In 2012, Brian Shimmerlik (pictured right) tackled a tough question posed by NYC Next Idea: “what does the future of New York City advertising look like?” His answer was a new breed of vending machines called Vengos. These aren’t your typical “put in a dollar, press A2, and watch your bag of chips get stuck” vending machines. Vengos have a slick touch screen and offer anything from gum and candy, to discounts on Uber rides.
The idea won Brian the NYC Next Idea competition and founded Vengo Labs. Now Brian has his sights set on New York City as a proving ground for Vengo, and is using Twilio SMS to power sales.
The Start Of Vengo Labs
A lot has changed since the Next Idea competition in 2012. Brian originally dubbed his company “Taxi Treats” when he planned on installing his prototype software and touchscreens in taxis. The idea quickly expanded after he saw the success of software powered vending.
“Marketing is changing drastically,” says Brian. Uber recognizes that trend, and reached out to Vengo Labs to launch a new marketing campaign to attract users through a different platform.
Now any Vengo customer can get 10% off their first Uber ride when they enter in their phone number on the Vengo platform. Uber then sends them a registration link via Twilio SMS.
Hardware Manufacturing, Software Mindset
Vengos aren’t nearly as cumbersome as old-school vending machines, but they still posed a hardware manufacturing problem for Brian. When Vengo Labs launched, they had contractors build the touch screen interfaces, from taxi-sized to bigger wall mounted machines.
For an early stage startup, every detail from the shape of Vengo screens to the syntax of code counts. Brian found that contractors were missing some of the details he looked for and that’s when he took manufacturing in-house.
“We looked for partners on the hardware side and didn’t find too much out there that was a fit. So we kept building. In hindsight, I see how important it is to intimately know and control the product development process from prototype to commercial product. Today, we see our core competency as design and software.”
You can look for Vengos throughout New York City and learn more about Vengo on their website here