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Tech

Get to know a Toronto startup: Ulonova

Posted by Anna Starasts / September 8, 2013

UlanovaLocation-based services have hugely enhanced our ability to discover our own cities and neighbourhoods. Toronto startup Ulonova caught on to this trend and now wants to help Torontonians discover what their local businesses have in-store.

Ulonova pinpoints your location and gives you a chance to browse a sample of the merchandise available in local shops before you even step out the door. You'll get a sneak peek of their goods, see what's on sale and maybe even discover that a store you always bypass is actually chock-full of goodies you'd like. Currently the focus is fashion retail but the startup is working on adding restaurants and lunch spots, and will also add gyms, yoga studios, spas and beauty salons by the end of this year.

Launched in June as a web app, the mobile app will be available for iOS and Android this month. I spoke to Ulonova co-founder Eugene Levin to understand how Ulonova gives consumers a fresh spin on location-based shopping.

What inspired you to create Ulonova?

When I was in Chicago last November, I decided to go out and do some holiday shopping in The Loop. I was surrounded by millions of amazing stores. Realizing I didn't have the time to hit them all, I wondered if there was a convenient way to figure out which stores I should go to. I checked a few different apps to see if any of them could give me a better idea of which stores would appeal to me. While FourSquare, Yelp, Facebook and Google Places were handy for identifying nearby stores, none of them gave me an idea of what I could find in those stores.

When I came back to Toronto and did some research on the subject, I was shocked that I couldn't find an app or service that could have helped me or the millions of other people who find themselves in similar situations. I met co-founder, Dave Ellery, sometime later and we decided to start Ulonova.

What makes Ulonova stand out from the crowd?

Our indirect competitors are FourSquare and Yelp, those services can be pretty useful but don't provide enough incentive to walk into a business. We built Ulonova because we believe that the best reason to walk into a business is knowing that it has something you want or need. Why do you think so many people hate shopping (especially men)? Because most of us hate walking into a store only to realize it resulted in a complete waste of time.

What kind of Torontonian would really love using Ulonova?

Today, we can connect our users to 370 locations in Toronto. For the time being individuals that live or work in downtown or midtown Toronto will benefit the most, but we're currently making a big effort to scale our coverage and connect users to even more businesses across the city.

What has been your biggest challenge in getting Ulonova ready for users?

The biggest challenge was and still remains understanding how people shop both online and offline. What makes this even more complicated is the difference in approaches to shopping between genders. For instance, we were concerned about attracting and retaining male users, but as it turned out, men are very receptive to Ulonova. Surprisingly, many men have told us that they love it because by telling them exactly where to buy what they want, it saves them the pain and hassle of shopping.

Check out Ulonova's Facebook page for updates and more info.

Discussion

9 Comments

Srema Koffer / September 10, 2013 at 12:57 am
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So this startup aims to replace the fun and the excitement of going to visit your neighbourhood shops and discovering what they have in store for an experience where you view photos of their products on a badly designed and down right ugly shop? Oh wow, Ulonova is sure led by people who do not shop for anything.
Srema Koffer / September 10, 2013 at 01:03 am
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Also: the first thing the app attempts to do is 'know' you by gendering you. I mean, come on: how is this any better than what shopify adds to an operation if a business want an ecommerce component or the culture of shopping that has emerged as of recent that is all about discovery and charm and story which local retail want to engage and intrigue their customers by it?

It doesn't substitute for the lifestyle choices that desirable consumers partake nor does it substitute for the actual joys of discovery involved in shopping. It seems more fitting for those male consumers who want no community, just get in and get out.
Eugene (Ulonova) replying to a comment from Srema Koffer / September 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm
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The last thing we intend to do is take the fun out of something :)

We are not an e-commerce platform, we are a discovery platform... Our mission is to help you discover the merchandise that can be found at retailers near you while at the same time help the merchants expose their current merchandise. Ulonova directs people to the physical store or an ecommerce site operated by the retailer (e.g. a Shopify store operated by the merchant, as you suggested)...

You are obviously very passionate about the subject, please feel free to email me your suggestions on how we can improve Ulonova
eugene@ulonova.com

Cheers,
Eugene.
nerdberg / September 10, 2013 at 07:45 pm
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another startup 'revolutionizing the way we shop'..
please for the love of god no. you're young. you're smart. you're ambitious. invest your efforts in an enterprise that in some way serves the greater good.
Eugene (Ulonova) / September 11, 2013 at 03:51 pm
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I will treat 3 people for a cup of coffee tomorrow after 2pm around King and Spadina area... come out for a coffee break, I would love to meet you and get some tips and feedback from you on how we can improve Ulonova. email me: eugene@ulonova.com

Looking forward to meeting you! :)
SamSmith / September 18, 2013 at 01:31 pm
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Just more proof that the internet just makes people lazy and people behind sites like this just just want to 'cash in' on that lazyness.
Eugene(Ulonova) replying to a comment from SamSmith / September 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm
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The internet can be a lot of things to different people :)

As far as Ulonova is concerned, it's purpose is to introduce a level of convenience that will allow you to get a glance into nearby businesses to check out their merchandise & products...

When it comes people behind Ulonova, we are working our asses off to make the above happen in the best possible and convenient way ;)
Wajid / October 1, 2013 at 02:56 pm
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Nice start up, all big things start with a dot or from 1. And all good or bad attempt face the criticism, if there is no criticism it will take much longer to get better.
do not prefer / December 5, 2013 at 11:56 pm
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In all honesty i felt the need to register just so i can post. Above trash comments like that just really show off the high horse trashy hipster attitude I have come to hate about Toronto since moving here. Such hypocrisy, you know you're guilty of using similar vices, probably within the same industry and don't even realize it. You're just jealous you haven't done anything better or thought of something similar earlier due to constant bitching.

In all honesty if you have nothing positive or feedback oriented to post, please do us all a favor and go back to posting your stupid pictures of ham and cheese panini's from queen west on instagram and go-fuck yourself. You know you're more than likely cashing in off your opinionated youtube videos or BS 9-5 job on bay st. earning a tooth and nickel off some recession depressed family because you feel it's the right thing.

To actually see value in this start-up and many similar convenience based start-ups like Uber or Halo, and recognize the passion and dedication behind the idea to grow it into something more than profit. Clearly some people here lack the follow-up and prefer to be followers versus leaders, lord forgive they actually are put in the spot light to do something ground breaking 'le gasp'!!! I ask you one simple thing, if it isn't for money, what incentive on earth drives you to get up at 8/9 and work for someone who 'created' their vision of what a company should be?

Eugene, give me a holler at mstobiec@gmail.com, would love to pick your brain and talk about this and similar feedback some more.

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