By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Three Marshfield High School alums now spread out across the world are working together on an innovative business idea. The business’ name is Has Karma, and it strives to digitize the power of referrals for small business, especially those that do not have a sophisticated online presence.
Here is how it works: A small business working with Has Karma emails out a special offer to its core customers. Those customers also receive a referral code that they can pass on to their friends who might be in need of the same service or are interested in the same offer. If and when that customer’s friend comes into the business and presents the referral code, he or she gets the special offer while the original customer gets a monetary reward for making the referral and also has access to the original special offer.
Those core customers can share that referral code with friends via text, email, or social media, allowing businesses to take referrals that have traditionally been passed on by word-of-mouth and use the power of the internet to reach exponentially more people.
Martin Machtan, Killian McKiernan, and David Lee are the founders and owners of Has Karma. Machtan lives in Marshfield, Lee resides in Amsterdam, and McKiernan is in Madison. The target for the Has Karma product is small, local businesses.
“Usually when you talk to these guys (small business owners), referrals are a top three or top four source of customers for them,” McKiernan said. He added that the goal of Has Karma is to capture the power of a referral and utilize it efficiently.
“Many small businesses will say that there’s no more important advertising for them than word-of-mouth referrals,” Machtan said. “What we are trying to do is automate their word-of-mouth referrals. … We’re trying to leverage those word-of-mouth referrals and let people share them the way they share everything else in their lives now.”
Machtan said that the hope is for Has Karma to catch on and be adopted as a marketing strategy both nationally and internationally, but locally the company has already worked with Blues Hair Studio in Marshfield. Has Karma as a product launched in July of this year after several months of development.
“I think the exciting thing is when you have a product that you feel can benefit so many local businesses,” Machtan said. He added that their main challenge right now is — as they are just getting started and have a small staff — it can be difficult to find the time to customize the product for each small business.
All three founders have major obligations or occupations in addition to Has Karma. McKiernan is working on his master’s degree in securities analysis at UW-Madison, Lee is a programmer, and Machtan runs a real estate business. They all think, though, that they would ultimately like to make Has Karma their central focus.
“It’s always dangerous to mention the great successful companies in the same breath as your little startup, but one of the things we’ve seen about the really successful startups is they take an underutilized resource and they help people leverage it,” Machtan said, citing the ride-hailing service Uber, which utilizes people’s vehicles, generally a depreciating asset, as a way to make money.
Lee said that Machtan and McKiernan approached him with the idea for Has Karma, and he wanted to get involved because, “It was pretty easy to see the benefit of it, how it could be used to really help somebody.”
For more information on Has Karma, visit haskarma.com.