Interview with CEO Ben Huston

Dec 02 2011

by Chris Woodward

No, I’m not Morgan Linton, but yes I did conduct an interview with Ben Huston, CEO of coupon website start-up As I reported last week, is an up and coming coupon deals site with a new concept that I think will catch on. When you register at Looterang, you register your credit or debit card, sign up for free offers from merchants, and then automatically receive the discount from Looterang’s system when you pay at the merchants using the registered card. The concept eliminates the need to pre-pay for anything or print out and present coupons. They also have a great personalization platform that provides offer recommendations based on your spending habits. By doing this, you can expect to receive offers that are relevant to you, i.e. recommendations for sushi restaurants if you frequently dine out for sushi, instead of receiving a random email for something you may have no interest in.  I believe this convenience paired with a wide variety of offers Looterang provides is a recipe for success.

Want to join Looterang? You’ll most likely have to wait. Looterang only operates in Phoenix and it’s surrounding areas currently, teaming up with 150 local merchants. The site is very new but already has more than 2000 users since it’s beta-launch in mid-September. They launched their mobile apps a few weeks ago and already have almost 500 downloads. The future looks good for the small team of 15 so far, and I caught up with their CEO Ben Huston to get some info about Looterang, their name/domain selection, and plans for future expansion.

Chris Woodward: Hi Ben. What was the inspiration for Looterang? How did the idea come about?

Ben Huston: The immediate inspiration was most likely the frustration resulting from a 7am email for 50% off laser hair removal services in Glendale. The offer had no relevance to my life and there was no chance I would ever purchase it (ok ok, maybe a small chance). But receiving this email reflected a fundamental shortcoming that exists not only for deal companies, but for recommendation sites and most search engines as well. Simply put, these sites know very little about the person that they are offering their services to.

Looterang came from our belief that we could personalize the consumer experience in the most impersonal way possible—with a computer. By harnessing transaction information, Looterang turns the customer’s credit card into a personal concierge that serves as a guide to the best local offers, recommendations, and special events, all tailored to the customer’s specific tastes and interests. The other key benefit of this platform is that registering a card allows users to save money at local merchants without having to go through the hassle of printing coupons and presenting them at local merchants.

CW: How did you come up with the name Looterang?

BH: We spent far too long (almost two weeks) brainstorming different names for the company. We ultimately settled on Looterang because (1) we liked the way it cleverly tied together our concept of automatic cash savings (Loot + Boomerang) and (2) we thought it was quirky and original enough to take on its own meaning. (At the time, we had no idea it would lead to the aggressive over-use of the “loote” prefix, e.g., branded sunglasses are now loote-shades, our green chairs are loote-chairs… even our cloud is called the loote-verse).

CW: Was available as a brand new domain name when you decided to start the site? Was choosing a business name dependant on the exact domain being available?

BH: was available as a brand new domain name. As a consumer-facing brand that relies largely on word-of-mouth for early growth, we felt that it was very important to have the exact domain available.

CW: What has the feedback been for the name, It seems catchy and easy to remember, how do your users feel?

From the users we are talking to, the overwhelming response has been positive. Most of them like that it captures the concept of our business model. Some users have had a hard time spelling it though (we have had to purchase and redirect a few other domains with the most common misspellings).

CW: Was there any consideration given to trying to obtain a more exact match domain name for your business, i.e.

BH: From the beginning of Looterang, we made a conscious decision that we wanted our company to have a certain personality. Starting with the name Looterang, and continuing with our Founding Father characters, we tried to create a compelling brand that feels cool and vibrant. While there are obvious benefits to adopting a more literal domain name, I think it also becomes significantly harder to develop a unique brand which is why we opted for

CW: Currently you are only operating in Arizona…what are your plans for expansion to other cities/states?

BH: In the short term, our focus is on delivering the best possible product for users in the greater Phoenix area. We have invested considerable resources in our personalization platform, and will continue to do so as we roll out a number of new features over the coming months. In the not-so-long term, we plan to expand throughout the Southwest. And the long-term plan is to have a strong national presence. Ultimately, we believe Looterang is compatible for everyone—whether you are 25 and tech savvy, or a 40 year-old soccer mom with three kids. We also intend to expand Looterang into other products and services beyond restaurants, including entertainment, activities and retail.

If you are in the Phoenix area and want to sign up for Looterang, be sure to check out some of the special offers they are running right now. You can view the offers here. Ben has assured me that these offers have been extended until Dec 5th.

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  1. Poor Uncle

    Ben, do you take follow up questions?
    How were you able to access customer’s credit card transaction history?
    Why would anymore feel safe to let you store their credit card # and information and to share it with your network of merchants?

    I for one would hesitate giving you my credit card #. Maybe paypal email address…but definitely not my credit card.

    1. ChrisWoodward

      I know Ben has been really busy this week while going through a big round of fundraising. I emailed him and let him know you had a few questions for him so hopefully he’ll e able to jump on soon to respond.

  2. Ben

    Poor Uncle,

    Happy to follow-up with you. Let me start by saying that I understand and appreciate your concerns. If you have the interest, I would urge you to read through our website where we explain in much greater detail our security measures. I’ll try to summarize below.

    First, to connect with your bank, we establish a secure connection that protects your account information with 256-bit EV SSL bank-level encryption. Our security technology is used and trusted by over 26 million users across more than 5,000 top banks and financial institutions. Our site is also subject to regular reviews and audits by Verisign and TRUSTe has verified that our privacy policy complies with the highest standards for protecting and safeguarding personal information.

    Second, we do not share individual consumer information with our partner merchants. Merchants are able to target customers but only in an anonymous way using aggregated data. They will be able to say “only give this offer to people who live in the 85251 zip code” for example, but we will never give them a list or any other information that will enable them to know any personal data about those customers. We use personal information to make sure we don’t present users with offers that don’t matter to them and to ensure that ones that do make it to the top of the list. All the analytics required to provide that service are done internally and require no third parties to see your data.

    Hopefully this helps to address your concerns. If you have further questions, please feel free to ask or even give our office a call. I have had a lot of great conversations with consumers about these topics and always welcome the feedback. Have a good evening.

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