By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
He’s a Blount County native and University of Tennessee graduate who recently returned home after 17 years to launch his new start-up.
“I’ve always had food in my blood,” Richard Beaver told us during a recent teknovation.biz interview. In his engaging manner, the former bagger at a former local chain named White Store added that “everyone has to eat, so it seemed like a good career to get into.”
Today, as Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of gapNsnap, he’s helping retailers keep their shelves stocked by empowering mobile device-equipped consumers. It’s a problem that has faced grocery stores since Piggly Wiggly introduced self-service grocery shopping in 1917.
The solution that gapNsnap offers is fairly simple, and it involves economic motivation for both consumers and retailers.
Consumers are rewarded with cash and points to use the gapNsnap app to capture pictures of “holes-on-the-shelf.” Beaver’s company aggregates the photos, captures the data, and sends it to the appropriate retailers and suppliers.
“Empty shelves account for eight percent of a store’s capacity,” he says. “If we can get the retailer half of that back in sales, we’ll be a hero.”
Shoppers simply download the gapNsnap app from the Apple iPhone Store, go about their normal shopping, take a picture of any vacant shelves they encounter, and download all their photos to the gapNsnap site when they return home.
“It works in any retailer that has shelf tags,” Beaver says.
All of his corporate roles involved data management in some way, including one where he served as Global Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Manager for Teradata. While some might consider RFID technology to be a solution for the empty shelf challenge, Beaver says it is not.
“There are two problems,” he explains. “The economics (cost) and the physics don’t work. It’s fine for the fashion industry, but not for consumer products.”
Beaver launched gapNsnap in a beta mode on December 23, 2012. Thirty “snappers” were part of the test.
“We were happy with the results,” he says. The gapNsnap app became available in the Apple Store on April 22. By mid-September, the company had reached 1,000,000 snaps, and the 2,000,000 plateau is rapidly approaching.
As far as progress to date, “It’s been better than we expected and harder than we expected,” Beaver said.
Nevertheless, he notes, “We have users in all 50 states, but we are not pushing growth.” That strategy is based on a desire to manage cash flow for the privately-funded start-up as it further enhances its offerings.
As more consumers use the app, gapNsnap will be generating increasingly larger and larger volumes of data, a significant opportunity for the start-up.
“There are multiple points along the supplier value chain where these data make sense,” Beaver observes.
The CEO says that gapNsnap plans an iOS7 upgrade soon as well as a new webpage and more robust analytics for his corporate clients.
“Our next enhancement to the app is to influence actions for consumers when the shelf is bare,” he says.
After 17 years away from the region, Beaver is clearly pleased to be back home with a new start-up and a promising future.
“I came back for a reason . . . the lifestyle,” he says simply. GapNsnap operates from an office on Ellis Avenue in Maryville.