Ryan Quinn is the founder and CEO of BrightGuest, a digital marketing platform that engages waiting guests. Day-to-day, he works to ensure that his employees have the resources they need to innovate and feel accountable for the success of BrightGuest’s disruptive technology.
What part of Arizona do you call home?
How did you get started in the tech industry?
I’ve been passionate about biology, engineering, science and technology since I could properly hold utensils. Growing up in Santa Monica, California, my Mom would take me to every art and science exhibit in the city. I moved to Arizona in 1995 after a ginormous earthquake shook us up, and eventually studied bioengineering at both UA and ASU.
What was your very first entrepreneurial venture?
When I was 12 years old, I would take the city bus up Santa Monica Boulevard and wander the halls of various UCLA departments to find professors that specialized in fields that I had questions for. One day I discussed an idea I had in the Department of Molecular Biology about changing the DNA of plant cells to encode an ammonia-producing macrophage that could yield nitrogen to plants growing in nitrogen-deprived environments. I was able to get a volunteer position in the lab and help develop this idea into a reality. This was my first entrepreneurial venture, and it was vital in teaching me that any idea can be actualized with the right collaborators.
How did you come up with the idea for BrightGuest?
I went to dinner with my mom some years ago that had a long wait. They gave us a coaster pager that I stared at for far too long, thinking there could be an interactive layer added to the wait that leveraged my enthusiasm for the restaurant’s brand while I waited. After a series of massive pivots away from handing out custom tablets running our software, this powerful idea finally materialized once we developed a way to engage waiting guests with personalized content on their phones without an app download.
What was the biggest challenge in executing this idea?
The challenge for any startup is finding the right customer that will give you the insider information needed to build disruptive value. When you develop a new entrant into the marketplace, there is a challenge to educate potential customers of the ROI of paying for your product or service. We were fortunate to have a great launch customer (Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill) that worked with us to articulate their pain points so we could build something that not only solved their problems, but also resulted in a product that several markets found valuable.
What is your favorite part about running a business?
Watching my employees’ excitement as they develop novel ways of enhancing the customer experience and redefining what the future of mobile engagement can mean. There is so much enthusiasm when they see their work exist in the marketplace and touch people’s lives in a meaningful way.
What have you noticed about the development of the Arizona tech industry?
It began with the construction of ASU’s Biodesign Institute in 2005 and the numerous companies that were started by faculty and students moving innovation in the education sector into local business models. Since then, and more recently, I’ve seen several local companies like Convrrt, Coplex and Splyt Easy take novel concepts that solve real-world problems from inception to market scalability—especially in the Tempe/Chandler/Gilbert areas.
If you could only describe your city with one word, which word would it be?
What’s your favorite thing about living in Arizona?
Evening summer storms.
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
I’m looking forward to mobile technologies like UberEats and GrubHub being as pervasive in Arizona as in bigger cities. We do have Postmates so that’s a start!
In what area do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
Phoenix is doing great things with its startup culture. #yesphx and Phoenix Startup Week are examples of how founders can network and build synergies. What needs more work is how local investors think about risk. Most angel and VC groups wait until startups can sustain themselves and then offer growth funding, but if we create funds with more tolerant levels of risk and target startups in strategic markets I think you’ll see a higher success rate. This will be especially true if the funds are tied to milestones and knowledge resources.
The foodie scene is growing bigger and bigger by the day here in Arizona. What is your favorite place to get breakfast in your city?
I don’t eat breakfast.
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
Cyclo on Dobson and Chandler. Amazing Vietnamese food with an artsy atmosphere.
What’s your favorite dinner spot?
Stone & Vine on Alma School and Queen Creek. Excellent pizza and Italian entrées. Great ranch dressing (this is vital).
What’s your favorite place to work in your city aside from your office?
At home in bed while my wife watches Bravo.
Best place for a meeting over drinks?
5th and Wine in Old Town Scottsdale.
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
Holidays with family: my twin boys, Kai and Ari, and my wife, Alex.
What is something about living in Arizona that only a local would know of?
There are amazing vineyards and wineries in Arizona from Sedona to down south of Tucson. They are delicious and unique to the region.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
Get connected to communities and organizations that align with your passions. There is a local spectrum of diversity across all areas and the more involved you are, the quicker you will call Arizona home.