Entrepreneur Spotlight: Powered by EnterpriseCorp
Meet Patrick Goodman. He can design a roadway and speak Russian. He has a master’s in divinity and he played a season of semi-pro football. He’s exactly the sort of guy you’d (never) expect to be working on the next generation of private mobile communications technology.
Despite his grab-bag background and a physical presence that leaves no doubt that yes, he really did play center for both the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers and the Arena Football League Louisville Fire teams, Goodman has so far managed to fly under the radar in Louisville’s technology startup community. That anonymity probably won’t last much longer, for either Goodman or his company.
Before the past, let’s talk about Goodman’s present. He’s the product manager and chief evangelist for Red e App, which is a privacy-centric alternative to SMS messaging and mobile email. Red e App lets users receive email-like notifications on their smartphones without divulging their email addresses or phone numbers. On the surface, that seems like a solution in search of a problem. Who wants another communication medium on top of email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a dozen other social media services?
“The best ideas look initially like bad ideas,” wrote Paul Graham, a venture capitalist and startup guru.
Red e App was conceived as a promotional vehicle for businesses. Customers might be reluctant to give out an email address or phone number to receive promotions, so Red e App was designed as a means to receive coupons and updates without clogging inboxes or running up texting bills. For those of you who have been pitched on Facebook or Twitter advertising, this concept will seem very familiar. And, as you might expect, not too many businesses or customers were interested in maintaining another communication channel just to send out or receive marketing messages. But businesses did have a pressing need that Red e App was uniquely able to meet.
“The more we kept talking to people, whether it was in healthcare or some of our enterprise clients…they told us over and over, ‘We’d really like a way to communicate in real time privately with our employees,’” said Goodman.
Goodman was initially surprised by the suggestion.
“‘Don’t you use email?’” asked Goodman of the potential clients.
“‘Well, no…We print post and put it in, like, a cubbyhole system,’” replied the businesses.
It may sound crazy, but even after nearly 20 years of near-ubiquitous corporate email, many organizations still haven’t solved the cubbyhole newsletter problem. And that’s for companies that actually offer ubiquitous corporate email. Most line workers at Ford, baristas at Starbucks, or facilities maintenance staff at Norton Healthcare don’t have @ford.com, @starbucks.com or @nortonhealthcare.com email accounts. But nearly all of them have smartphones that can run Red e App.
In startup parlance, this is where Red e App decided to pivot. Gone was the retail promotions network. Instead, Red e App became the private mobile competitor for Microsoft Yammer or Salesforce Chatter.
As for who might need that app, look no further than the groups who still struggle with large-scale, real-time communications: marketing managers who need to alert their sales representatives of last-minute price drops before a client call, but can’t speak to dozens of salesmen by phone in time; college professors who want to alert students of a classroom change, but know that emails won’t be checked in the half hour before a lecture; company CEOs with business locations in and around natural disasters who know that their employees don’t have reliable access to any communication devices except their personal smartphones.
“[Our customers] love this because, unlike email, there’s no spam or bounce [and] they know who has read it and who has responded,” said Goodman.
Leave it to a former offensive lineman to set up an end-run around the cubbyhole problem. And leave it to an engineer-turned-evangelist to build technology explicitly designed to spread the word.
Goodman was trained as a civil engineer, but by the time he graduated from WKU in 2000, he was already considering a different calling.
“My faith was central to my life,” said Goodman.
He was looking at mission work, and a life in Baptist ministry, with his sights set on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. That got him to Louisville, but not directly into his divinity studies.
“[Mission work] is not a lifestyle that works with debt,” said Goodman.
This meant he would have to work for years as an engineer and simultaneously attend seminary in fiscal, educational, and spiritual preparation for a life abroad. He also spent a season with the aforementioned Louisville Fire football team, earning cash he’d put toward his later mission work.
It took three years for Goodman to earn his Master of Divinity debt-free. In the meantime, he honed his engineering and Russian skills. Goodman’s mission work took him to the densely populated urban city of Yekaterinburg, Russia.
“[I have] preached more sermons in Russian than I have in English,” said Goodman about his three years abroad.
After three years, he was ready to return home to raise his young family on Louisville soil.
Goodman’s sojourn abroad left him with an odd mix of skills and experiences that made him ill-suited for traditional corporate work, despite the doors that a bilingual engineer might find opened to him.
“Large organizations love administration and policy,” said Goodman. “I don’t need hundreds of meetings to make a decision.”
After a few years of “intrapreneurship” with some local engineering and software development groups, Goodman was ready to go full-fledged entrepreneur with a local startup. Louisville’s own social media mogul, Jason Falls, played matchmaker for Goodman and Red e App’s founder, Jonathan Erwin. Goodman arrived just in time for the company’s shift from consumer communications to internal messaging.
After nearly a year with Red e App, Goodman is also immersing himself in the barely organized Louisville startup community.
“I think Louisville needs to continue to have a broader public conversation about [startups],” said Goodman. “There are hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in Louisville, no doubt. It’s no different than a guy or girl sitting at a job they hate thinking about something else that they want to do…They are an entrepreneur. It doesn’t mean that they go build a $100 million business. It might mean that they go build a small business and they run it and they love it…My hope is to help in that regard.”
And when those businesses are primed to build a better communication network, Goodman and company will have just the app they need.
by Jay Garmon
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