Author Archives: Spencer Ante

The Village Green: Maplewood-Born WhoWeUse App Moves From Beta to Launch

The Village Green covered our launch as well:

“Remember those blue map pin signs that were popping up all over Maplewood two years ago?

Well, they’re coming back.

WhoWeUse, which debuted in beta locally back in fall 2014, has now launched as “the first social on demand app for local services.”

WhoWeUse is available in New Jersey on Apple’s iOS platform. An Android version is coming later this fall.

Starting today, people in New Jersey can use the WhoWeUse app to find and connect with “plumbers, painters, physicians and many other trusted local services, helping them to improve their quality of life and maintain their homes,” according to a release.

The aim is to help consumers find and hire the best local services through recommendations from friends and neighbors.

John Garbarino

“WhoWeUse melds on-demand and social networking to create a unique experience centered on service requests and recommendations from your friends and neighbors,” said co-founder and CEO — and long-time Maplewood resident — John Garbarino.”

Maplewood Patch: Maplewood Dads Launch WhoWeUse App For Local Services

Maplewood Patch covered our launch:

“A group of suburban New Jersey dads – including two Maplewood residents – are launching what they’re billing as “the first social on demand app for local services.”

According to a company news release, the app is called “WhoWeUse” and “helps consumers find and hire the best local services they need through recommendations from their friends and neighbors.” Using the app, suburban New Jersey residents can connect with local services including plumbers, painters and physicians.

How is the app different from other services such as Angie’s List, Nextdoor and Thumbtack?

“Unlike Angie’s List, recommendation data, not ads, drives what a user sees,” the company news release states. “Unlike Nextdoor, you are not bound by the boundaries of your neighborhood for recommendations, but rather you can follow people you know from outside your neighborhood and we connect you to the businesses as needed. And unlike Thumbtack, services are socially vetted and we connect users with the best local businesses, not the ones that are most in need of customers.”

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WhoWeUse Launches the World’s First Social On Demand App for Local Services Beginning in New Jersey

Successful Public Beta Helps Close Pre-Seed Investor Round from Top Silicon Valley and New York Tech Investors – App Redesign Features Modern, Mobile-First, User-Friendly Interface Connecting Users with Quality Local Services

Maplewood, NJ – September 19, 2016 — WhoWeUse, the first social on demand app for local services, announced today availability in New Jersey of its free mobile app that helps consumers find and hire the best local services they need through recommendations from their friends and neighbors. Starting today, people in New Jersey can take advantage of this new service to find and connect with plumbers, painters, physicians and many other trusted local services, helping them to improve their quality of life and maintain their homes.

“WhoWeUse melds on-demand and social networking to create a unique experience centered on service requests and recommendations from your friends and neighbors,” said co-founder and CEO John Garbarino.

After a user requests a service, WhoWeUse connects them immediately with a list of the most recommended services across their social network for the requested category, while also allowing their friends to respond to the request. Users can also choose to be contacted directly by the most recommended services (without giving up their contact info) to get quotes or more information. “We help people to quickly make a well-informed decision and fix their problem, instead of getting recommendations from strangers,” said CTO and co-founder Pete Clark.

Although WhoWeUse will initially focus its marketing efforts on its home suburban New Jersey region, the company is preparing for a wider national roll-out later this year in other major cities and their surrounding suburbs. WhoWeUse is available on Apple’s iOS platform now. An Android version is coming later this fall.

Following a simple registration, WhoWeUse members can upload and share approved local business contact information from their address books, allowing their friends and neighbors to easily see recommendations for the most popular services they use. Members can also add new services, as well as share reviews and photos from the experience. Unlike an email listserv, Facebook groups or other online groups, recommendations from friends and neighbors are organized by category, ranked by popularity and archived for easy, future reference.

“As suburban dads, we’re trying to solve a problem that we encounter in our everyday lives that has yet to be solved by existing solutions,” said co-founder and President Spencer Ante.

Local services are given access to an online dashboard that lets them engage, grow and monetize these social connections. In doing so, businesses can increase their app ranking and word-of-mouth opportunity, which WhoWeUse visualizes for the very first time. Businesses will be able to send current and prospective clients quotes for service requests, offers and thank you notes.

