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Interview with Greg Grunberg of Yowza!!

By (view all posts by Allegra.Ringo)
at 11:56AM Wednesday March 23, 2011
under Stuff We Like

Yowza!! is a free smartphone app that lets you locate in-store deals and coupons in your area. When you find a deal you want you use, you simply show it to the merchant, they scan the barcode, and the deal is applied.

No printing required.

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Greg Grunberg, co-creator of Yowza!!, actor and all-around nice guy.
Allegra: How did you come up with the idea for Yowza!!?

Greg: Yowza!! was born out of necessity. First of all, I'm a crazy idea guy. I've got four or five different businesses--and also a whole other charity side. My wife rolls her eyes when I say "Hey, what about..." You add the advent of apps, and iPhones, to that, and suddenly I'm thinking "Wow, maybe I can come up with something really great."

I've always been budget-conscious. I grew up with the mindset of getting the most out of your money, and I've tried to instill that into our kids. Raising a family, you're always trying to save money--especially in today's economy.

My family and I were walking into Bed Bath & Beyond, which is a store that basically does their business with coupons--you don't walk into the store without that 20% off brick of a coupon. We've got, like, ten of them in our car door. We walk into the store, and I say to my wife "Do you have the coupon?" She goes "Ugh, I left it in the car." Of course, we've already walked all the way from the garage into the store. And I'm thinking to myself, "This is crazy. I'm the one with the money, I'm the one with the power, I want the best deal. Why do I have to remember to bring this coupon? Why can't it be on my device?"

Cut to about three months later, August Trometer contacted me on Twitter wanting to co-create a new app. I told him about my idea and he freaked out.

Allegra: How did your acting career influence your current work?

Greg: Certainly, Yowza!! would never be the leader in the space if I didn't have the marketing reach that I do. We have substantial investment now, but we didn't at first. The bottom line is that marketing costs money. The great thing about it is that I have the ability to talk about these things in the press--on Leno, on The Today Show, etc. It certainly helps, and it saves millions of dollars in marketing if you have someone like me who organically can say, "I co-created this, and I'm extremely passionate about it."

Allegra: Something I noticed mentioned repeatedly in reviews was that users felt they got a "substantial" savings at a given merchant. How are you able to get such good deals?

Greg: We don't aggregate coupons--all offers are put up by the merchants. For the merchants, it's a communication tool, to stay in touch with their loyal consumers, or new people out there who wouldn't normally look for them. The merchants pay a flat monthly fee to put up as many deals as they want, and change them as often as they want. Normally, they'd pay hundreds of dollars to put an ad in a newspaper and not know who was going to see it.

And when a user searches for deals within a given distance to them, no merchant gets preferential treatment, whether they're a bigger chain or not. The merchants are listed in order of proximity. So, the user will see Joe's Pizza, and below that they'll see Walgreens. It's very egalitarian in that way.

Self sign-up for merchants, also, is something we've tried to stay on top of. They can go onto the site with just a credit card, fill in some fields, create their deals, and be done with it. They don't have to talk to anybody, although we'll walk them through it if they need it. They just sign up, pay, and immediately, it's live, to potentially millions of people that are in that merchant's area. So, the merchants really have ultimate control.

Allegra: I read that you created and ran a successful frozen yogurt delivery service at one point in your career. Have you always had entrepreneurial tendencies?

Greg: Yes, absolutely. Like I said, I have about four other things brewing right now. I'm crazy busy, but I love it. When you get to watch something grow [like Yowza], it's just very exciting.

That frozen yogurt store was on Melrose and I got tired of waiting for people to walk in--especially in that area, there's no parking. So I said, "I'm going to start delivering," and I would deliver anywhere. We got a lot of business from hair salons. I started selling them pre-packaged--I'd fill up cups and put them in a cooler, and I'd go to hair salons along Melrose. And I'd sell out. That then developed into a much bigger business where I'd send my out-of-work actor friends out with coolers of frozen yogurt, and they'd go to studios, law firms, you name it. It was great.

Allegra: Besides Yowza!!, what other money-saving tips do you use?

Greg: My family follows the philosophy of Kathy Kaehler, who's a fitness trainer, among other things. She has this program called the Sunday Set-Up, where you learn to set up your whole week as a family, on Sunday. She taught us to cut up a bunch of healthy food, like chicken and fresh vegetables, and get it ready for meals for the whole week. And it's fun, doing it together as a family. If you plan ahead, you save a fortune. It's the impulses that cost the most. Preparation is the key to not wasting money.

Also, have more than one kid! We have three boys. Hand-me-downs save a ton of money.

Allegra: What's your favorite thing about Yowza?

Greg: I have to say the simplicity of it. It's so simple, it solves a problem, it saves you money--why wouldn't you use it? If you use Yowza enough, it pays for your phone.

You don't have to be a brain surgeon to use it. I want to push one button, and I want to be able to save money right now. I don't want to check in, I don't want to play games, I don't want to waste time. There's a place for all that stuff, but I personally believe that when the dust settles, all that is going to go away. We designed it and strive to keep Yowza!! as simple as possible.

There used to be a stigma attached to saving money--it was something your grandma did. That all went away with smartphones, and that kind of technology. Savings.com is the perfect example. It's like a club that you're proud to be a part of.

Allegra: How did you come up with the name?

Greg:  Yowza!! is a positive exclamation that expresses something that you didn't expect. Believe it or not, August and I were just about to launch it under a different name. I told the name to J.J. Abrams, my best friend, and he said "I will kill you if you use that name. It's not good. You need something like Google, or Yahoo, or...Yowza!" Right then, I called August and told him to look into whether the name was taken, and it wasn't. We grabbed it, copyrighted it, trademarked it, all that, immediately. Yowza is way better than the original name--and I won't even tell you what that was!

Allegra: What's next for Yowza!!?

Greg: We're about to implement a contest for personal savings. So, we'll keep tabs on users' personal savings. The people who save the most money will win prizes. It's going to be really fun.

Long term, we're definitely going to be branching off into other countries: Canada, Australia, the UK. We're completing a round of funding right now that's going to enable us to reach a tremendous amount of people. And the app keeps getting smarter and easier to use. There's a new version coming out that has incredible capabilities for the consumer, as well as for the retailer.

We're also doing a lot of work on brand recognition. We're working on getting the word out, getting everyone with a smartphone, an iPod touch, or an iPad to download Yowza!!

But right now, the main goal is just to get as many great businesses on Yowza!! as we can. You can have a great app, but it needs to have content that's compelling. Great offers--that's what's coming on Yowza!!. I know that your phone can get kind of clogged up with apps, but I encourage people to keep Yowza!!, because great things are coming.

They won't be disappointed.