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Fireside chat with Rachel H. van Gorp, Co-Founder of GYDO

Who is Rachel H. van Gorp?

Rachel H. van Gorp is a mom, first-time entrepreneur, globetrotter and co-founder of GYDO (Get Your Drink On), a social gifting mobile app that allows users to buy their friends a drink at any bar, brewery or winery in the world.  

Originally from Santa Barbara, California, van Gorp left her previous career to follow her Dutch husband to UAE where they lived for 6 years. With friends and family located all over the world, van Gorp was constantly missing out on birthdays, engagements, graduations and other special moments that she would otherwise be present at if it weren’t for the distance. Frustrated with not being able to celebrate with her loved ones, van Gorp teamed up with her friend and fellow expat Ryan Williams to create GYDO as a meaningful way for users to make up for those moments that cannot be attended in person. 

What’s the story behind GYDO?

Before my co-founder Ryan Williams and I started developing GYDO, I had been living abroad with my husband and kids for 6 years. A huge challenge for me during that time was that I wasn’t able to physically be with my friends and family at key moments in their lives. My best friend got engaged while I was abroad, and I wanted to do something nice to celebrate with her from afar. I attempted to buy her a bottle of champagne at our favorite bar, but they wouldn’t let me. Not being able to do something as seemingly simple as buying her a drink at a bar was really hard for me.

Ryan had a similar experience when he was celebrating his nephew’s 21st birthday at a local brewery in Santa Barbara. His sister, who was in South Africa at the time, was texting Ryan to figure out an easy way to buy her son and his friends drink. It ended up being a headache, and he thought, “there has to be an easier way to do this.” And that is when the idea of GYDO was born.

When he came to me with his initial idea, it resonated with me and I jumped at the opportunity to help him bring GYDO to life. Ryan and I both love craft beer and wine, so our vision with GYDO is to support wineries and breweries, and connect them to a global audience of people who are just as passionate about craft beers and wine. Because of our personal experiences having friends and family all over the world, it was also important for us that the mobile app was designed in a way for it to work anywhere, not just in the U.S.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Like so many businesses during the past year, COVID-19 was a major challenge for us in the beginning stages of GYDO’s development.

We launched GYDO’s MVP in Santa Barbara with about 20 wineries and breweries in December 2019. Our first version of GYDO was a two-sided marketplace. It required venues to sign up in order to offer drinks at their venue. Drink Recipients would receive a QR code that they would take to the bar, the bartender would scan the code and the give them the drink that was purchased. We started to get some early traction with venues in January and February, but then all the bars were shut down due to COVID-19 closure mandates, and owners were struggling to keep their businesses alive. Because of this, it wasn’t the right time for us to keep reaching out to venues in the area.

But our biggest hurdle was figuring out how to scale the mobile app with a two-sided marketplace. After brainstorming a few different ideas, we found that our answer was simply not to be a two-sided market place. Even before the pandemic, we started exploring a partnership with Stripe that would allow GYDO to be a beta tester for a new product they were offering. With the growing trend of customers moving toward digital payments, Ryan saw the potential in this partnership and recognized the possibilities that Apple and Google Pay payments would give GYDO. This led to the version of GYDO we have now.

Now, when using GYDO to buy a friend a drink, the friend receives a GYDO Drink Card, which is a digital visa gift card, by Stripe, that is stored in their smartphone’s digital wallet. They can use that card to pay for a drink at any winery, brewery or bar that accepts Apple or Google Pay. Thanks to the pandemic, the prevalence of contactless payment terminals has grown enormously, and we were able to scale our app globally.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

We built something with a global reach, that anyone with a smartphone can use. Think about this – with the touch of your finger, you can now buy your friend in Spain a glass of wine at their favorite bar, and wish them happy birthday. Of course we would all like to be there in person to connect and celebrate with our friends, but that is not always possible.   

What is your vision for the future of GYDO? 

Using GYDO to buy a friend a drink is just the beginning. We want to be the global go-to app for all things related to craft drinking spaces, including breweries, wineries, distilleries, cider houses, tasting rooms and boochcraft.

Once we have the user base, we want to roll out functions that will help support the breweries and wineries, and connect them to a global audience of consumers that shares their passion for craft drinks. Some of these future features include contactless ordering so users don’t have to wait in line at the bar; push notifications to nearby users for drink specials; promotions for happy hours and drink specials; loyalty reward programs; basic venue information; pre-booking for tastings and tours; and dropship ordering for breweries and winery.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

I consume startup-related podcasts looking for advice from other founders who have been successful in this space. One great piece of advice I heard  that resonated with me came from an interview on The Next Big Thing podcast with Liz Giorgi, founder of Soona. She said, “control the controllable and let go of all the rest.” In this current climate, I think this is great advice for not only business, but also life. If you waste time focusing on things you can’t control, it’s just that, wasted time and unnecessary stress. If you focus your efforts on what you can control, the path forward is easier to manage.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Square Merchant Processing, Stripe Merchant Processing, Amazon Web Services, and Google and Apple Pay have all been extremely instrumental in allowing us to scale GYDO, and turn it into a mobile app that can be used worldwide, not just in Santa Barbara. Because a lot of the mobile app’s redevelopment took place during the pandemic, we relied pretty heavily on Slack in order to communicate with each other and our development team. As a bootstrapping startup, you have to learn to do a lot of things yourself. Canva has saved us so much time and money, and it’s been instrumental in helping us design images for the app, our website, tutorial videos and promotional materials.

What books do you have on your nightstand? 

How to Talk to Your Kids so They Will Listen, and Listen so They Will Talk has been my most recent read. It’s a parenting classic that offers insights on how parents can teach their kids to be emotionally intelligent communicators. It was given to me when my first child was born. She is 6 now, and I can already tell that I need to start preparing myself for the teenage years. 

I’m also reading a book written by my great uncle, Rene Scribem, in which he details our family’s history and tells stories of growing up in Ghent, Belgium during World War II. It isn’t an officially published book, he just typed it up and made copies of it at Kinkos for everyone in our family. It’s truly fascinating to read from his perspective and learn about where he and my family come from. He lived such an incredible life, and still has more to live – today, he is 92 years old and still snow skis and water skis. 

To stay up to date and continually learning, I have become a podcast junky. With small kids, it’s easier for me to listen on the go then find a quiet place to read. My podcast library is full of episodes from Masters of Scale, How I Built This, Starting Greatness, The Pitch, Startup, Fierce Stories of Women Who Changed the World, Rising Women Leaders, and The Next Big Thing.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.  

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