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  • Tara Crutchfield

Promo Applications

A twenty-seven-year-old Polk County native is soon to launch an app poised to revolutionize the event and promotion scene. The Promo App, an event-based social network, will be a valuable tool for organizations from the local Rotary Club and the Ritz to coffee shops and concert halls. According to their website, “By signing up, users can browse a live feed of public events with real-time event information, or create and share their own events.” In addition to connecting users to events in their area, organizers can sell tickets from the platform, manage events with an easy-to-use dashboard, and track sales. So who is the twentysomething from Lake Wales behind Promo, and what are the big ideas behind it?

George O’Neill was born and raised in Polk County. He attended St. Joseph Catholic School through sixth grade and graduated high school from All Saints Academy. After high school, O’Neill traveled to Tennessee to Sewanee: The University of the South before attending the University of Florida.


“Believe it or not, I was a theater major,” O’Neill smiled. Though he wasn’t involved in the theater growing up, he always had a connection to the arts. “My dad’s a sculptor, so I grew up working in and out of his shop when I was a kid,” he said.


Finance was O’Neill’s first choice of study, but he found it boring. He didn’t know anything about theater and thought he’d give it a try to fulfill an art credit. O’Neill remembers his teacher talking about ‘stage left’ and ‘stage right’ during his first class. “I was the only non-theater kid in the room. I remember raising my hand and asking, ‘What do you mean?’” He would go on to build sets and work on lighting and sound.


Outside of Promo, the theater major turned app creator enjoys strumming the blues guitar and coaching sports. O’Neill has coached since age 19, predominantly middle and high school lacrosse and soccer at All Saints Academy. He even coached in Tennessee when he attended Sewanee. “It’s one of my favorite things. I love doing it,” he said. “Some of the seniors over at All Saints were my first team when they were in middle school. I’ve watched them grow up from being 12-year-old boys to being 18-year-old young men. They’re great kids.” This year has been a busy one for the Promo founder and CEO. Though the last year hasn’t afforded him much free time to coach, he plans to pick it back up and continue throughout his life.


CREATING VALUE

The Promo story starts in Sewanee, Tennessee. O’Neill was in his second semester at the Episcopal liberal-arts college and found himself walking through the cafeteria with nothing to do. He saw a few kids he had classes with and sat down with them. With no other classes scheduled that day, the group had a three-hour lunch talking about a business idea one of them had. The idea for the app, then called Vivism, was a much different iteration of what Promo is today. Of the three original partners, only O’Neill is still involved with the business.


“It started with a really basic app,” he said. “I didn’t code then. I don’t code now. I just understood what it was like to be a freshman on a college campus or be somewhere where you don’t know people and are trying to figure out what’s going on around you.”


The idea evolved, transcending college campuses into every downtown, dive bar, and community club worldwide. “I realized that people didn’t just have this problem on college campuses. It’s a problem all over – people are looking for things to do. […] There are things going on in downtowns all over the world, […] and they’re just trying to get an extra five or six people to show up. Anyone who’s been a part of a club knows we’re not all some big celebrity. We can’t turn out hundreds of thousands of people, but getting an extra five people to show up at an event can be a really big deal. So that was the focus.”


When he first began working on the app, O’Neill admitted, “I was flying by the seat of my pants trying to figure it out as I went. I made the mistake at the time — it was a learning experience — instead of focusing on creating real value and functionality for the app that people would want to use, I focused on hype.”


That experience gave the Promo CEO pause to rethink the app. He came up with several key features that would benefit Promo’s users.


AN APP FOR ALL

“The app is where you go if you want to find out what’s going on around you,” said O’Neill. For event organizers and attendees alike, Promo integrates with a user’s location to connect them to events in their immediate area. Or, if you are planning a trip, you can search events in that location for the dates you’ll be in that city.


A key feature that doesn’t exist anywhere else is what O’Neill calls the “Reposting Feature.” Many small businesses, community organizations, and mom-and-pop shops offer regular deals. “Whether it’s a bar doing ‘Margarita Monday’ or ‘Taco Tuesday.’ […] They do all these things but have no way of incentivizing people to share that information on social media. I created a system that gives a platform for the event creator to track and incentivize sharing on social media in exchange for goods and services.”


O’Neill used the example of a local coffee shop offering a ‘Mocha Monday’ promotional deal. That coffee shop could go onto the Promo App and create a ‘Mocha Monday’ promotion that offers the first five people to share that link on their social media a free mocha drink. Someone using Promo can see that deal, share the link, and Promo will track that it was posted, then automatically send the user a QR code to redeem that sweet mocha reward.


It was essential to the Promo founder that the app be advantageous not only to formidable event promoters but also to community clubs, nonprofits, and businesses. “I’ve said this for a long time – I want to be the largest facilitator of Girl Scout Cookies sales in the world,” O’Neill said. “Both of my sisters did Girl Scouts in Lake Wales, and I remember them having to go out and stand in front of Publix.” With Promo, that local Girl Scout troop could advertise where they’ll be and not have to rely solely on foot traffic.


“When I was in college, I played in a number of bar bands. We weren’t winning any Grammys, but it was a lot of fun. The difference between zero and five people was the difference between no one and a packed house,” O’Neill said. “I understand what it’s like being part of something that’s not big, doesn’t have a big marketing budget, doesn’t have a brand name. That’s what this tool is for.”


LAUNCHING SOON

The Promo App is near completion and set to launch in the coming months, according to its founder. More details on a Promo launch event will be announced soon as well. “We want to bring it everywhere we possibly can,” O’Neill said. He came up with the term ‘Event Ecosystems’ to describe the different event environments with a built-in audience of people, such as a downtown or college campus, that they plan to bring these Promo launch events to.


Promo Applications

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Photography by Amy Sexson

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