YuDeal promises to put more power in hands of consumers

The founders of a new Web site that promises to put the power of "social couponing" in the hands of consumers unveiled their work last Thursday in downtown Asheville.

YuDeal.com will work as a social-media tool for people and businesses to share coupons with one another, James Parker, YuDeal's head of consumer relations, told a group of about 50 family and friends at Top Floor Studio. Built to integrate with other social-media networking sites, YuDeal's goal is to "empower you to get the deals you want and use them," Parker said.

YuDeal, a publicly owned company, is based in Asheville and worked closely with Asheville Web-design company Top Floor Studio to develop its software. Isaac Roberts, the company's chief executive officer, lives in Waynesville. Ty Hallock, chief executive officer of Top Floor, described the site as "a social-couponing site that allows small businesses to start taking coupons by a handheld device."

The twist is that consumers will eventually have the ability through the site to negotiate their deals with businesses depending upon variables, such as the time of day they're shopping or the number of people in their party, Hallock said. Put another way, the site is offering an evolution of mobile marketing, according to James McMahon, YuDeal's chief operating officer.

McMahon described how the site works: A user registers at YuDeal.com, then can browse businesses that are offering coupons. A user chooses a deal by clicking and confirming on the Web site. Next, the user goes to the business to redeem the deal by typing their phone number into an iPod Touch, installed at each participating business.

The site is still in test mode, and it's launching in Asheville. Participating businesses so far are City Bakery Cafe, Green Sage, Corner Kitchen and Bouchon French Bistro. Representatives from each of those businesses attended the kick-off event, and each said they're excited about taking part in the launch.

Tony Smith of Green Sage said his company sees YuDeal as a green marketing tool, with no paper waste. Kevin Westmoreland of the Corner Kitchen said he liked the fact that discounts could be tailored to users. Michel Baudouin of Bouchon said he was attracted to the ability to track results.

YuDeal's goal is to have all kinds of businesses participating in every city across the U.S. In coming months, YuDeal plans to add Facebook and Twitter functionality. There's a smart-phone application in the works, as well as a point system for site users and a new logo and design for the site.

Roberts, YuDeal's CEO, told the group that he envisions his company changing the global economy one transaction at a time. He credited the "creative cauldron" of Asheville for providing him with the resources needed to make his company work, and in the end, Roberts said, "this is something Asheville can hopefully be proud of."

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