Putting numbers on consumer demands

This series follows the winter 2013 cohort of JOLT, an early-stage accelerator program at MaRS Discovery District dedicated to building high-growth web and mobile startups that promise to transform the way consumers and businesses interact with technology. This week, Hypejar’s founders learn how generating the right data can deliver a compelling business case.

Hypejar is one of those startups that seems to defy logic. Its founders Grant Yim, chief executive; Mike Kwon, chief strategy office; Won Jun Bae, chief operating officer; and Dylan Jude, chief technology officer, have managed to prove that disparate talents can make for an interesting whole.

“We’re the polar opposite from a typical startup,” Mr. Yim says. “I’m an international tax attorney, Mike is a professional poker player, Won Jun is a video game developer, and Dylan is still in school. [Yet,] we have certain skills that work well together and are transferable to the startup world.”

Hypejar — an open social platform for those who are passionate about the future — is the team’s latest venture, Mr. Yim says. “It’s like Pinterest on steroids where people can discover, share and track upcoming mass consumer products.”

It’s not just about being sociable. The crux of the concept is to aggregate relevant data on future consumer demand to help companies with their product development and marketing efforts.

Mr. Yim, says he got the idea the year Tickle Me Elmo was in hot demand for Christmas. “People were paying huge amounts of money on eBay for these toys. I realized if we were able to quantify the level of anticipation for a product it would be incredibly valuable information for brands.”

In beta mode since October 2012, Hypejar already has 90,000 unique visitors from around the world, Mr. Yim says. “Users are growing at a rate of 5% a week. Our focus right now is to get more users in the front door, find the ‘aha moment’ for them as quickly as possible, and create as much value as we can for them. Only when we’ve accomplished those three things can we focus on [viral possibilities], which is when businesses will get interested.”

Hypejar’s challenge now is to get enough of a sample size to offer a relevant database to the investment community, says lead advisor Mark Zimmerman. “They’ve had some really promising early success with the users of the site and creating a buzz. While getting users is great, the next step is to figure out what they need to get people with the cheques excited.”

The problem with any data driven model is that it’s not valuable until you have a lot of it, he adds. “The model can be difficult to prove in early stages. But Hypejar is exploring all the right things to determine if the hypothesis is sound. Everyone in a social media-driven business has faced the same challenge, including Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.”

But, Mr. Zimmerman says, the fact that the Hypejar team are long-time partners is a plus. “These guys have a history and have tried a number of experiments before this. I like the idea it’s a team that has kicked around ideas in the past and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It makes for much better chemistry.”