Just like Yelp - but with a green focus

MICHAEL HINKELMAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Morgan Berman is founder of MilkCrate, an app focused on sustainable businesses in Philadelphia.
MICHAEL HINKELMAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Morgan Berman is founder of MilkCrate, an app focused on sustainable businesses in Philadelphia.
Posted: August 29, 2014

M ORGAN BERMAN, 29, of Fairmount, is founder and CEO of MilkCrate, a mobile app that has been described as "Green Yelp with Soul." Berman, who has a master's degree in sustainable design from Philadelphia University, got frustrated having to look on Google for eco-friendly businesses in Philadelphia. A 30-day Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, launched Sunday, had raised at least $4,410 of a $20,000 goal as of yesterday.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea for MilkCrate?

A: There was so much great information on websites, but no central place someone could go to figure out how to live more sustainably in Philadelphia. I'd been working at Apple teaching people how to use mobile technology. So last fall I thought: This community needs an app. I designed it and eventually found a developer who's now my CTO.

Q: How's the app work?

A: It's already on Android and should soon be on iOS. The first version will be a searchable database, kind of like a green Yelp. We have almost 2,000 sustainable businesses and resources in Philly in 20 lifestyle groups.

Q: Value proposition?

A: We're the central hub for consolidating data that people can find in one place.

Q: The biz model?

A: We have several revenue streams. Advertising is one, and we'll do performance ads and if you want to put a link to a TicketLeap event, for every ticket we help you sell we get a piece of that. We also envision people making in-app purchases. Another thing we're working on is MilkCrate memberships. So for $20 a year, if you're a MilkCrate member, you'd get an enhanced version of the app with extra features like deals at businesses. Memberships would pay for themselves based on discounts that businesses are giving.

Q: Your customers?

A: An urban young professional who rides a bike, walks, takes mass transit and uses a mobile phone and is into sustainability. That's the early adopter, but it could be anybody, really.

Q: What differentiates you from others with a green focus?

A: Locally, Grid Magazine, which is print and doesn’t have a directory you can access 24/7 online. The Sustainable Business Network, which partners with us, has a directory but it’s only their members, a lot are B2B and not mobile-friendly. Nationally, Yelp and Angie’s list compete with us but neither has our sustainability focus.

Q: Biggest challenge?

A: Getting a developer and assembling a team. The next challenge is getting a seed round of investment so I can pay the team, they can quit their part-time jobs and focus on the next version of the app and expansion. The Indiegogo campaign will help us enhance the content on the app. I'd like to raise $250,000 in the seed round by early 2015.

On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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