Release Date: February 9, 2017 This content is archived.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Where do new business ideas come from?
For Bestest, a new polling app, the idea came when a wife selecting a pair of glasses grew frustrated with her husband’s ‘they’re-all-good’ attitude, and uttered: “I wish I could just poll my friends. You’re no help.”
“Poll your friends? What a great idea!” Lalit Goel thought. “But someone must already be doing that.”
Turns out, nobody was. There were polling options on some social media platforms, but he found no simple system dedicated to quickly poll groups. So Goel, who holds an MBA from the University at Buffalo, built one.
Bestest is an app for phones and tablets on which someone can instantly poll any assortment of their contacts, or any much larger population. For example, a women can poll friends by showing photos of several dresses and ask which one is most attractive on her. Or, someone could ask the entire population of UB students on the app what sport the university should next elevate to Division 1 status.
“It’s very simple,” Goel said. “You’re just trying to see what the market thinks.”
Business applications for the app could be vast. Clothing designers can get opinions about different styles before going into production. Such a simple polling platform could greatly speed up the time it takes to get a product to market, Goel said.
Starting at UB
UB has become the primary test market for the new app.
Kelly Helmuth, chief growth officer at Bestest, said the company plans to expand through colleges and universities. “Colleges are natural because the app is based on group decisions, and schools have the groups.”
“UB is a microcosm for us, for our entire marketplace,” Helmuth said. From clubs to academia and entrepreneurs, the university provides an ample and diverse population that can benefit from instant polling, she said.
“The number one thing UB has done for us is validation. Other schools see UB using us, and they will try it,” she said.
Bestest is housed in the UB Technology Incubator on Sweet Home Road in Amherst, New York. Goel and Helmuth each started companies in the incubator in 2001. Goel started RFQLogix which led to him acquiring the Aerostar Group, a contract manufacturing business, and Helmuth started WorldWebDex.
Both see almost unlimited potential growth for the new company.
“We believe we will be the de facto polling platform in social media,” Helmuth said.
The company also may have a future in the big data business, given that it will know how different populations of people vote. “We will have better information than any other app,” Helmuth said. “We’ll have desirable (and often inaccessible) demographic and behavioral data.”
Cynthia Shore, senior assistant dean and director of external relations in the UB School of Management, said they are planning to use Bestest to poll the school’s Alumni Association Board of Directors.
“Lalit was such an outstanding student when he was here, I have complete confidence in him and because of that, the app,” she said.
Like a game
The simple and quick way the app works makes it fun to poll friends or groups. Helmuth calls it the “gamification” of polling.
M. Wazihullah, director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Mercy College, is using the Bestest app in two upcoming New York City events where quick judging will be needed. At the StrtupBoost Annual Investor Conference, 100 judges will be judging companies making pitches. Knowing how the judges vote, and why, will be needed to determine winners.
And at the New York 33 under 33 event, numerous judges will be selecting top young executives.
The flexibility of the app makes it very appealing, said Wazi, as he is known. And as participation grows, the usefulness of the app will grow.
“I can poll 20 friends coming over for a meal about what they want to eat, or I could poll 100,000 people in New York about something,” he said.
Wazi sees the app growing fast, because it is something people like to share.
“Anything that intrinsically asks that it be shared with other people is something that can grow,” he said.
A tool for newspapers
Gabriela Julia, editor-in-chief of The Spectrum, UB’s student newspaper, is planning to use Bestest for student polling.
“We’re planning to put Bestest on the bottom of our page, so students can look into it,” she said. “That’s how much we believe in the app.”
“I think polling is great. We can publish the results and get a better idea of what students are thinking,” she said.