This blog is a part of my volunteer efforts to build a strong entrepreneurial community in South Florida and worldwide.
I recently spoke with Mike Dannheim, a technology entrepreneur who is determined to succeed right here, in South Florida. Mike is the founder and CEO of FreeLunched, an online site where retailers can offer daily promotional giveaways to consumers and the consumers are getting rewarded for promoting products that they like to their friends.
Mike and I talked about what it’s like to be a technology entrepreneur in Miami and where a Miami entrepreneur can turn for help and support. Below is an edited version of our conversation.
Irina: Hi, Mike. How did you become an entrepreneur?
Mike: When I was 16 I started a profitable business, a commercial landscaping service. I remember it as one of the most enjoyable times of my life.
Then I spent 10 years working in business development, mostly for finance companies. I worked for Key Bank, Merrill Lynch, and Hansen Capital Management -- a hedge fund.
In 2009 I left the financial industry to pursue a consulting opportunity at a Miami-based startup called AdShip, that facilitated relationships between shippers and advertisers. I worked on building their advertising model and developing revenue generating partnerships. I learned a great deal while working at AdShip about tech entrepreneurship.
Irina: Where did you get the idea for FreeLunched?
Mike: A few month back, Samsung ran a marketing campaign where they gave away an item a day. I saw this business model combined with a flash sale email campaign as a great business opportunity. I left AdShip and started FreeLunched.
Irina: Do you have any co-founders?
Mike: I'm the only founder, however FreeLunched has a board of advisors. They all are senior corporate executives from companies such as FedEx, Alibaba, and Disney.
Irina: So, FreeLunched, what does it offer?
FreeLunched is a promotional platform where we give away an item a day to one of our registered members. Each giveaway is followed up with a flash sale email campaign which is sent to all who entered that day's giveaway.
We incentivize our users to communicate about the products we give away. We give them points for writing product reviews, for answering trivia questions on Facebook and more points if they refer their friends to our site.
Later, we plan to roll out a consumer social ad network where our users will be encouraged to build their own ads for our sponsor’s products using sponsor approved materials and then share those ads with their own social networks, like friends and followers on Facebook.
Irina: Why anyone should care?
Mike: Every day FreeLunched registered users have an chance to win an item, such as a cool gadget, and receive discounts on their purchases from retailers via daily and weekly email campaigns. And for businesses FreeLunched offers grassroots marketing driven by social networks and an online platform where they can engage with their product users.
Irina: How do you feel about being a tech entrepreneur in Miami?
Mike: I feel great. Anytime I need a mini vacation I just look out my window! Although there are times that it can be challenging, especially trying to find resources and support.
I was fortunate to discover Incubate Miami, a business incubator that is focused on early stage technology companies.
Located downtown, Incubate Miami provides resources to Miami entrepreneurs, from temporary office space to access to attorneys and business development experts. FreeLunched was selected to be a part of their free educational program this fall.
I also attend entrepreneur events offered by Innovate Miami and Start Up Addicts.
Irina: Did you use any other local resources to launch your company?
Mike: Not local, but online. I did use Elance.com where I met Ukrainian developers.
Irina: What is your going forward strategy?
Mike: Our game plan is to continue to gather data on our social advertising network, assemble a compelling story, complete the development of our platform and attract the right capital to help commercialize our product.
Irina: What do you think the most critical ingredient to your success?
Mike: My ability to communicate our mission effectively and raise the funds needed to complete the development and commercialization of our platform.
Irina: Do you have any suggestions for Miami entrepreneurs ?
Mike: Don’t quit! If you have a great idea, put it on paper, come up with a plan and don’t be afraid to share it with people you trust. Surround yourself with successful, supportive people especially the ones with a track record of success in what you are trying to do, and most of all, don’t ever quit!
About me: I am Irina Patterson, was a Medical Doctor and tech PR executive in the past, My current passion is entrepreneurship. I'm a volunteer for the Silicon Valley-based Global Initiative 1M1M that offers free online guidance to entrepreneurs worldwide. Feel fee to ask your quesitons below in the comments.