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Jumping into SceneCheck

By Emily Harvey

How many times have you had a conversation like this on a weekend night?

Friend #1: “Hey, what are you doing tonight?”

Friend #2: “I have no idea. What are you doing?”

Friend #1: “I’m not really sure either. I just want to go out and have fun.”

Friend #2: “Well, let’s ask around and see what everyone else is doing.”

Friend #1: “OK. Sounds good.”

Half an hour passes by and no definite plans have been made. No one knows what to do, where to go or who is going out with the group.

The founders of SceneCheck have had this conversation countless times and know you have, too. Two years ago the president, Founder and designer of SceneCheck, Carlos Del Rio, who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, came up with the idea to create a mobile application to solve this problem.

This new, nightlife mobile application is designed to provide its users real time promotions, ranging from drink specials to DJ and band appearances, from bars, clubs and events in different areas of Austin. As the scene changes over the course of the night, users will be able to see what their friends are up to based on what they’re posting on the application. The posts can be sent to Facebook and Twitter, according to Del Rio.

As bars, clubs and events manage what promotions get posted on the app, people can “check-in” and/or “like” a venue’s particular promotion, says co-founder Andre Mikhail. The average Facebook user has 800-900 “friends,” which could create more bar traffic. “Essentially, you have my life in the palm of your hands–as cheesy as that sounds,” Mikhail says.

The “Friends Feed” on the application allows users to comment about the venue they are located at and shows what their Facebook friends posted. The “Live Feed” shows a user what is going on at a bar, club or event. The “Top Spots” feed itemizes the top places in town for the night.

SceneCheck is waiting for approval to have the app available in the Apple store to be downloaded for free, according to co-founder Justin Oliver.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, questions like “how am I going to pay rent?” and “how am I going to do this and that?” are raised and sometimes scare people away from what they want to do in life. Del Rio suggests to “just jump on in and figure it out as you go.” He says that if you want something to get off the ground, you have to put in the time and effort. It must be a full-time job for you and it’s great to start young.

When Del Rio got the idea for a mobile application he signed up for UT Professor Gary Hoover’s class, Foundations of Entrepreneurship, in the fall of 2010. During the class, he wrote a 33 page business plan about the mobile application. His next step was to figure out how he was going to build the app. After pitching his idea to many companies like Mutual Mobile, Appiction and Endeavor Global, the least amount of money they quoted him to build and give the app to him was $80,000. He didn’t have the money, but that didn’t stop him.

He ended up taking one of Professor Marvin Robert’s business classes in the spring of 2011. During the semester, his professor brought in a panel of IP lawyers. Del Rio took advantage of this opportunity and gave the panel his 33 page business plan for them to review. He received a ton of great advice.

Around April of 2012, Justin Oliver, also a 2012 UT Austin grad, started building the application for Apple iPhones. During the coding process of the app, SceneCheck had five other engineers come and go helping Oliver with problems he came across. Yet, Oliver is the only engineer to stick it out until the end. Four months ago was when Andre Mikhail climbed aboard.

The three young men “boot-strapped” this project, spending about $7,000. Del Rio used money he had saved up from his previous job at Blue Clover Marketing, Mikhail continues to write articles for money and Justin continues to work at Freescale.

They named the application “SceneCheck” because it’s about the scene and not going out and getting a lot of cheap drinks. If there’s a DJ at the bar then that is what the bar would post about in real time, verified by a time-stamped check-in.

Certain bars on Austin’s West and East 6th Street, 5th Street, Rainey Street and the UT campus area are signed up with SceneCheck.  Some of the 6th Street bars include The Trophy Room, Bat Bar, Toulouse Bar, Moose Knuckle and Soho Lounge. SceneCheck’s goal is to have every bar in Austin signed up.

Tyler Kling, a fifth year UT student, says he really likes “the fact that it’s the first to give real time information.” Most apps don’t update on the spot. However, the app could be intimidating, Kling says.  To him it’s a little busy and hard to figure out at first; but once you navigate through the app “the features are pretty cool.”

“I’m all about the entrepreneur spirit, ‘boot strapping’ it, working with your friends and doing something different. I like the go, go, go attitude,” Kling adds.

“It’s a big leap to take because how the hell do you pay your rent,” Del Rio says.

Initially, Mikhail went to school in New Orleans to become a doctor, like his parents. However, that did not interest him and neither did his other major in economics and business, so he dropped out his junior year.  He says school would always be there and this was a good time for him to try this. He says their team functions because they’ve known each other for a good amount of time and they are friends. They decided to work together and help support one another.

Oliver says working with his best friends is the most rewarding experience.

“And on the flip side of that is even if this app doesn’t go anywhere, I have a whole new skill set. I’ve learned how to make iPhone apps, build a server and make the entire system work together,” Oliver says.

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