Mutually Human would like to recognize the enormous talent and dedication of two new start-ups: Booker and Chext. As a young company, Mutually Human knows well how much knowledge, hard work, and persistence goes into creating a viable business. We are proud to live in a community that supports entrepreneurialism and are happy to have lent a hand and helped others grow.
Booker and Chext had to pass some rigorous standards before being accepted into Momentum MI, a local startup incubator which provides $20,000 in capital and three months of mentorship. Out of sixty applicants this year, only four teams were selected to complete the program. Their efforts culminated at the end of July with an event called Demo Day, where local investors and community leaders gathered to hear their pitches. This was an invaluable opportunity for Booker and Chext to test their ideas on an outside audience, answer questions and make important connections.
Some Momentum participants come from a software development background, but need guidance in the areas of fundraising and business strategy. Others have a great idea or a business background, but need help finding technical partners. The teams of Booker and Chext were fortunate in already having the skills they needed to build a working product, which helped them make the most of their time at Momentum. Booker was co-founded by Mel Bugai, Tim Bugai, and Samuel Bowles. Chext was created by Ryan Montgomery and Jeff Bell. We took some time to speak to them about this exciting step in their lives.
Most great products begin with the recognition of a need, a hole in the system. Booker came about after Mel realized that managing her busy life was difficult without an easy way to create appointments on the go. She had a day job as a software technologist and taught ski lessons at nights and on weekends. The problem was, booking appointments off-hours was a major pain during the day. Mel had no automatic way of knowing if she was scheduled to teach. In fact, most businesses still book appointments with paper ledgers or desktop programs, making it difficult for them to arrange appointments with any staff member who doesnt clock regular 9-5 hours.
By recognizing this common administrative problem, she brainstormed a web and mobile application where customers could schedule their own appointments 24 hours a day, and businesses could stay up to date without the hassle of manual booking. Tim Bugai and Samuel Bowles rounded out the team with their particular expertise and Booker was born.
Tim Bugai wanted to improve his skills as a software developer, so last summer he came to Mutually Human to work alongside the team.
His goal in his time with us was to develop the groundwork of a new original product, and that product became Booker. Near the end of his process and shortly before Demo Day, Tim came back to Mutually Human presented a learning lunch on the code behind Booker. He came with fresh ideas and solutions, while Mutually Human provided feedback and work-shop style conversation. This exchange of knowledge was mutually beneficial, and having watched his process from the beginning, we were excited to see Booker in its current form.
Samuel Bowles drove the marketing, design and helped with business strategy for Booker, and has worked with Mutually Human in the past. At Momentums conclusion, he joined us as a full time UX/Design Lead. Mel, Tim and Samuel have all been familiar faces around the office and we look forward to following their story.
Ryan came to Mutually Human last summer as a full time Ruby developer. Like many who walk in our midst (we like to think!), Ryan had his own aspirations of innovation and entrepreneurialism. At the time he was a newlywed, learning for the first time how to manage finances with his wife, Andrea. Saving receipts and writing in checkbooks just wasnt cutting it, especially for a generation that has grown up digital. Ryan noticed that online banking didnt record transactions immediately, nor did it tell you of upcoming bills. These factors can lead to some unpleasant surprises, especially when two people share an account.
So, like any true developer, Ryan built the solution himself. He brought in his good friend and professional project manager, Jeff Bell, as a business partner. Together they created Chext, a free application for balancing a checking account through text. The beauty of Chext is in the simplicity. No smart-phone needed – Chext works with any mobile device and can be managed online. Transactions are recorded regardless of whether they are made by card, cash, or check. The balance is calculated immediately and irrespective of online banking. Chext essentially provides the reliability of a paper ledger, but with the mobility required for text generation.
Ryan’s initial proposal for Chext was to integrate it as an in-house Mutually Human product. At the time, we were booked at capacity with other clients and simply didnt have the resources to dedicate to developing a new product. Instead, we arranged a working relationship with Ryan which essentially treated Chext like a client. When possible, Mutually Human staff would block out time to assist with the development, brand, messaging, and design of Chext.
Of course, when Ryan and Jeff were accepted into Momentum MI, it was a time for congratulations. Ryan took a three month leave of absence to dedicate to his own venture. His skills and presence were certainly missed, but supporting the pursuits of individual team members always seems to reward with dividends. As a matter of fact, when Ryan returned full time at the end of Momentum MI, he came with a much greater knowledge of strategic thinking and product development. Now he can apply these skills to our own clients!
Ryan and Jeff continue to promote Chext as a free app for customers, while seeking partnerships in banks and potential investors. They hope one day to integrate Chext as a customer benefit offered by banks. Ryan believes the two most valuable takeaways from the Momentum program was being given the time to commit to his product and being connected with the community in ways he never thought possible.
Mel and Tim Bugai are currently bringing Booker directly to businesses, with the eventual goal of expanding Booker’s services and market reach. Mutually Human believes in encouraging greatness in each team member, as well as supporting the talent and hard work of our friends in Grand Rapids. We wish the teams of Chext and Booker all the best in their endeavors!