Brandon Winfield, CEO and founder of ParaPerks, doesn’t slow down. After an accident left him paralyzed, he continued to travel around the country, competing with his wheelchair at sprint kart racing events — winning many of them. As Winfield traveled to different states, he faced inconsistency at venues and was unable to know ahead of time if they were easily accessible or followed the ADA code (Americans with Disabilities Act). This is how ParaPerks was born.
Through the ParaPerks app, a mobility-impaired user can review restaurants, venues, bars, and other spaces based on their accessibility. Users will know where to go and what places to avoid based on their methods of getting around (walker, wheelchair, cane, etc). Currently in development with RH Consulting, Winfield with the help of Sayeed Mehrjerdian, business development manager hope to reduce the stress of traveling as a mobility-impaired person and create a community across the country.
Here, Winfield talks about pushing through his injury to create ParaPerks, what kind of funding he’s looking for, and how ParaPerks stands up against competitors.
How has your personal experience influenced/inspired your decision to start ParaPerks?
At the age of 14, I was involved in a motocross racing incident that left me paralyzed from about the chest down. I didn’t let this obstacle slow me down. I continued to live my life the way I would have, if I had never been injured. I travelled around the country with friends attending motocross events and doing other activities. Through my travels to different cities and states, I started to realize that there was a lot of inconsistency with places being handicap accessible. One place would have an accessible entrance but the bathroom would be too small. These things started to become a problem and I realized there was a major void of this information to people who really need it.
Funding or bootstrapped?
Initial funding to build a concept sell prototype. Looking for angel investor to help inject cash flow for marketing in exchange for equity or a convertible note. ($50K – $100K).
What’s your pitch?
Have you ever gone out for a night on the town with your friends and had to change plans once you arrived to your destination once you found out that the entrance and interior space was not handicap accessible? With ParaPerks you will never have to worry about this problem again. Users will rate and review accessibility information for venues that they visit, allowing others to know before they go!
What problem are you solving?
ParaPerks is a peer-to-peer review app that will allow people with mobility impairments as well as their friends, family, and significant others to rate and review venues, restaurants, sporting arenas, and retail stores on their accessibility. The app, which is currently in development will help people with mobility impairments and their companions to plan their celebrations and get togethers with everyone’s convenience and to help the mobility impaired navigate a Stress Free and Fun life!
Aside from peer-to-peer reviews, do you partner/contact with venues to find out if they are accessible or maybe make them more accessible?
Currently we do not, but that is definitely part of the plan. We hope to build partnerships with companies like TicketMaster so allow customers with mobility impairments to easily by handicap accessible tickets and we hope to eventually see a ParaPerks verified sticker in every venue, restaurant, and establishment an we hope that the establishments that do not meet our requirements for accessibility will use this information to try to renovate their establishment to make it more accessible.
How has ParaPerks been received? Why is it important?
ParaPerks has been received extremely well and most people are extremely surprised that nothing like it exists already. Not only are people with mobility impairments excited about the potential of this app existing but so are people who are not affected by a daily mobility impairment. This app is extremely important because it will improve the quality of life with mobility impairments and it will force business owners and event planners to be more conscience of their colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who deal with a daily mobility impairment.
What have been some challenges you’ve encountered so far?
The most challenging part so far has been finding funding and getting in front of the right people who are willing to invest their time and effort to help me and my time make this dream a reality. We have been approached by a select few investors but we have yet to find the partnership that we feel is right to grow our company and get to get our product to market as soon as possible.
What’s your revenue model?
We plan on the app being a free app, we want the user base to grown exponentially and quickly. We feel that this should be common information that is provided freely for everyone and we hope that eventually Google and Yelp will integrate our publicly posted information on their website as additional feature for choosing where you would like to spend your time and money. We will look into revenue generation through advertisement or strategic partnerships but the end goal is either going to be to get to a large user base where we can create and generate revenue through advertisement or eventually find an exit strategy to get acquired by TripAdvisor or Google after 2 years.
Who are your competitors and how is ParaPerks different?
We have found 2-3 competitors in our market, one is a web application that has some current users, the other are two mobile applications that have a poor user experience design and that has little to no users who are actively reviewing places. We plan on standing out by effectively marketing the app before we release so that we have a large buzz waiting to try the app and we plan on making strategic partnerships with mobility impaired celebrities and organizations to help us promote the application.
How does Atlanta weave into your story?
Atlanta has a huge tech community and our founder and initial employees are all from Atlanta. As Atlanta natives we feel we have a plethora of venues, restaurants, and establishments that are accessible and modern but there are just as many that are not and that have been grandfathered into old ADA laws. Our hope is to carve out a well reviewed city and eventually take this model to other large cities around the country.
Photos by Muriel Vega, screenshots provided by ParaPerks.
Update, October 20, 2016: We brought on a company called RH Consulting as partners. They are building the app for us as we speak. The development team is based in Europe so we have meetings schedule 2-3 times a week to discuss the app and progress. Jason Linton is no longer the lead developer and he is no longer involved in the project period.
Users can sign up to be early beta testers via our MailChimp newsletter. They will receive an invite to join the app pre-launch along with ParaPerks Swag.