Innovator Insights: Bree Goldstein, Founder of UpDog @UpDogReviews
A former fire fighter (yes, you read that correctly — and she’s worked for the Forest Service as a wild land fire fighter), Bree Goldstein is now the founder of UpDog, a simple app that enables users to use videos to share their experiences on social media, communicate with businesses and watch others’ reviews before spending time or money with a company. The idea came as a result of Bree’s PR / communications business (she also has a business communications degree from the University of Chicago), discussions with Millennials and watching the rising consumption of mobile video.
Me: Why are you an entrepreneur?
Bree: I’m a problem solver and as a result I’m an entrepreneur. I’m not inherently a businessperson, rather I see problems and I make it my mission to solve them or at least improve the outcomes.
For example, I found that much of the public relations industry seems to be hidden from the clients. Often, clients don’t have access to journalists’ information, pitches made on their behalf or an understanding of how press releases work. In response, I built a PR agency (Publicly Related) based on transparency where the client had access to all of their information in an online system that we created. In addition to their regular update emails, the client could see who we pitched, the journalists’ contact information (to my knowledge none of the clients ever followed up with the media however they appreciated that they had the information if they wanted to), the pitch topic and the emails and tweets. This type of transparency set us apart from other PR agencies and created a deeper level of trust from the clients.
Most recently, I released UpDog, a mobile application, to the iOS app store. We are the only video-based check-in/review platform and bring a new level of trust to the review industry. Through the use of video and by requiring a Facebook login and only allowing users to create reviews for organizations within a 25-mile radius, we have eliminated most fake reviews. It’s very difficult to fake a video however it’s not impossible. That’s why we added the additional layers of checks.
By using Facebook avatars (and first names only to identify users) we are removing the anonymity factors and holding customers and organizations to higher standards of accountability. Facebook has made it much more difficult to have multiple accounts and the platform has removed most fake accounts. Therefore, the accounts that log-in to UpDog are actual people. This offers reassurance that real people are posting reviews and not bots. To protect the user’s identity, the app only shows the user’s first name.
Finally, to eliminate reviews posted from people around the world, as we’ve seen on many other review platforms, we’ve limited the reviewer to only post about organizations’ within a 25-mile radius. This cuts down on paid-reviews (Amazon recently sued over 1,114 vendors on Fiverr for posting fake reviews) and on reviews posted against a business for social, political or other reasons (such as what happened with the dentist who hunted Cecil the Lion and the bakery who refused to service the LGBT community).
We’re making reviewing fun and quick (15-seconds or less), allowing the user to show their experience vs having to take time to write about it later.
Me: What problem would you like solved?
Bree: In America, our education system has strayed from learning to memorizing. Many university students expect to have all of the information provided to them and questions posed in such a way that they can regurgitate information rather than think for themselves. The students would rather skip class and get notes than attend class and engage in the conversation. They would rather bury themselves in their digital devices than participate in offline relationships.
As an adjunct instructor at the nation’s largest university, I strive to remedy this issue by bringing the course materials to life through hands-on exercises and projects that challenge the students to think creatively, practice public speaking and draw their own conclusions.
Me: Advice you’d wished you’d had or had followed?
Bree: My husband, Joel Goldstein, always tells entrepreneurs to “test before they invest”. When I started UpDog, I was so keen on the idea and running with it that I neglected to test it. I didn’t want to share the concept until the app was close to being released. Therefore, I didn’t tell anyone about it. I didn’t run any ads to gauge interest or even poll potential users.
I think if I had tested the idea, I could have saved time and avoided a few pivots. However, as it is, I’ve learned a lot and we are poised for rapid growth. As the only video-based check-in/review app, we are challenging the industry to change. UpDog’s future is bright and we’re taken the lessons and experiences in stride.
Me: What does success look like for you?
Bree: “Success” is defined differently for each situation. Overall in life, I measure success by happiness, satisfaction and impact: “Am I happy? Am I satisfied with what I’ve accomplished? Did I make a difference? ” For me personally, success is all about making a difference in someone else’s life.
However in business and education, I prefer to use metrics to measure success. Metrics may be measured in ROI, goals, and outcome. For instance, an ad campaign will be determined as successful or unsuccessful based on the ROI. A campaign may be measured by achieving goals or benchmarks. And outcome looks at the overall picture.
Me: Who are your heroes?
Bree: Heroes are fluid, and vary depending on what I’m doing. 15 years ago, I viewed Joe Takash, a motivational and inspirational speaker as my hero, for every day he impacts the lives of others.
Today, my “hero” is more of a group than an individual. Through Poodle and Pooch Rescue, my husband and I foster special needs dogs, who are “leftovers” about to be put down. They have been abused, neglected, poisoned, shot, mistreated and thrown out. These dogs come to us with hope, love and the will to survive. I have learned so much from the 20 dogs who have come through our doors.
Me: What is your best discovery?
Bree: Smiling at a stranger can brighten their day, just as when a stranger smiles at you it can make a huge difference.
Me: What would the title of your biography be?
Bree: From Firefighter to Entrepreneur
Me: What is your biggest regret?
Bree: I regret not studying abroad during college. Living in other parts of the world, learning about other cultures, and experiencing different ways and seeing how others live are invaluable experiences that I wish I’d started doing sooner. I always learn so much about other lifestyles, history and people from traveling abroad that I can only imagine what living abroad would be like.
Me: Anything else we should know about (product launch, crowdfunding or marketing campaign, recent interview, job openings..)?
Bree: I recently launched UpDog (updog.reviews and https://appsto.re/us/lbts7.i). It is the only video-based check-in and review app, and we’re working to disrupt the review industry, by bringing back honesty and fun. We’ve been downloaded in 64 countries and welcome (and appreciate) user feedback!