CARLSBAD — It launched Wednesday and by the end of the month a Carlsbad-based app could be the next big thing.
Jennifer Cosco, 32, of Carlsbad and her business partner, Christopher Nebel, were admitted into the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) Accelerator competition, which commences March 11 and March 12 in Austin, Texas, to unveil their app, Envy.
According to Cosco, the app is a blend between Yelp and Instagram — two of the more popular apps in the world — yet also adds the swiping concept now popular among many other smartphone apps.
As for the competition, Envy was just one of five selected for the Social and Culture category out of hundreds of entries. In addition, Cosco said many of the competitors have already secured prominent financial backing or partnerships, while Envy is still seeking to secure investors.
Cosco, who owns the Studio Barre Bird Rock gym in La Jolla, said Envy has lined up potential venture capitalists, which gives her latest endeavor some leverage in the “Shark Tank” style competition.
“Envy is social media with purpose,” Cosco said. “Envy is going to visually stimulate you to be able to find something that looks really good. I see a lot of women come through my studio every week and they say hey, ‘Where do you get this done?’ The idea with Envy is it’s social, so you can follow your friends, and it’s going to get rid of that question … and take it online.”
The core of the app, though, is to bring consumers and businesses together. In short, it’s a visual search engine.
The concept is simple: Users take photos, write a quick review and upload to the app. Other users search, for example, hairstyles, and can view reviews, websites and other functions.
To start, the app will focus on hair, nails, tattoos and food and beverage — some of the more popular visual online content. Eventually, Cosco said, the app will be an avenue for home purchases, along with a vast array of industries.
Also, the app will launch “city by city” starting in San Diego and Austin in the next several days or by March 10, depending on the speed of the final adjustments, Cosco added.
As the app grows, she said other cities would be added.
She said consumers typically have to utilize multiple platforms, sift through lengthy, written reviews, which are often times inauthentic, just to find one thing. “Whereas we do it all on Envy. Instead of writing a review, you would take a picture. You write a micro review under it, load it up to our system.
“It loads one picture at a time,” she said. “You swipe right if you want it, left if you don’t. If you find one that you want right then and there, you tap on it, you can map it, call it and even schedule your Uber right there.”
As for the app’s roots, Cosco met Nebel through a mutual friend and pitched the idea.
He came on board and is the driving force behind the programming, while Cosco handles much of the business and marketing efforts.
The two began work on Envy last August, and have made a quick turnaround to get their creation into the prestigious event.
SXSW’s accelerator competition was the launching point for such apps and sites such as Twitter and Airbnb.
According to Chris Valentine, SXSW Accelerator event producer, 71 percent of startups over the eight years of the program have received more than $3.1 billion in funding and 14 percent were acquired.
Cosco and Nebel’s goal, though, is to secure “Series A” funding, which gives investors preferred stock for their investment, she said. Cosco and Nebel got their project off the ground with grassroots funding mostly through parents and friends.
If the presentation doesn’t go their way, Cosco said they would continue with their current funding efforts, while seeking out other methods, including from those already interested venture capitalists.
“South by Southwest was the first validation for our idea,” she added. “We’re just bootstrapping it. It’s something we’ve done completely on our own. To be selected … was really amazing.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.