Nomad Go’s Bootstrapping Work Lands $2.7 Million in Venture Capital Funding
By Becky Kramer
Jonah Friedl wants his brick-and-mortar clients to benefit from the same type of analytical tools that online retailers use.
The Carson College alumnus is the cofounder of Nomad Go Inc., a Kirkland startup that uses artificial intelligence to measure customer experiences at quick-serve restaurants, hotels, and retail stores. Venture funds recently invested $2.7 million in the company, which grew out of Friedl’s work as a student entrepreneur at WSU.
“We’re trying to level the playing field,” Friedl (’16 Entre.) says of Nomad Go’s mission. “When you buy something on Amazon, there’s so much analytical data generated, including what products you clicked on and how long you spent browsing.”
Brick-and-mortar retailers, however, often rely on “antiquated and time-consuming methods” to evaluate customer experiences, such as follow-up surveys, he says.
Through the use of sensors and other measurement tools, Nomad Go helps clients analyze metrics like how long customers waited in line or how long their meal took to arrive. The real-time data helps managers identify bottlenecks, make staffing decisions, and compare performance across stores.
“It helps brick-and-mortar retailers do what they do best, which is to deliver a great one-on-one customer experience,” Friedl says.
Introductions to Investors
Nomad Go’s venture capital funding comes from three big names in the business: Flying Fish Partners; Vulcan Capital, the late Paul Allen’s company; and Fitz Gate Ventures.
“To our knowledge, Jonah is the first undergraduate alumnus majoring in entrepreneurship whose company has raised a venture capital round,” says Marie Mayes, director of WSU’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
Friedl credits industry mentors he met during the WSU Business Plan Competition for helping connect Nomad Go with the venture capital community.
Nomad Go’s products impressed the investors, and so did the company’s bootstrapping team members, says Heather Redman, cofounder and managing partner at Seattle-based Flying Fish, and a member of the WSU Board of Regents.
“When we invest, we invest early, and for us the compelling thing is always the team,” Redman says.
Friedl, Nomad Go’s chief revenue officer, partnered with David Greschler, an experienced tech entrepreneur, who is the company’s chief executive officer. Redman called both “compelling entrepreneurs.”
“They’ve done a lot with a little,” she says. “They’re selling something that’s very new in the market, and they’ve been able to grow the product on a shoestring budget.”
As part of the venture capital round, Redman will join Nomad Go’s board of directors. The company will use the seed funding to expand its products and its sales and marketing efforts from the West Coast to other parts of the country, Friedl says.
Roots in WSU and Pullman
Nomad Go has its roots in a startup Friedl launched his junior year at WSU.
“Nomad 1.0,” as Friedl now calls the previous venture, paid students to display advertising on their backpacks as “walking billboards.” The concept was so successful it spread to 25 university campuses and attracted several national brands as clients.
Friedl says the Business Plan Competition was a critical part of Nomad 1.0’s success. “The competition forces you to create a plan, gives you a deadline for doing it, and makes you think through tough questions, like ‘How will I acquire customers?’ and “How much will I charge for this product?’”
The Pullman business community also contributed to the company’s success, Friedl says.
“My first customers were locally owned and operated businesses,” he says. “I don’t know if you’d get that same opportunity in a big city, if they’d take a chance on a student-run venture.”
The company’s focus pivoted when clients started asking for metrics on how many students were seeing the advertisements. As Nomad developed ways to measure foot traffic, new opportunities emerged.
“We started exploring how to measure what happened in retail spaces,” Friedl says.
Game-changing for Retailers
Nomad Go’s work could be a game changer for brick-and-mortar retail, Friedl and Redman say.
“We all want to be in a warm and welcoming environment,” Redman says. “We also want to be served in a timely manner, to have our experience get better every time we go back, and to have the retailer provide the offerings we want.”
Nomad Go gives brick-and-mortar retailers better tools to do that, she says.
“We’re bringing data to the table that allows them to work in the same information-rich environment that online retailers do,” Redman says.