Helping Baltimore locals create the perfect night out
Philip DiMuro is the CEO and co-founder of Loople. Loople is a free app for iPhone and Android that helps users find local drink and food specials. With Loople, users can create the atmosphere for their ideal night out by filtering restaurants and bars by drink types, seating availability, live music, and more. Philip came up with the seed of the idea while working for the Boston Beer Company, and launched the app last year with the help of his co-founder Dave Phelan. As of September 2016, Loople is only available in Baltimore, although the team plans to expand if the app proves successful.
Philip DiMuro spoke with citybizlist publisher Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: What success have you had fundraising so far?
PHILIP DIMURO: We’ve stayed extremely lean so far when it comes to fundraising. The Accelerate Baltimore model was an excellent added benefit back in December of last year. We were one of six companies selected for the $25,000 and that money went directly into critical improvements in the application as well as continuing to develop our revenue model, which was how we were able to close those first two clients. Now, where we are: we’ve raised a little bit of angel funding to date. Back in the day, our founders put in the initial funding to get started. Our beta test—last two springs ago now—we raised friends and family to launch. The Accelerate program helped us close those first two clients on the platform, and we’re in an angel round right now, where we’ve gotten interest [from] the Philadelphia area and different markets that we are trying to tackle, and show that we have proven the concept here in Baltimore when it comes to the users and early stages of revenue. Now we’re trying to replicate this in new markets and raise a little capital to do it.
Where do you think the company will be in five years? Is it too difficult to plan that far out?
Never too hard to dream five years out—that’s for sure—but by constantly building goals is how we accomplish it. My founder and I actually use the strategy where every quarter we really sit down and focus on what are the core things we need to get done in the next three months, because in reality, in a startup, three months is a huge amount of time, and if you’re not moving forward you’re definitely not moving in the right direction. When we plan out the next three months, we believe we will be launched in our second city, so we’ll be expanding outside the first area. In six months to a year, we hope to be more of a regional brand outside of those first two markets. And I believe that in a three- to five-year period we can be nationwide, and I think that we can be in the major metropolitan areas of the country. That will be hopefully when we will be at a point that other businesses will be interested in industry partnership with us.
What’s your perspective on how the environment for startups in Baltimore?
I can’t say enough amazing things about the coworking opportunities and the resources in the Baltimore market. The ETC, which is where we currently work out of, has been an incredible resource through the Accelerate Program as well as mentors that they’ve helped connect us with, and then including the early stages of fundraising, pointing us in the right direction. When it comes to Betamore, they’ve been an incredible resource for us too. We work with them through their community membership as well as taking advantage of a lot of the education opportunities they have there. I swear, the amount of money that I put towards my college classes isn’t even a fraction of what anyone’s going to spend doing some of the classes through Betamore, but the results of what you learn in those classes—because of the content of what they put together is so well timed with the world we live in—in technology; I just sat in on a class all about digital marketing, which is huge for a tech company like ourselves. I highly recommend it.
If there are any entrepreneurs out there, you’re in the Baltimore area, you are not alone; this is an incredible place to start a business. An excellent way to get it started is to get introduced to those people at ETC, Betamore, and Spark. Baltimore is an incredible place to start a business when it comes to the resources like we just spoke about, meeting different mentors, and growing your business. The culture that we’ve developed in this city has been incredible and I think that’s a direct result of Baltimore being a very underdog city. Because it’s that way, everyone’s willing to help each other out. Whether you’re a startup, whether you’re someone who [has] just exited a company and made great money, you are always willing to answer the phone or email and stay connected with the entrepreneurial community. The biggest wish for all the people involved now is to start seeing, now that we have this culture and we’ve developed it now for years—but we’ve really been riding this wave over the last like two years with the tech community in Baltimore—I really encourage, if anyone is interested in investing in startups and looking to put their capital to work in the Baltimore market, there [are] amazing companies that are here. Frankly, I think a lot of the companies—especially a consumer-facing businesses like ours—aren’t raising money in Baltimore. They’re raising it outside the city, and I wish we could raise here, but it’s a different path.
Are you looking for people to join the company? How would you describe the culture at Loople?
Now this will be our third semester that we’ve had interns on the team. We started with two in the fall; we did five last semester; five throughout the summer; right now, possibly the addition of two more. What we look for right away, and we’re interviewing right now, are young individuals who are looking to work at a small startup. We understand the challenges of a small startup, but I know myself: if I could have interned in a startup business when I was younger, the amount of stuff I’d have learned by working directly with individuals. That’s what we look for right now in people.
What we want people to look for in us, as we grow, is really the culture we try and represent. I’ve always loved businesses and cultures that are decentralized, where there’s no hierarchy and anyone who wants to say anything about a company can come in and say it to whomever they want. If you break down those barriers, you inspire creativity, you inspire collaboration, and you really get this genuine culture that comes out of it. You see it with a lot of tech companies nowadays. I just hope we can continue to represent that as we grow.
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