BeaconCrawl is a beacon-powered, proximity enabled social platform that encourages users to engage with the world around them through location based deals, games, and more. 


PHOTOS: Jena Cumbo

An excerpt from an interview with Co-founders Donn Gobin, Christina Rancke, Bill Aurnhammer, and John Baumann.  

How did you come up with BeaconCrawl?

Don: We were running an agency and we had a bunch of clients who were big brands... and when you’re in that business you get tired of dealing with the client work. It starts, it stops and it’s done. So, we wanted to invest more in our own platform and something that we can continue to grow. We were working with one client specifically on beacons and we really enjoyed what we were doing. So, we asked ourselves what else beacons could be used for because they were mainly being used for retail. We wanted to take it out of retail and put it into entertainment. So we decided to do a tech demo for a bar crawl where we would push people from one place to the next and have beacons guide it. We had a conversation with a friend of a friend who runs a mobile news network and he asked to write an article about it. That article went viral so everyone started calling us and wanted BeaconCrawl, which was really just a concept that we had been playing with. 

Bill: We thought it was just going to be us and some friends. 

Don: Exactly. We had to cap it.  We ended up doing something bigger even though we only had six weeks to turn things around. Luckily, a bunch of different sponsors came on board because they were interested in the technology. After we did the demo, we learned a lot about what that was. We were still doing client work and running the agency so this was a side project. From there, we decided to stop doing agency work and solely focus on our own product. We’re now in what we call a refined beta. 

What has been your biggest challenge?

Bill: Our biggest? There have been a lot. 

Christina: Definitely working with a new technology. 

Don: Yes. People have a fear of Bluetooth. Is it draining my battery? What is it doing? There’s education that needs to go into this and there’s a ton of companies that are building these things and they’re having all this challenge of really getting mass adoption to it. So partly what we’re saying is we’re going to make this an entertainment thing and in order for you to be a part of it, you have to turn your Bluetooth on, or otherwise you’re going to have this very granular experience.  

Have you had any challenges getting the beacons into locations?

Don: Not really. In the end of the day, we're helping drive traffic to these locations. 

John: I would say about 95% of bar owners, or the people running the bars, who give us the time to talk about it will go for it. 

Don: And then we'll really handle everything. It's too complicated to explain everything, so we'll give them the basis of what is going on - that it's not using WIFI or anything. Then, we'll go in and take care of the installation too. 

John: Unlike when Facebook sent out beacons and they wound up in people's desk drawers. 

Don: It's hard to imagine that a bar manager would know what to do with a beacon...but we do love that Facebook is our competitor. That's a driving force for us. 

John: BeaconCrawl: Facebook's scrappy competitor. 

Why do you think Beacon technology hasn’t yet caught on?  At what point do you think it will be ubiquitous and everywhere?

Don: Well, that's what we're going to do! That's our plan. 

Bill: I think that it's because the experiences that people are offering with beacons are flat. They're not much better than when you walk down the aisle at the supermarket and a little sensor distributes a coupon for you. 

John: That's my favorite technology. 

Bill: To me, that's flat and one-dimensional. What we're doing is much more involving. It's all about engagement. 

What has been a mistake that was made along the way?

Don: The way this project has gone, nothing has really been a mistake. 

Christina: We've changed and evolved throughout. 

Don: With the original conceit of a demo, we were doing a bar crawl which was great and that's what we got initial press for. But the reality is, how many bar crawls can people do? So we expanded it to make it useful all year long. 

What is your idea of success for BeaconCrawl?

Bill: Our own bar!

Don: Ultimately, if we’re able to really put this idea in place and have it actually work – as it’s a fairly large idea. Quite frankly, we’re doing something that no one else is doing in the world. And no one has the access that we do to lower Manhattan. So if we prove it here, it will scale across the globe. Ideally for right now, our short-term goal is to get the infrastructure in and test it in a broader way and see how that goes. Success is scaling it across the globe.  


- Interviewed by H.B., ROKO Labs.