Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How to organize your Receipts by Return policy

Everyone wants to simplify their life, and with one app you can do just that, while re-gaining control over inconsistent store return policies: here’s how.


returnguru_welcome_receipt 20130213When Purchasing, Pay Attention

No one plans on having to return their products at the time of purchase. However, once you’ve bought an item, there are a number of things that could come up which might cause you to want to return it. Whether you’re shopping in-store or online, paying attention to details such as the product description and sizing can make all the difference in having to make a return. Unfortunately, even when you’ve taken precautions such as measuring yourself or assessing a size chart, it is still easy to encounter problems with a product that might require you to return it. For instance, various clothing lines and particular pieces fit differently, which may cause your normal size to appear awkward or ill-fitted.  This and other unforeseen causes of having to return a purchase are all reasons why you should keep your receipts digitally recorded, even if you’re initially completely confident in what you’ve bought. 

Organizing your Receipts

You never know if your mind will change down the road or you’ll want to make an exchange, but keeping stacks of receipts is not conducive to those who move often, dislike clutter, or just want to keep their papers organized. When you use an application that allows you to easily keep track of your receipts just by snapping a photo, you let technology do the organizing for you, categorizing receipts by expiration date and return policy. You’ll be amazed at the burden that’s lifted off your shoulders when you free yourself of your piles of receipts. 

With one free download, you’ll be able to organize as well as track your receipts, and most importantly you’ll never have to stress over annoying store paperwork again. Once you use this simple app, you can put your receipts where they belong: in the trash.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The story of a part-time entrepreneur!

We recently did an interview with startup weekly, a local video blog that supports budding entrepreneurs in Portland and around the country.  Although the video quality was pretty amateurish (recording in a busy Starbucks at peak time), we got a surprisingly positive feedback about the questions and the content.  Many of our friends and well-wishes not only complimented us on the honest conversation but we also had a field dozens of questions on the mechanics of being a part-time startup founder while juggling a real job, and a young family.  Here’s a condensed write-up of that video interview, in case anyone wants to grab a tip or two:

  • Don’t get carried away by initial successes and positive feedback: after winning several competitions starting with Startup Weekend, I somehow got carried away and focused a ton of time fine-tuning and practicing my pitch at various venues.  Not the best use of our limited time given that we had to build a product!
  • Focus on finding a co-founder with complementary “everything”: in my case, complementary meant someone who could (a) fill the marketing skills gap and (b) more importantly represent the company during the day time since I have a full-time job.
  • Vet your co-founder thoroughly: we prepared an exhaustive questionnaire that I asked every single potential co-founder to answer thoroughly.  The questionnaire itself is a self-selection process since anyone who is discouraged by it most likely does not connect with the vision of returnGuru either!  If you want to get a copy of this questionnaire, please drop us a note at http://www.returnguru.com/ContactUs.aspx and we will be happy to share it with you.
  • The right of passage “Legal structure”: I didn’t talk to a credible mentor to figure out the legal structure needed for our startup and instead spent weeks researching and stressing over all the worst-case scenarios.  The mantra here like everything else in the startup world is “Just in time, not just in case”
  • The two best resources for my daily dose of “startup inspiration”: Everything else is a distraction, at least IMHO
  • Other free resources we use:
    • Microsoft BizSpark for software, hosting and marketing support all for free for 3 full years!
  • Prioritization: Every time I have to make a decision that involves time commitment, I ask a single question of myself, “Is this time spent worthwhile enough to miss my 10-month old’s naptime?”  The answer is quite easy in most cases.

All the best with your own venture and when you have a few minutes, check-out our progress at www.returnGuru.com

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Did you ever miss using a Kohl's cash card because it expired?

We did... many many times.  Perhaps lost a couple hundred dollars because of the narrow window of opportunity to use them.  So, as I am starting to do with everything that even smells of an expiry date, I immediately scanned the 20$ Kohl's cash-card using the returnguru Windows Phone App as soon as my wife brought it home.  And this was back in Portland!

Once we got to Houston, the obedient reminder came in my email inbox five days before the expiry date of May 13th.  We drove up to the nearest Kohl's in League City, TX, and used up the 20$ cash to buy some awesome stuff.

If you miss using the Kohl's cash cards before they expire (the cards usually have a very narrow one week window before they expire), give returnguru a try.  You can either email the picture of the cash-card or use our beautiful Windows Phone App for now.  iPhone and Android apps are coming soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How I cheat the returnguru system to track my coupons and their expiry dates

As most of you know returnguru on my mind every single waking moment.  The potential for just tracking retail returns itself is enormous but our dream is much larger, to track my more things than just returns!  So, I've been playing around with tracking physical and electronic coupons over the last few days.

The first experiment I conducted was with Pizzicato Pizza, one of the best pizza chains in Oregon.  When you sign-up for their newsletter, you instantly get a 15% of coupon in the email.  The downside though is that the coupon expires in about a month.

