Wednesday, December 19, 2012
How Honey Offers A Shortcut To Savings, with Ryan Hudson
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
As an online shopper, do you wish you could instantly and automatically find and use all of those coupon codes floating out there--without having to search for and test them all out every time you're at an e-commerce site? That's exactly what the software from Honey (www.joinhoney.com) does, by automatically helping users of Google's Chrome Browser to find and try out e-commerce coupon codes. We spoke with Ryan Hudson, one of the co-founders of the Pasadena company, to learn more about the tool.
Describe what Honey is all about and how it works?
Ryan Hudson: Honey is a new company here in Southern California, based in Pasadena. We have a browser extension that takes the legwork out of finding the best coupon codes when shopping online. We have all been checking out for years. When you get to checkout and there's that coupon code and promo code box, everyone knows to go to Google and look for those codes. There are lots of sites, with different codes to choose from, some of which are expired, some of which are for product that you aren't buying. It takes a lot of legwork to figure out if it works or not. We've taken that whole search process and turned it into one button in your shopping cart. That button automatically goes out and finds coupon codes, and systematically applies them to your cart. Ten or twenty seconds later, you have your answer. People have been using our software for less than a month, but they've already saved over $75,000 using Honey.
Where are you sourcing the coupon deals from?
Ryan Hudson: The usual, assorted places online where a consumer might go to search manually, only we're doing the searching for them.
What's your background and how did you end up here?
Ryan Hudson: I've been in technology-related stuff for the last decade. I've worked in different parts of the ecosystem at various partners. I was an Associate at a venture capital firm in Boston, I was a startup founder, I was employee six at a venture backed startup, I was an IT analyst at Forrester Research. My background is pretty broad. I did my undergraduate at Cornell, focused on operations research in Computer Science, and later got my MBA at MIT. My wife dragged me off to California, because she had a dream to send the Rover to Mars at JPL.
Is your software only for Chrome, and what are you plans for other browsers?
Ryan Hudson: We definitely have plans active working on other browsers, and also to support stores all over the world. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and we didn't think it would be doing so well so soon. Now that we've built the Chrome extension, we are converting that to work with Firefox. That will be released in the next couple of months, although we will miss the holidays. It's still sooner than we thought we'd be doing that. We're also bringing on a few people to help us add support for lots of merchants in the U.S. and around the world.
We often hear that it's hard to get people to install software. Have you run into any issues getting people to install your extension?
Ryan Hudson: Apparently not. That' something we've been very cognizant of. My background is in venture capital, and I was always hesitant to look at something like a browser extension as a primary go-to-market for any company. There's a big hurdle in getting installation. However, with Honey, it looks like we've struck a chord with users, an dour installation rate has been overwhelmingly high for something that runs only on Chrome. I remember reading a post by Paul Graham at Y-Combinator, talking about how startups should aim at 5 to 8 percent user growth per week, so that you'll have a huge company in a relatively short period of time. We're exceeding that on a daily basis, and have been surprised by how quickly users have jumped onto what we're doing.
What have you learned from the launch process so far?
Ryan Hudson: One thing we've learned, is you need to be prepared for the positive side of a launch, not just the negative side. This is my fifth or sixth company, and we've never had something take off like this before. We built our infrastructure so that when that happens, we'd be ready, and despite that, we still ran into a few hiccups last week when we got positive coverage on Reddit. It maxed out our server and we have to divert to the Google Chrome store to handle all of that extra load. So, being ready for success is our biggest takeaway so far.
Finally, what's your ultimate vision for Honey, and where are you going with this?
Ryan Hudson: We have a very broad, grand vision for this. We think there's a really good place in this market for helping consumers to break down information silos, and this is an example of that. By being a trusted companion to a consumer in the browser, you can help them do things they're manually doing right now, and bringing information into the workflow that currently isn't there. With coupon codes, people very consistently do the same things. They see there's a field for a coupon code, they go to Google, they do a search, and it's all very time consuming and laborious. Things like other browser extensions--price comparison toolbars, and that sort of thing--are a natural extension of what we might like to do, and where we can add lots of value more broadly. We have a different vision of how the user interface should work, which is something distinctive about Honey. We're not a toolbar, we're not sitting on top of a page, and we've found in talking with people that those toolbars are relatively annoying. Instead, we embed a button in the shopping cart, and work on our end to make that happen. We're changing how a consumer experiences the product, and we think that's the reason why we've gotten the response that we have. We take design into account with everything we do, because the last thing we want to do is annoy a user and give them a reason to uninstall.