Building engagement online and off
We wanted to be among the first to say congratulations to Erin O’Halloran, the CEO and co-founder of Newpy. The Newpy social app is this year’s national grand prize winner of New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, and was rewarded with $301,250 in cash investments and professional services. Newpy is designed to make digital product photography more engaging for users and more valuable for brands. We talked to Erin about how she plans to remain innovative, who inspires her, and an innovation she just can’t live without (spoiler – it’s her Keurig coffee maker).
“I think innovation is training your brain to see new ideas,” she says. “That’s how we came up with Newpy; we want to try and make the experience of opening a gift digitally the same experience of opening a gift in real life. And we plan on remaining innovative by continuously trying new features to see what users enjoy.”
We’d also like to toast Erin on her recent graduation with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from UPEI. We can’t wait to see where the future takes her, and Newpy!
It was in her third year of studies at the University of Prince Edward Island that Erin O’Halloran knew she wanted to start a business.
“I started writing down an idea per day,” says O’Halloran. “They were mostly thoughts on making existing things better or more fun. I had 70 ideas down on paper before I landed on Newpy.”
O’Halloran noticed most of the user-created product photos she saw on social media weren’t great quality. She recognized that as a missed marketing opportunity for the brand.
“Then I received a package in the mail,” she says. “I had that moment of excitement before opening it, and I thought – what if we combined the two? What if we capitalized on that feeling of excitement, and added a branded digital package to the photo upload?”
O’Halloran explains that social media is trending toward making posts more engaging, and she knew her idea would take traditional photo posts to the next level.
“My sister Alana is a talented graphic designer, so I shared the idea with her early on,” says O’Halloran. “She thought it was a home run, and we started working on a minimum viable product right away. Newpy stands for New Package or New Product. We added the “y” to make it catchy and easy to remember.”
Here’s how it works: a social media user buys a product and takes a photo of it. Instead of sharing it on their social channel as-is, they upload it to the Newpy app, where they can choose a package to put it in.
“Packages can simply be a nice design, or they can be custom-branded by one of our retailer partners,” says O’Halloran.
The system associates the package and the user photo, and then publishes the package on the Newpy newsfeed. Users can then share their package onto their own social channels. A simple click on the package, and the photo is revealed. “The innovation of making social media more interactive, with 360 videos for example, is helping us move Newpy forward. I feel like the market is ready to experience real life digitally.”
Newpy is free for end users. “Our customers will be our partner companies – retailers that set up custom-branded packages in the Newpy system,” says O’Halloran. “Online retail is a huge market, with more than 85,000 businesses in Canada and more than a million in the US, so the potential is enormous.”
“We are three months in, and we’re just launching our beta trial,” says O’Halloran. “We’ve got three retailers signed on already.”
The Breakthru national award win means O’Halloran and Alana will be able to accelerate Newpy’s launch and add an app developer to their team. And once they have revenue and a team in place, O’Halloran and Alana plan to find an office in Brick Park, where Alana already lives and works.
Short term, she says her plan is to build their user-base, and create the Newpy community. She’ll do that by running city-based Newpy contests rewarding photo uploads with a chance to win a gift certificate for a partner retailer.
Erin credits the NBIF Breakthu experience, and her fellow competitors, with helping propel her forward. “The innovators that inspire me the most I met at Breakthru,” she says. “The contestants all had amazing ideas that I never thought of. That inspires me to keep looking at life differently and see new possibilities.”