My current system involves tagging that email in my account and adding a weekly reminder (towards the weekend when we usually buy pizza) that puts the coupon email in the front of the list.  However, that process is unreliable and too

So, I just forwarded the email to returnguru (receipts@returnguru.com) and the rest is take care!  returnguru will read the coupon, apply the expiry date and will keep the coupon available within the list on the returnguru App. Once April 30th arrives, the entry self-destructs to make room for more coupons, returns and warranties!  An additional benefit is returnguru will send a reminder a week or so before the expiry date so the coupon and the delicious pizza are fresh on your mind :)
 The moral of the story is: if you have a hard-time keeping track of physical or e-coupons and their expiry dates, worry no more!  Just take a picture with the returnguru App or forward the email to receipts@returnguru.com (once you register for a free account), and returnguru will take care of the rest.  Also, if you haven't tried Pizzicato, go try it right now.  Best pizza in town: its a returnguru guarantee!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

JustinMind: You immediately recognize when you see a great product!

I have a pretty good technical background what with years of experience building and supporting online banking sites serving millions of users.  However, I must admit I haven't done a lot of hardcore programming in the last couple years.  Which only means that I am relying on some of the best engineers to actually build and scale returnguru.com and the mobile apps.

However, I have been looking for creative ways to build mockup screens, define the requirements and collaborate with geographically dispersed engineering team (Oregon-Ohio-Australia!).  First I started with very basic wireframes for my own sake but those became worthless quite quickly.  then I scoured the internet for images and PSD files that I could use to create mock-ups for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone Apps.  I found many great sources but it was still pretty much a manual exercise to painstakingly take those images and stich together some useful mockups.

Here's an example of what I was able to accomplish after hours of work!
Useful but did not lend itself to fast protyping and collaborative changes.  I thought I had to live with this for a while until I suddenly stumbled on JustInMind (www.justinmind.com) on google!

I thought JustInMind was one of those startup sites with barely working functionality but I browsed their examples and explored their widgets, I realized they were more than a hyped-up startup.  so, I first downloaded their recently released free edition of prototyper and started playing with it.  The tool was extremely intuitive and I was able to quickly create great looking prototypes for Android and iPhone Apps.  For both of these combined, I may have spent 3 hours tops!  And the resulting mock-ups are not just static images.  No way!  They are fully interactive and can easily pass off as real apps if you browse to them via your mobile phone.  One of the limitations for me with the free version was that it could import additional widgets, which meant creating our Windows Phone App mockup was not easy/possible with the free version.

Intrigued and excited, I downloaded the 30-day trial of the Pro edition.  And that was like opening a pandora's box.  Not only can you prototype for any kind of platform, but you can incorporate an infinite level of intelligence into the mockups.  A few of the key features you can leverage are:
  • Rich interactions: MouseOver, Drag, PageLoad ...
  • Conditional rules.
  • Validations.
  • Forms and Datagrids simulation.
  • Variables.
 So, with the help of the free trial, I could also build our Windows Phone 7 App protype in literally couple of hours.  Oh, I forgot to mention the additional goodness of UserNote where you can easily share, collaborate and test the protypes for a nominal subscription fee.

Anyways, I am quite delighted with my JustInMind and UserNote experience so far and I intend to use the software/service for a long time to come.  Check it out for all your startup and enterprise prototype needs!  Here's a quick video of our very first iPhone App protoype created in hours...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How I saved (or should I say "reclaimed") $35.79 at Target with returnguru?

Well folks, its official!  I saved my first wad of cash officially via returnguru's awesome, automated reminders :)
Here's the story:  We bought a boppy pillow at Target for Neev (our seven-month old boy) almost 3 months ago fully expecting to get the best use out of it.  However, the thing was sadly lying in the family room without ever being touched for the last 11 weeks or so.  Remember, we just started building returnguru service back in December?  That was when we bought the boppy pillow.  Call it a guinea pig or whatever but I did take a picture of the Target receipt and added it to my returnguru account.
Voila!!! Yesterday, exactly 5 days before the purchase expired for return reasons, I got a nice little email from our trusted returnguru servers reminding me about the boppy pillow.  Honestly, but for the reminder, we would have completely forgotten about the pillow and grudgingly kept the pillow forever!

Target's cute customer service rep Ashley not only happily accepted the receipt image on my phone (included in the returnguru reminder email), but also commented "that is pretty nifty!"

So, in summary:
  • returnguru is awesome!
  • Helped us return a boppy on-time and saved us a whopping $35.79!
  • Cute girls admire geeks that leverage returnguru :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

ReturnGuru enters the next round of Angel Oregon 2012

Today was another ausipicious day for ReturnGuru.  We got a personal mail from the Angel Oregon organizers late Tuesday that we got to the next round (the last round before the big finals)!  And then this morning, Portland Business Journal published a list of the 13 teams that got to this stage.

We are quite thrilled about what we accomplished so far, but there is a lot more to do in the coming weeks and months.  As we tell all of our well-wishers, "we are on step 2 or 3 of a 1000-step journey and any support we get to take the next step is highly appreciated".

Here's a quick line-up of the other teams:
  • Architectual Applications
  • BeSpoke Biometrics
  • Blanketbooster Inc.,
  • Comic Rocket
  • ERL Media
  • FoodTrekker
  • Liberty Financial Services Group
  • Mad Mike’s Food
  • Showbacker Inc.,
  • UV Raven LLC,
  • Yeti Snow Traction
You can read all about them on either the Portland Biz Journal line up or on the official OEN (Angel Oregon) announcement here.

As always, thank you for your support.  We couldn't have done it without our users and site visitors!