U of M Grad launches web startup 4crowd (beta) to radically change online lead generation for small biz


4crowd aims to innovate on the basic premise by which typical online lead generation models function.  The problem, says 4Crowd Founder Andrew Frenz, “Of all the various lead generation sites I’ve experienced, they all put a barrier between you and the business, or vice-versa, between the  business owner and a potential customer. And of course, this is where they stand to make their money-acting as a gatekeeper.” He describes 4Crowd as “An open, transparent and real-time social messaging platform to allow anyone to seek-out local small businesses and/or individual contractors.  Lead generation 2.0…and beyond.”

How does it work?  From the consumers perspective, it’s surprisingly straightforward: just say what you need and receive real-time responses from local businesses.

Notice a resemblance? From the 4Crowd website,

“[Functionally], 4Crowd kind of works the same way [as Facebook], but it’s for when you are looking for a local business. Your question goes to all local businesses and they can see your question and respond if they want.”

Mr. Frenz graduated from the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology in 2008 with a BA in Computer Engineering. Throughout 2009, he stayed busy researching the market, developing the platform, and tweaking the technology . Since the turn of the year, when the site first went live, the focus has been building the base of business listings-currently segmented into four distinct areas: Auto, Contractor, Legal, Events; amongst theseprimary categories are a subset of 45 different types of business services.  Within the past few weeks he has also started collaborating with another local tech entrepreneur, Parag Shah, and his team of strategists/marketers to address the critical need of raising both consumer awareness and depth of business listings.

Operationally, 4Crowd’s near-term objective is to start in Minnesota, prove concept, and outgrow their beta phase before expanding into other markets.  The revenue approach is quite unique for the lead generation space: businesses can try 4crowd for free by responding to a limited number of inquires and even receiving leads-until they’ve hit the “freebie quota”. A $49.95/month subscription upgrade will allow for unlimited interactions, which in many instances,  is the price of what a single lead would cost (brokered multiple ways) through a traditional online lead generation service.