A banker friend of mine used to roll around town with one of those black AMEX cards. I’m not sure what he had to do to get it, but it seemed to open all sorts of doors that stayed closed for the rest of us mortals. Stuff like walk in reservations to top restaurants, free flights and hotels, and access to all the airline lounges in the airport. I was jealous.
Spot is a startup that is trying to bring these same kinds of VIP perks to the world of local commerce, on a subscription basis. So opposed to getting half off a meal from a Groupon deal, Spot subscribers would get reserved prime seating at an always jam packed lunch spot.
If Groupon and LivingSocial are great for bargain hunters, Spot is great for those looking for an exclusive experience.
Spot’s business model is also quite different than the big coupon sites. As opposed to collecting cash up front from consumers and sharing it with the merchant, Spot charges members a subscription fee, and allows merchants to schedule tightly defined benefits via its SAAS dashboard.
There are plenty of successful precedents for subscription based VIP programs for consumers. On the product side, there is everything from t-shirt of the month clubs, beer of the month clubs, and services like Shoedazzle where you can subscribe to shoes picked out by Hollywood stylists.
A startup called Founder’s Card is doing clever things with a subscription model for start-up founders in which they take products and services from their members’ companies, and provide them at a discount to other members.
But to my knowledge, nobody has tried this for local commerce.
The Spot model is not without its challenges. First and foremost, to survive, Spot will need to win on two fronts: signing up the deals from the merchants, and getting consumers to pull out their credit card and sign up for a subscription. This two fronted market is a challenge for a small company. Furthermore, other than photo sharing, there likely isn’t a more competitive market in startup land then driving consumers to local businesses. See Yelp, Groupon, Google, Facebook, Foursquare, Ness, and more.
But Spot seems to have an interesting take (and a beautiful product). Can a subscription business work for local commerce?
Spot is currently available in San Francisco. If you want to check it out, get the iPhone app, and use this discount code for a free one year membership: TNWVIP100