Dunlap in Northern Nevada Business Weekly

Flurry of ideas pours from young Reno web developers Pat Patera, 3/16/2009 Northern Nevada Business Weekly The Internet remains fertile ground for new business ventures, say tech-savvy young entrepreneurs in Reno who have launched multiple ventures. Rajan Chakrabarty and Mark Garro burst onto the Reno tech scene at the Silver and Gold Venture Capital Conference in 2007 when the students presented their social networking study site: Isotome. Plans to roll out the application nationwide were stymied when an Incline Village angel investor put expansion funds on hold. But while they were waiting, the Internet innovators designed three other businesses. Although distinctly different, the three endeavors are tied together as closely as the three co-founders. Chakrabarty is lead strategist, Garro heads product development and John Dunlap is lead graphics designer. (Calie Altieri came on board to handle marketing and public relations.) The intertwined business models are dubbed D4 Web Design, renomerchants.com and schoolgarage.com. As Web site developer at D4 Web Design, Dunlap took a page from Internet service providers, who offer Internet connection and Web site hosting services for a monthly fee. So, rather than charge for website design up front — a figure that often runs into the thousands of dollars — firms pay a monthly fee ranging from about $50 to $200, depending upon complexity and interactivity. And locals can easily link to those local business websites through the second business model, renomerchants.com. There, a basic contact listing — name, logo, address, phone and map — is free. So far, the founders have built links to 2,500 businesses, some garnered first hand, other listings lifted from the many such free directory sites on the Internet. But the partners want merchants to pay for an upgraded listing; in effect, a custom designed site by D4. Dunlap has hit upon a surefire sales pitch: He runs a Google search on the company name. Seldom does a local company display in the first page of listings. He prints out the proof. On a sales call, he shows that printout to the business owner and explains how his search optimization expertise will remedy the situation. “Our close rate is close to 100 percent,” says Chakrabarty. But the service does more. Merchants can post coupons and offers so that young adults equipped with iPhones can search for a store or restaurant while on the road, see the coupon, and redeem it digitally upon arrival. Meanwhile the third business model, schoolgarage.com (similar to Craigslist, but tightly localized to serve car-free students on campus who are seeking second-hand textbooks, furniture or roommates) does double duty by offering rewards to students who recruit business clients for D4 and renomerchants.com. And just as Isotome was a prototype tested at University of Nevada, Reno, schoolgarage.com is a prototype in advance of expansion to other campus markets. No similar service exists, says Chakrabarty. “We want to feel it out here,” he says of the site that’s been live for a month. How do web application creators come up with ideas? Chakrabarty says, “Ask yourself the question: Where are the needs I couldn’t find on the Internet?” Or, adds Dunlap, “What time saving resources I could use in my daily life? “We go eat sushi and bounce around ideas. We have a passion for creating new ideas. Creating services to fill those needs. We have fun doing it. We have a passion for it.” In a display of youthful idealism, Chakrabarty adds, “You’d think entrepreneurs think about money, but we want to help the community out.” Dunlap says, “I have a love for Reno. It has a lot of potential. But the Internet presence could be better.” That goes double for Lake Tahoe merchants, he adds, who claim to cater to the Bay Area tech-savvy crowd. But those young tourists, says Dunlap, are frustrated when they can’t find a business by using their iPhone on a visit. During this recession, he says, “Businesses are looking for other ways to drive business. They have exhausted local ways to drive business. They need to use the Internet.” Since their entrepreneurial debuts, the former students now hold day jobs. Chakrabarty, with a doctorate in chemical physics, researches climate change at Desert Research Institute. Garro, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Harvard University, works in climate change prediction and created the patent-pending modeling application, FracMAP. The Internet company partners are also co-founders of Sierra Particle Technologies, LLC.  Read the article here: https://www.nnbw.com/ArticlePrint.aspx?storyID=12768