Visit Atlanta and you’ll see a new kind of currency exchange: digital gratitude.
We&Co, founded by Jared Malan, is an iPhone app launched last year that allows users to show gratitude to the service professionals they cross on a daily basis. Until its launch, the opportunity for broadcasting your appreciation to specific individuals - a favorite barista, a welcoming bartender, a trusted repairman - was limited, at best, to the one-on-one monetary exchange of a tip, a preconceived and overly-orchestrated process.
What We&Co does, instead, is instigate a more emotional, social value exchange. Publicly and openly expressing your prefered service professionals on a platform accessible to both management and customers reinforces the experience of being a regular - a devout, reliable customer. In turn, it credits the individual that attracts you as a regular in the first place, placing an emphasis on experience over location, regardless of the type of business.
“Recently, I moved to Atlanta. It was the first time I didn’t have a community built around me. I was finding that I was having positive interactions, whether it was a server or barista,” Malan explained. “I was finding these relationships do matter.” He turned to Foursquare’s API for location services, then created a system for adding employee profiles by location. Launch the app, and you’re able to see these businesses and their employees. From there, it’s a simple of matter of clicking the “Thank” button, then adding a comment. From our Soho office, for example, you can thank a server at Soho Park or the manager of Caffe Falai.
Just as Foursquare is seeking to monetize, in part, by establishing relationships with businesses who reward customers for checking in, We&Co creates a two-sided dynamic in which both customers and servers are able to reap the benefits of positive reviews. For customers, showing your gratitude to, say, a bartender, can serve as a statement of your commitment to his or her bar; in turn, he or she can provide perks, like free drinks or dishes. “Just last week, I went to the bank where I usually go. He was surprised that I was back from SXSW already,” Malan reflected. “I needed to cut some decks for business, and he cut them for free, and he ordered them for free as well. So he saved me about $80.”
Simultaneously, through this exchange, management is able to see the specific, social reason for your return - in Malan’s case, the banker - and is therefore able to reward him or her for the positive promotion provided by the app. “What we’re able to do is help a business understand who are there best service professionals and reward them. We also allow them to reach out to customers,” Malan explained. “We don’t want to be a deals site, but we do want there to be value given out to the service professionals.”
Though available internationally - professionals have been thanked in all 50 states and more than 50 countries - Malan and his team are currently focused on establishing a solid base in Atlanta, where We&Co is becoming a commonplace app. They're also forming relationships with major brands. Ultimately, Malan said, We&Co could serve as a source for something much larger than one-on-one exchanges - a database of information about the individuals who can propel whole businesses, a major, untouched data network.
“We’re the LinkedIn for server pros,” Malan explained. “There’s not a lot of data in the service industry - who the great bartender is and who makes the best cup of coffee. We want to change that.”