WhoWeUse recently completed a successful pilot program in the New Jersey suburbs where two of its co-founders are based. The first few thousand users of the app shared nearly 10,000 unique businesses, and entered hundreds of requests and recommendations. The public beta validated that WhoWeUse’s mobile-first technology allows people to easily share and organize word-of-mouth recommendations, while helping local businesses to optimize their best source of new business.

The company’s experienced team and pilot metrics helped WhoWeUse helped close a pre-seed investment round that was led by New York early stage investment firm Blue {Seed} Collective. The funds financed a redesign of the app’s user experience and design led by world-class designers Lesley Fleishman and Aleks Gryczon, who both hail from Work & Co.–the agency started by all former HUGE founders.

WhoWeUse CoFounder Spencer Ante Pens Post For WSJ Accelerators

Team WhoWeUse had some exciting news to share: We are proud to announce that cofounder and President Spencer Ante was invited to write a post for the Wall Street Journal Accelerators blog on our company for its series on crowdsourcing.

The post explores the unexpected challenges that startups face–like our squabble with Maplewood over yard signs. Other series contributors include author Vivek Wadwha, AdmitSee cofounder Lydia Fayal, BodeTree cofounder Chris Myers, TechStars NY founder David Cohen, and Crowd Companies founder Jeremiah Owyang.

Accelerators is a cool and useful blog where startup mentors discuss strategies and challenges of creating new businesses.

Who Do You Love? How WhoWeUse Can Help Your Business

Here at WhoWeUse, we don’t spend all of our time fighting unjust laws, although it might have seemed that way the last two weeks. In fact, we spend most of our energy trying to make the app better for both consumers and local businesses.

Since our launch in early October, we’ve been mostly focused on consumers, gathering crucial early feedback to see how people are using the public beta version of WhoWeUse. This week, we’ve shifted our attention a bit to businesses, explaining how our app can help them strengthen ties with existing customers and find new customers. After all, the whole idea behind WhoWeUse is that it connects consumers with the best local businesses recommended by their friends and neighbors.

As part of this effort, Wednesday morning cofounder John Garbarino and I attended a meeting of the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce where we were invited to address the group. We gave a demo of the app and explained the benefits to local businesses.

The bottom line? WhoWeUse is a powerful marketing tool that can help your business do things like:

  • Tap your clients’ social circles & word-of-mouth
  • Help your clients become your best sales people
  • Identify which clients are spreading the word so you can thank them accordingly
  • Be part of your clients list of “go-to” services
  • Avoid bad reviews, as comments are only about services people say they use and recommend.
  • Avoid fake reviews, since friends can only share with friends there will not be “fake” friends sharing “fake” comments or reviews

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An owner of the local State Farm franchise attending the meeting said she saw a particular need for WhoWeUse around the holiday season because our referral tracking feature would let her identify the customers that referred her the most business during the year. That way, she said she could send them a thank you gift. Pretty cool, eh?

This week we also redesigned the promo cards we’ve been giving to local businesses. The images you see above are the latest version from our head of design Felix Sockwell. We’ve been asking business owners to hand out these cards to their customers. The owners then tell their customers to download the app and share their businesses they love in the app, starting with the one that gave them the card. Businesses get free marketing from their best customers, and we get a new user. It’s win-win!

If you like the cards and want some for your business, please send us an a note to feedback@whhoweuse.net and we’ll send you some!

Share the love! And download WhoWeUse here to start helping your local business!

– By Spencer Ante

Why WhoWeUse Should Win Its Dispute With Maplewood (Hint: The Law Is On Our Side)

This week, the Maplewood Town Committee ordered WhoWeUse to take down our pin drop signs on residents’ lawns. We argued before the Town Committee that the law, which only allowed signs by contractors and real estate brokers for a limited time, was arbitrary and potentially unconstitutional because it violated a person’s right to free speech. When the ordinance was written, the Internet and smartphones did not even exist, nor did digital businesses.

I’ve had some time to research the case law and it turns out I’m not totally off my rocker. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has actually heard several cases regarding local ordinances restricting the use of signs, and in most cases the Court has found that the ordinances violate a person’s right to free speech.

Ordinances that are not “content-neutral” and restrict certain forms of speech while allowing other forms receive particular scrutiny by the court. The government may place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on public speech, but these restrictions must be engineered without regard to the content of the speech.

