Columbus is no stranger to startups. Last fall, the app Whence launched, connecting Columbus customers to local businesses.
Columbus is no stranger to startups. Last fall, the app Whence launched, connecting Columbus customers to local businesses. With the tap of a button, Whence users can get products from 42 businesses, from coffee to clothes, delivered to their door in 90 minutes or less. Whence is the brainchild of local entrepreneur Web Smith, who previously co-founded men's apparel company Mizzen+Main. Here's how he brought his idea to life. whence.coSmith was spending time with his family but needed to go to the hardware store. "In that moment, I said I would pay someone to do what I don't want to do right now." Then came the idea. "I wanted to build something that would allow members to save precious time," he says. "And I wanted to find a way for the small businesses of the city to do well regardless of what the weather's like or how traffic is for the day." A few days later, he pitched his idea to Jonathan Poma, who previously worked for digital agency Dynamit and was the director of digital for Homage. Though they hadn't worked together before, the two had been friends for a while. Poma was on board, so Smith drew up a business plan that day. Smith provided the funding to get the startup going, and Whence was born. They set up shop in an office in the Short North and brought on two Cincinnati developers, Dan VanWinkle and Adam Linkhart. About three weeks after the pitch, the four signed partnership documents. "We started with wireframes, very simple diagrams that show exactly what we want the path to be from sign up to use to checkout to delivery," Smith says of the app development. They also recruited a designer, Dustin Tevis. Smith started signing up businesses whose products would be included in the app. Smith set a goal to launch Whence by Oct. 1, 2014. "We did about seven months of development work in three months," he says. "It was brutal. That last week or so before we launched in October, we had to bring aboard a few new developers to supplement the work that we were doing in house just to speed up the process." After a lot of sleepless nights, they met their goal and launched the app, which featured products from seven local businesses, Oct. 1. Now, Whence has grown to include 42 businesses, including Lucky's Market, Tigertree, Rowe, Thread on Grandview, Native Cold Pressed and Mission Coffee Co. Every two to four weeks, they're updating the app with new features and improvements. As the business grows, Smith is working to bring on investors. He's also hoping to eventually expand into other cities, like Lexington, Louisville, Nashville, Charleston and Cincinnati.