By Katie Martin Savannah Morning News, Ga.
Yvonne Jouffrault's business has customers around the globe, although, admittedly, she rarely speaks with them.
Jouffrault is the CEO and founder of Tour Buddy apps, an online software that allows visitor destinations around the world to create their own iOS and Android apps. The apps are location-based visitor guides and contain maps, images and audio so users learn and explore at their own pace from the palm of their hand.
The company has released more than 100 apps through the app store with clients in seven different countries, but it began on a smaller scale here in the Hostess City.
"When I started my company here five years ago, there wasn't much of a startup or software community, and I had to make all the mistakes on my own and learn everything the hard way. There was no ecosystem," said Jouffrault, who launched her first app, the Story of Savannah Walking Tour in 2008.
"As my company has become more successful and I've acquired these resources, I've made it my business to know every single person in that community who is trying to build a software product."
The newest product from Tour Buddy, Savannah Experiences, which was launched earlier this year, contains guides for the Savannah Stopover Music Festival, First Friday Art March and the Starland district, Jouffrault's original Savannah walking tour and the Creative Coast's upcoming Geekend among others. Each guide contains maps and different points of interest or stops.
"We use Savannah whenever we have a new idea. It's our test market because it's such a visitor destination," she said.
Jouffrault not only has watched the local startup market grow, she's played an important role by creating Tech Tuesdays and an invitation only Founder's Breakfast for people who are building companies. The events allow people to connect and share resources and encouragement.
"All of us are working on products we sell outside of Savannah. We don't go to networking events... Our business is online, our customer base is global, so it's hard for us to meet each other," she said.
"When you meet people that are in the same space you are, you can really learn from their successes and failures."
Next Friday, Jouffrault will bring her experience to dozens of eager ears during Geekend where she'll be leading a panel on mobile app product development to help attendees connect the dots between designers, developers and users.
"If a user tries to use an app one time and it's clunky or they don't understand it, they're never going to use it again...," she said.
Through events like Geekend, Jouffrault hopes to see the bonds of the software ecosystem continue to grow stronger as local startups gain revenue and hire more people.
"It brings people from other cites who are in our space, and someone who's a founder of a startup company on the other side of the world has more in common with me than the company that works next door to my office building," she said.
"So by bringing more of those people into our community, it helps to strengthen our bonds with the outside world and gives us more resources."
Jouffrault will continue to help the local startup community through her position with the Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech, working in the Savannah area as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence. For the next year, she will help connect and nurture the local startup scene by providing mentorship and advice to entrepreneurs.
"I'm planning to create a more structured program in Savannah to offer more structure to the startups that want to grow here and help connect them with the resources in Atlanta," she said. "I've got one year in this role, so I really hope to make an impact on Savannah."