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Even content-neutral restrictions can be thrown out if they are overly broad. In Watchtower Bible & Tract Society v Stratton, the Court in 2002 struck down in an 8-1 vote the ordinance of an Ohio town that required all door-to-door advocates of causes, as well as commercial solicitors, to obtain a permit from the mayor’s office. The Court found that the town’s stated interests in protecting residential privacy and preventing fraud were insufficient to justify such a sweeping restriction.

Maplewood also requires the few companies allowed to place signs to get a permit from the town.

In another relatively recent case, City of Ladue v. Margaret P. Gilleo, the Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that a local ordinance restricting the use of signs was unconstitutional.

The city of Ladue had an ordinance prohibiting homeowners from displaying any signs on their property except “residence identification signs, “for sale” signs, and signs warning of safety hazards. The ordinance permitted commercial establishments, churches, and non-profit organizations to erect certain signs that were not allowed at residences.

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Ms. Gilleo owned a home in the town and placed a 24- by36-inch sign saying “Say No to War in the Persian Gulf, Call Congress Now.” The sign disappeared. Ms. Gilleo put up another sign but it was knocked to the ground. When she reported the incident to the police, they told her such signs were prohibited. She sued the city, the Mayor and members of the town council alleging the ordinance violated her free speech rights.

The Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1994. Justice Stevens wrote in a unanimous decision for the court:

Residential signs are an unusually cheap and convenient form of communication. Especially for persons of modest means or limited mobility, a yard or window sign may have no practical substitute. Even for the affluent, the added costs in money or time of taking out a newspaper advertisement, handing out leaflets on the street, or standing in front of one’s house with a hand-held sign may make the difference between participating and not participating in some public debate. Furthermore, a person who puts up a sign at her residence often intends to reach neighbors, an audience that could not be reached nearly as well by other means.

Justice Stevens also shot down concerns of the town that signs would be popping up everywhere, a concern also raised by the Maplewood Mayor.

It bears mentioning that individual residents themselves have strong incentives to keep their own property values up and to prevent “visual clutter” in their own yards and neighborhoods — incentives markedly different from those of persons who erect signs on others’ land, in others’ neighborhoods, or on public property. Residents’ self-interest diminishes the danger of the “unlimited” proliferation of residential signs that concerns the City of Ladue. We are confident that more temperate measures could in large part satisfy Ladue’s stated regulatory needs without harm to the First Amendment rights of its citizens. 

One obvious and reasonable solution is to limit the amount of time that all signs can be placed in a person’s property.

Our signs, to be clear, are not advertisements. They are expressions of support by residents in our town of our mobile application and business. But even if they were deemed to be ads, the Supreme Court has also ruled repeatedly that commercial speech is also protected by the first amendment.

So the law is clearly on our side. Now, it’s up to the Maplewood Town Committee to update the ordinance and allow people to speak freely about all types of businesses, especially digital businesses that are growing fast and generating jobs and wealth for communities.

Technology is frequently ahead of the law. But times change. And so should the law.

To support WhoWeUse and all digital businesses, please download our app and like our Facebook page.

WhoWeUse Challenges Maplewood Lawn Sign Ordinance

The Village Green reported on the controversy we triggered with our pin drop lawn signs, which the town declared illegal Tuesday night.

We are gearing up to challenge the ordinance again and petition the Town Committee to update the law to give online businesses the same commercial speech rights as contractors, which are currently allowed to use signs for a limited time.

At the Tuesday night Township Committee meeting, WhoWeUse co-founders John Garbarino and Spencer Ante argued that their business and the signs are a boon to the town, “drawing attention to local businesses.” Garbarino said that as WhoWeUse grows — the app allows users to find recommendations for local services and businesses from trusted friends — Maplewood should benefit. The founders hope to soon be renting office space in Maplewood and hire more local tech talent.

“We are Maplewood proud,” said Garbarino. “We can put Maplewood on the map.”

Garbarino also argued that the homes displaying the signs are doing so voluntarily. “You call these ads. These are our friends.” He said that WhoWeUse was not planning to make more signs and only planned to keep them up until harsh winter conditions hit town.

Ante said that WhoWeUse wanted to “be treated the same as other local businesses,” meaning contractors. He argued that residents should be able to display the signs as long as homeowners are using the service.”

Read more here.