If you’re plugged into the Atlanta startup community, then you’ve seen the lively conversation around Michael Tavani’s B2C startup efforts. I think it’s a noble movement and one that I hope to help succeed. If you want to get involved, sign up here.
Being aware of the conversation has had me thinking more deeply about WHY the conversation is happening and what is driving Tavani to take such quick action on the topic. So let’s explore some of the surrounding circumstances and potential motivations for B2C attention in Atlanta as a way of continuing the conversation.
- The Scoutmob brand and positioning is now squarely centered on Shoppe as the core business model. The homepage is Shoppe, not local deals, and the transition will continue to take place as time goes on. A startup’s homepage is telling of their priorities because it is their main real estate.
- Scoutmob just went through a round of layoffs — apparently of some key contributors that have helped build the brand into what it is today. That’s a shitty thing to go through for any company and no doubt it’s been a painful process internally for Scoutmob. The reality is that without an existing sustainable business model or enough funding to continue operations as they are, expenses have to be cut to continue operating. If the two options are death by failure or pain by layoffs, any responsible founder will choose the latter, even if it sucks to experience. This will give Scoutmob the chance to hit the reset button and continue building on their new model.
Just heard about a good many of my friends being laid off from @scoutmob. I’ve always been rooting for these guys, and hope for the best.
— Jason Dominy (@jasondominy) March 19, 2014
- A maker space similar to Atlanta Tech Village, but for artists, makers, creators, and product pushers would help Scoutmob with it’s pivot towards their Shoppe business model. Successful establishment of this kind of space (most recent updates say in Ponce City Market) would mean a sort of vertical integration for Scoutmob. There is great value in vertical integration, if you can pull it off in a way that’s not offensive.
- A bigger B2C startup movement in the city makes gains possible for everyone involved. As Lance recently pointed out, density, both on a micro and macro level across the city, creates momentum. Or, the more B2C startups there are in the city, the more likely each B2C startup is to gain traction… And the more likely they are to land investments. Just as Atlanta has to occupy space in the minds of VCs out west in order to start attracting investor interest, it makes sense to apply the same logic one level down the hierarchy. Atlanta as startup scene –> Atlanta as B2B Startup scene AND –> Atlanta as B2C startup scene.
So here’s the point I’m getting at… If you take each of these points above as independent pieces of information, they represent a hodge podge of happenings in the Atlanta startup scene with little significance on the macro level. If you take them as one orchestrated whole, being fueled by a single entrepreneur and the people surrounding him, you see a different picture.
Michael Tavani and Scoutmob are in a tough place right now. They’ve built a powerhouse brand, but lack a business model to match. They’ve made a pivot toward Shoppe that looks promising, but the jury is still out on whether it will be a sustainable model. They’ve tried to raise funds to support the move and I’m not sure how successful they’ve been.
Regardless of funding, they decided that the most prudent move is to lay off a portion of the team in order to keep the brand alive as they try to resuscitate the business model to support what will hopefully one day become a much larger, thriving team. Perhaps they’ll make a move similar to Claire in house of cards and decide to bring on fresh blood with new ideas and skills to drive the current pivot.
Shoppe relies on makers in order to make money. The Atlanta maker scene has no centralized identity – you can look to events like Root City Market as great attempts to make it happen — so sourcing talent and goods is harder than it could be if there were a centralized place for makers and creatives to gather. Tavani wants to make that happen, whether at Ponce City Market or the Flatiron building or wherever else. Yes, location matters, but the bigger picture is about the strategic value to Scoutmob of a central maker station because that would mean Scoutmob could become Atlanta’s version of Shopify or Etsy for those makers. That will require local loyalty, which is much more likely to happen if Tavani is at the center of the movement to bring the makers together — much like David Cummings has built massive relationship capital by being at the center of the tech crowd coming together.
Finally, if Tavani can use his B2C gathering and anything else he can dream up to spur more B2C startups in the city, then he can increase the density of said startups, thereby increasing the B2C brand of Atlanta. A strong B2C brand is more likely to attract big B2C capital, which can only mean good things for Scoutmob… so long as they can stay in the game long enough to see the fruits of Tavani’s labor.
Lest I attract the trolls from the depths of the Atlanta internet and startup scene, let me be clear about something: Michael Tavani is a fellow Georgia Bulldawg and I love that he has built such a powerful brand. I want to do everything I can to support him as he makes big moves. Scoutmob is a brand I love and use regularly. I will continue to spend money with them if for no other reason than to root for their success. This article is simply a means for exploring the landscape of an interesting movement happening in Atlanta.
I would love nothing more than to continue the conversation in the comments.