In 2004, Sam Raiche was serving his country in Iraq when several old friends pitched in to send him an iPod filled with music. The day before the iPod arrived, a bomb hit Sam’s station resulting in numerous casualties. Sam was lucky to have been away from the station at the time, but all of his belongings were destroyed. The iPod became Sam’s sole possession, providing comfort and a reminder of his loved ones back home.
Fast forward six years. Shortly after completing his military service, Sam and his inner circle of six Jewish friends took a trip to the Denver area to celebrate their 30th birthdays. iPods had evolved into iPhones, with thousands of apps available for download. But of the thousands of apps, one crucial service seemed to be missing.
“We were discussing how we had so many names, numbers and email addresses in our phones but no real way to search our networks,” said Adam Falkauff. “I’m just an average Joe and I have 1500 plus contacts, and I’m unable to find someone without knowing their name. Plus, typing in someone’s contact information is burdensome and inaccurate. Even if you remember the person’s name, if you typed one wrong digit in their phone number, or character in their email address, you can’t get in touch with them.”
That first conversation led to many more, and in November of that year Sam and Adam formed Water’s Edge Partners, a certified veteran-owned company, and formally began the process of building the app that became REON. After two years of development, REON is a finished product, now available for free download on iTunes and Google Play.
REON automatically tags where and when a user creates a new contact in their phone. The app plots the meet address and any other addresses (such as home or work) on a map for the user to easily search.
“If you’re taking a trip to LA, you can see who you met there before, or who lives or works there,” said Adam, “Or if you were at a conference last week in Atlanta and got 25 leads, you can now find them amongst the 1,000 contacts you have.”
Android and iPhone users will value REON as a search engine for their networks, but quickly grow to love the accuracy and ease of use. Customizable QR codes enable each user to keep and share any or all of their contact information. One user simply displays their code for the other user to scan, resulting in instant and accurate contact information sharing.
“The effectiveness of your organization is how well you capitalize on your personal resources and relationships,” said Sam. “REON is exceptionally valuable during networking events, trade shows, conventions; when you meet tens or hundreds of people at a time, whose names you are not likely to recall. Using REON, you don’t need to remember the name to remember the person.”
Headquartered in Long Lake, Sam acts as President and CEO, focusing on big picture planning with current and future products, and running the daily business activities. While in the army, he retooled software programs to better serve the needs of his brigade, with a great deal of success. Sam is involved in every aspect of the business while Adam is involved in the larger decisions, as the pair derives value from their combined creativity and experience. In early 2011, Adam took advantage of an opportunity to manage a project implementing software for his New York employer.
“The distance is a challenge because there are intangible benefits to working in a shared space,” said Sam. “It just forces us to communicate more regularly and keep that a priority. We meet at least daily, going over what was done, what needs to be done and to spitball. There are also event-driven conversations throughout the day.”
Marketing has been the focal point of many of those conversations. The most popular early adopter group for the app community, according to Sam, is the college student. “They have the smartphones, they’ve grown up with social media, they are very familiar to it, technology is part of their world.”
Sam developed a marketing plan that leverages one student per campus that Water’s Edge will compensate based on revenue and app download activity, and these brand ambassadors will compete amongst themselves for additional prizes, compensation and recognition.
Waters Edge plans to launch more products in the future, both of which build on REON’s utility and ability to connect people. “The direction that we are going is always social and about connecting people better,” added Sam.
Today Sam embarks on a national college tour visiting more than 57 campuses in the Midwest, Southwest and West Coast, then traveling to New York and visiting schools on the East Coast. On these campus visits, Sam will work to drive downloads, increase awareness, and provide special opportunities and mentorship to the brand ambassadors at each school.
“Doing something yourself is very exciting,” he said. “There is a huge trust factor involved when you have a small business. And it goes a long way when you are doing it with one of your best friends who you’ve known for 25 years.”
Adam Falkauff is a member of the New York Bar Association and a technologist, bridging the gap between his company’s executives and software developers. Prior to Water’s Edge, Adam had no experience running his own company.
A lifelong Minnesotan, Sam Raiche served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan working in intelligence. He serves on the Mount Sinai Community Foundation grant committee, the Parallel Lives steering committee, and chairs the 2013 Twin Cities Yom Ha’atzmaut planning committee.