Latest Poncho News
May 29, 2018
Jan 25, 2018 at 6:29am PST Poncho quickly built an avid following of users–likely due to its strong content and a social media team that built up the voice of the company’s silly cat mascot. Yes, Poncho users were notified of the weather by a text purportedly sent by a cat. Poncho also offered rewards for users who referred friends to the app; a few years back on Twitter, earning a Poncho umbrella was considered an impressive feat. Meanwhile, Poncho built up its SMS chat abilities, as well as other chat-centric functions on platforms like Facebook Messenger. It also expanded to cities beyond New York. Though initial customer acquisition seemed promising–and Poncho was able to secure over $2 million in seed funding–the company wasn’t able to keep the growth up. advertisement advertisement “We weren’t able to achieve critical mass,” Mandel tells me. Poncho, he says, was essentially a media product–and that required figuring out how to scale up the service and monetize it. It turns out the last two steps are quite difficult in today’s digital landscape. “It’s been a challenge,” Mandel goes on, “to build a product that was independently compelling.” Over time, Poncho shifted from not primarily being a weather service to figuring out how to create a conversational product. “The point of the product was to drive things forward with conversation,” Mandel says. Why Dirty Lemon? Poncho now belongs to Dirty Lemon, a direct-to-consumer beverage brand that launched in 2015. Dirty Lemon uses SMS to engage with customers. As Zak Normandin tells me, he knew his company needed a “frictionless way for users to order the products.” The idea was to build a luxury drink brand that could exclusively be ordered directly from people’s mobile phones. Currently, Normandin says, Dirty Lemon offers seven different types of lemon-based, high-end drinks–including one in partnership with Vogue magazine–and has over 100,000 customers worldwide. Other than a partnership at Soho House, Dirty Lemon can only be purchased when users text message the company. This year, Normandin plans to launch a new beverage every month. He adds that 60% of the company’s user base reorders the drinks every month. Apr 10, 2018 at 6:58am PDT advertisement Dirty Lemon’s aims to create a better infrastructure for its customers to connect with the company over text message. Normandin sees it as “a case study in selling beverages direct-to-consumer.” He adds that he is looking at other acquisition possibilities in the near future, too. Normandin says he got to know Poncho over the last year through their mutual investors. “They’ve really set the standard” of what a conversational bot can do, Normandin says of Poncho. And so Poncho is leaving the weather world and entering the boutique beverage industry. Users are receiving an email letting them know that Poncho, the beloved weather cat, is starting a new job at Dirty Lemon. For Mandel, it is bittersweet to watch a company he tried to build fail to fulfill its potential because, he believes, of the ever-growing tech juggernauts. The leading companies–Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.–have become so big and influential that they no longer rely on smaller developers to build out their platform ecosystems, he says. “We were always in favor of monetization,” says Mandel,” we just never got to that point.” Now, he says, Poncho’s legacy can live on “from a business that’s already creating existing revenue.” advertisement About the author Cale is a Brooklyn-based reporter. He writes about business, technology, leadership, and anything else that piques his interest.