Every few months, Whitepenny engages in dialogue (never more than 3-questions) with leading founders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and taste makers that live at the intersection of brand, strategy, digital storytelling, and consumer experience. 

This month, we caught up with John Masterson, co-founder and CEO of VIPLY, a free digital entry pass app for businesses and events. 

Having founded, built and successfully exited ServiceSource, what are some of the key learnings from that experience that you’ve applied to your development and successful launch of VIPLY? How did moving back to NJ impact the formation of VIPLY?

Prior to creating and launching a new solution, application, product, etc. it’s important to thoroughly research the market(s) you are intending to target. Prior to the launch of ServiceSource, we sought out companies that may offer similar solutions / offerings (that we were developing), to find out if we were creating something unique (carving out a niche) or not. Additionally, we reached out to as many stakeholders as possible within the vertical markets we planned to target to see if our solution truly addressed a need within their organizations. During this discovery phase we unearthed additional issues these organizations faced, which in-turn helped us fine tune our solution, as well as our positioning.

The above approach was applied prior to the development and rollout of VIPLY’s application; whereas we discovered that NJ beach municipalities, state park agencies, federal park agencies were seeking ways to automate sales for entry and recreation passes, all while attempting to lower costs and remove the need for hardware technology.

We’ve entered a time period in which consumer experience [CX], above all else, drives brand value. We’re big believers in digital transformation and its power to enhance and reimagine CX. How is VIPLY changing the consumer experience for both the beach goer and municipal management of beaches?

For beach goers, our application has made the beach visit much more convenient. Visitors can equate the VIPLY app to a beach EZ Pass. The beach visitor can purchase their beach passes now on the fly and bypass long waiting lines to enter the beach. We’ve kept our processing fees competitive, whereas, it is more cost effective vs. withdrawing cash from an ATM and a trip to the bank.

For businesses, the application not only can be free to use, it automates the entire sales process from offering beach passes to reconciliation. Prior to VIPLY, many of the NJ beach operation management teams would take several hours to close out at the end of the day, along with a trip to the bank for a deposit. Now that many NJ shore municipalities have transitioned to VIPLY, end of day close out and reconciliation takes less than a minute.

What is the best piece of advice that someone gave you regarding starting a company that you ignored, and how did it positively impact your success at VIPLY. That is, if you had taken the advice, and applied it in practice [as sound as it was], VIPLY would have actually been negatively impacted…

Within the first few years of launching ServiceSource, we interacted with seasoned tech professionals / operators – polished executives in Silicon Valley, partners from the Venture / Private Equity world, etc. All but a few were advocates for ServiceSource to raise funds and boost our outbound sales efforts as quickly as possible. Under this approach (theoretically), ServiceSource would experience a much higher trajectory in client acquisition and in-turn revenues. The negative to this approach – the original partners would relinquish a large chunk of ownership. At this time, we had opted not to raise any additional funds for outside help and pressed forward with our original plan – not giving up any ownership.

The initial fall of the .com bust soon occurred after this decision, with tech companies either scaling back significantly or filing for bankruptcy. In this environment, ServiceSource still thrived; and, several years later, at the time of our acquisition, the original founders still held on to their original ownership shares.

John Masterson

John is a successful entrepreneur who has over 18 years at building and leading world class sales and marketing teams for international technology companies. Whether it’s founding the leading service sales management solutions company or advising other driven entrepreneurs, John believes that with the right creative minds complex problems can be solved with simple solutions.