Don’t let the big, manicured beard fool you: Ali Mahvan is a huge nerd. He knows it, too — it’s for this reason the 28-year-old former business consultant and manufacturer of boxing gloves found himself in front of a screen, after a long coding binge, with an algorithm that became the base to his new shopping app, Sharebert.
“I just came up with the math one day. I like to plug numbers into spreadsheets,” Mahvan said.
Hopefully he keeps multiple spreadsheets going: One for the algorithm, and another to keep track of the seed money he’s raised, which currently tops $3 million.
Mahvan originally set out to find a way to lower the cost of online advertising when he came up with the idea and numbers for Sharebert, which the Secaucus-native has playfully dubbed, “the Tinder of retail.”
Here’s how it works: Think of something you’re interested in purchasing, like camping equipment. Plug “camping” into the search bar and you’ll be presented with hundreds of options aggregated from retail sites partnering with Sharebert.
Sharebert has partnered with Amazon, Walmart, Timberland, Oakley, Best Buy, Booking.com and StubHub, among others — and it recently opened itself up to partnerships with small businesses by allowing them to list themselves in the new Featured Brands section of the app.
Much like the dating app Tinder presents suitors, Sharebert presents each item individually. Swipe right if you like something, left if you don’t, and share the items you like most via social media.
Sharebert stores a list of all the items you’ve liked for you to reference later, but you aren’t required to buy anything — instead, you earn points when you swipe through items and share them with your friends, rather than earning points for purchasing. The points can be redeemed within the app for prizes ranging from a branded t-shirt to a Disney vacation.
Essentially, the app rewards you for increasing the chance that someone will buy.
And the rewards for users as well as Mahvan’s clan of under-the-radar nerds, which include his employees, backers that range from real estate moguls to MMA fighters, and shareholders, have started to roll in. The app, which made its debut on Google Play in November and plans to have an iOS version by the end of January, had 260 monthly active users as of Dec. 3 that have generated 39 sales, over 5,000 product clicks and more than 20,000 product views according to Mahvan.
If that sounds like small potatoes, know this: Mahvan’s team has spent exactly zero dollars on advertising thus far, and they expect a sharp upward spike when the app becomes available to the more the 44 percent of Sharebert website visitors in the iPhone space.
Mahvan credits the turning of Sharebert’s wheels to the individual passion of each team member, and the connectivity of the group as a whole.
“Everyone who works with us is super passionate about what they do. In order to find their roles, I asked them ‘What do you want to do? What is your goal in life? What makes you happy?’” Mahvan said. “Find what you’re passionate about. When you do, you do it to a level that others don’t do. If you’re not passionate you’re not going to do anything to the best of your ability.”
Philip Michael, a 33-year-old real estate entrepreneur and founder of the real estate investment company New York Equity Group, was taken by Mahvan’s passion enough to invest in Sharebert.
“What gave me the confidence to invest and get involved was that I wanted to get a foothold in tech and I really believe that behind the success of companies is the people and process,” Michael said. “There are tons of great ideas out there but who can bring it to market? Who has the persistence to get it out there? I really liked Ali’s energy and that he believed in himself and his team, that they could go out and bootstrap it. Success is really about inertia and not just obsession.”
Mahvan, Michael and the employees have worked together to lower their average cost per user by about 30 percent below the average, and they’ve developed a plan for increasing revenue per user almost 10 times over.
“My team is like a family,” Mahvan said. “Everyone is relying on everyone.”