likely because we are Cal alumni, and the company was based from Berkeley originally. As for Fayetteville, we just graduated from a tech accelerator there about a month ago, and the community, from the government level down to the students at University of Arkansas have all been very supportive. Whenever we are in Fayetteville, people are eager to learn more about Sooligan and help us spread the word.
What do you think is the biggest benefit to launching during the Super Bowl?
The ability to reach a lot of different people from all across the country in one place is priceless. The people coming to New Orleans for the Super Bowl are not just coming from the two teams’ respective home city, but they are coming from all over. The ability to be able to potentially reach these people and allow them to bring back Sooligan to the cities they came from would help us spread the Sooligan message very quickly.
Where do you see yourselves and the company in 6 months? A year?
In 6 months, hopefully Sooligan will be active in 20 universities with a minimum of 100,000 users. In a year, if we do everything right, at a million users and growing.
What attracted you most to Arkansas?
Well, we were attracted to the accelerator The Ark Challenge first before we were attracted to the NWA region or state. Growing up in California, honestly, Arkansas was never on our radar. However, The Ark was something very interesting. It was their first cohort, and they were partially federally and state funded. It was part of a larger initiative to create new jobs and grow the local economy. We figured that being their first year, and ultimately having something to prove, they would go all out for their first class. It would also be a lot easier to grow and test Sooligan in a small city like Fayetteville versus trying to compete with a million other startups in San Francisco, and not get any help. As we researched the area, we found out that Northwest Arkansas has the most billionaires per capita in America. Retail and transportation giants like Walmart, Tyson’s Chicken, and JB Hunt are all based from that one region so we also figured we could make some great connections in Arkansas, which we have.
Why do you think Sooligan is better than Yelp, Urbanspoon, etc.?
Sooligan’s main features, the “Rants and Raves newsfeed” is in real time, which allows our system to show what people like and don’t like at any given moment. For example, someone ranting about the long line at Mother’s Restaurant right now is a lot helpful to you than looking up a review from a customer 2 weeks that had to wait in a long line. In our case, Sooligan users would know that you can expect to wait in line right now if you go to Mothers versus I might be in a long line because someone two weeks ago was. Sooligan is also not just limited to dining. We want our users to rant and rave about traffic, tests, the football game, weather, and pretty much anything that will allow someone else to see what the current culture or local environment is.
What has been your favorite part of the startup life so far?
Presenting at The Ark’s Demo Day was probably the best and favorite memory about the startup life. We worked so hard to get to that stage and present to the room of investors. That day really felt like a dream. We were the last company to present, and right before I walked on the stage, I saw Governor Beebe (Arkansas) come in with his security. Due to his busy schedule, Sooligan was the only company that he was able to see present that day. Seeing him there, and the room full of Arkansas leaders and investors together, just showed me that handwork and tenacity goes a very long way.
How much money have you raised? How much do you want to raise?
We’ve raised about $53,000 in our pre-seed funding. We want to raise an additional $450,000 to help us get to 1 million users and begin monetizing on our own. We have a very unique business model but we don’t want to implement the first part of it until we have 100,000 users.
Who has been the best support/mentor in this process? Why?
We really can’t name one person because we’ve had so many great mentors and supporters from The Ark Challenge. Each mentor has provided different expertise and experience that has helped us make a better product, and opened doors to a lot of opportunities. In fact, we are here in New Orleans now because a mentor put us in touch with Raidious, the creators of the NFL’s Social Media Command Center last year in Indianapolis. Of course, none of this would even be possible if it weren’t for our 5 angel investors who funded us within weeks of the accelerator ending and allowing us to continue our journey.