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Interview with Ryan Koonce, aDealio

Earlier this month, Austin-based aDealio (www.adealio.com) rolled out its online deal site in Dallas, after its launch a few months ago in Austin. To get an idea of how the site fits into the daily deal and group buying space, we spoke with Ryan Koonce, CEO of the firm. Koonce is a repeat entrepreneur who spent a fair amount of time at successful startups in the Bay Area, and talks a bit about his projects here and the business.

What's the idea behind the site?

Ryan Koonce: aDealio is playing on the group buying concept. The twist is, I don't really believe in group buying. There's a movement towards supplementing small business marketing in new ways, like email, and group buying sites are the owners of the largest email lists. Instead, what we are doing is helping small businesses with an array of integrated marketing services. That does include a daily deal, but will also include other things like everyday deals, website development and help with things like Google AdWords.

What your background, and how did you get into this?

Ryan Koonce: My background is viral marketing, which I've been doing for ten years. I created the concepts used today for viral marketing. When you look at the data and how people engage in daily deals, it really looks like direct marketing. For awhile, I owned a couple of dive shops in the Bay Area, and learned how small and medium sized business owners market their businesses. It's not the Yellow Pages anymore--that's what sets us apart. We're filling the void that has been left by the Yellow Pages for small businesses. They don't know how to get the word out about their businesses, and in some cases group buying hurts them, and isn't the best way to market their firm. If you sell 3,000 vouchers in a group buying deal, that's not good for you as a business.

How did you end up in Austin?

Ryan Koonce: I moved to Austin three years ago, and was in San Francisco for about ten years. I grew up in the Detroit area. I've done a range of venture backed companies. The first one in the Bay Area was SocialNet, which I founded with Reid Hoffman, Chairman at LinkedIn and a partner at Greylock. I ran an interactive agency, Avantic, where we provided integrated marketing and new media for Fortune 500 and mid-cap businesses, until 9/11, when billings dried up. I moved on and helped with a company called Jumpstart Technologies, which was one of the early innovators in the viral marketing business. I was the first employee, and took it to twenty or so, growing out various divisions of the business. It's now Tagged.com, a social networking site. I then founded a company called PopularMedia, which was funded by Sequoia Capital, which provided viral marketing for the big brands. After that, I decided to move to Austin, because I had a couple of kids and just decided to make a change of lifestyle, and have been here ever since.

What drew you to the online daily offers business?

Ryan Koonce: The idea grew out of SuperPoint, another company I am running. We started looking at this concept, but it didn't really fit well within SuperPoint. Having been a small business owner, I could feel their pain, and really thought that what these collective buying sites were doing were interesting, but felt that we could do a lot better. I'm an entrepreneur, so I swung the bat.

So you have more than just one startup going right now?

Ryan Koonce: aDealio, SuperPoints, a Facebook game development firm, and an infrastructure firm I'm not talking about.

Wow, that's a lot of things on your plate. Do you have folks helping to run those businesses?

Ryan Koonce: It's like a disease, which I've decided not to fight anymore. You just have to become ultra efficient at triage, and make sure you are effective at making critical decisions. You have to work with people to get the job done on the other things. For example, with the Facebook game stuff, I only look at that once a month, someone else is dealing with it day-to-day. It's managed on a milestone basis. For clients where I am doing viral marketing workshops, I have to do it so they can leverage my expertise, but it's usually only for a day workshop. For aDealio, I deal with day to day things though other people are involved, SuperPoints is the same deal, and what we're doing is leveraging my experience both at the marketing level and as a startup CEO. You have to surround yourself with good people, or you'll never succeed.

Finally, what's your read of Austin for startups nowadays?

Ryan Koonce: I think it's a horrible place to raise money for a consumer Internet firm, but it's a great place for enterprise software. I think the quality of life is great, though we could use a few more good engineers. We've got people moving down here all the time, but it's still hard to find the depth of talent you might be able to find in the Bay Area on short notice. All-in-all, we've come a long way, it's only going to get better, and it's only going to go up.

Thanks!