PHOTO: From left: Grabbr social media director Steven Kadar, CEO Daniel Langston, CSO Joel Dunham, inside their Franklin office on Friday, May 11, 2018.//Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
From a sun-drenched second floor office next to Grays on Main Street, three friends gather each day for work.
Fledgling social marketing company BookGrabbr, which went viral in 2015, has rebranded as Grabbr and is focusing on expanding based on a model of connecting businesses to customers.
Chief Executive Officer Daniel Langston called the company a “social recursive marketing platform.”
As opposed to a referral platform, in which customers must share links with a friend who must also share or partake in the product for the original consumer to receive their reward, the recursive model cuts out a few steps.
“You’re rewarded just for sharing,” Langston said. “Engage, share, reward.”
Langston founded the company along with his friend Joel Dunham, and Dunham’s father, former Thomas Nelson publishing executive and chief strategy officer David Dunham.
Langston and Dunham worked together previously in their careers at Langston’s Memphis-based sports marketing firm, which had the Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Redbirds as clients.
The concept for a new way of marketing was Dunham’s brainchild.
“Joel sat me down in his office and said, ‘What’s the most powerful way to motivate buying behavior?’” Langston said. “I thought about it and I said, someone telling someone about something they bought.’ He said, ‘The recommendation of a friend.’”
Dunham, the chief strategy officer, said he found the average life sales of a book is only 8,000 copies.
By simply getting a book in front of more people, publishers and authors have a greater chance of selling more copies, he figured.
And thus, BookGrabbr, a platform which allows readers to receive books for free in exchange for a social media post, was born in 2015.
The team raised $2 million in their first round of funding, convincing Simon and Schuster to partner with them as they availed 15,000 books to audiences in 145 countries.
But BookGrabbr was just the beginning of a multifaceted concept.
Langston and Dunham are working to branch out into all industries, including retail, movies, and restaurants.
They have shifted from a front-facing website to a back-end platform, seeking out companies that want to add a reward to a customer’s purchase in exchange for their endorsement through a share over text message, email, or myriad social media sites.
Rewards can be anything the business partner wants, from coupons and discounts to books, music, and movies.
“When a customer shares what they [the company] wants them to share, that customer automatically gets that reward,” Langston said, using blockchain technology to verify the share instantaneously.
For retail stores, customers can utilize the store app to scan a QR code and pick up a discount by sharing while shopping.
Currently, Grabbr has a pilot contract with ReaderLink Distribution Services, which controls 90 percent of reading sections in retailers throughout the U.S., and SkyRunner, a power sports aircraft manufacturer.
Langston said the team is also pitching to three enterprise level businesses to convince them to utilize Grabbr’s model.
“Our goal ultimately is, build something of value, increase revenue as much as expected, and then get acquired,” Langston said.
Grabbr boasts several renowned investors, like board member Maria Alvarez, currently a director with Microsoft who has worked with Yahoo!, HP and Symantec.
The team also recently closed a deal for funding from Ingram Industries.
Langston said Grabbr is preparing to begin a series A round of funding for $5 million, which they hope to close in six months.
Team chemistry and love for Franklin
“It’s the dream job,” said Steven Kadar, the social media director for the emerging business.
Langston and Dunham agreed.
“We’ve known each other for a very long time, so working together is very easy,” Langston said. “We have no problem calling each other out and saying an idea is stupid. . . there’s no pride of authorship.”
“It’s fun because we get to do this together,” Langston continued. “We divide and conquer on a lot of things, but a lot of things we work together on.”
Often, the trio, all in their 30s with homes in Franklin, will listen to music and work together in the conference room.
Langston said he and Dunham go to breakfast at Puckett’s Grocery every day, where the waitress knows their order, and frequent Franklin Mercantile Deli, Pieology, and McCreary’s at lunch.
The choice to headquarter their business in downtown Franklin was a no-brainer for Dunham, who grew up in the area, and Langston, who discovered it 13 years ago when he moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University.
“It just makes you happy,” Langston said. “I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s the atmosphere. We’re here for the atmosphere.”