USC Marshall grads create new app

Hundreds, even thousands, of apps are downloaded every day from iTunes, but rarely can one find an app created by two Marshall School of Business graduates. Jon Sutherland and Ted Hadjisavas, who both graduated in 2012, knew when they graduated that they wanted to start their own business.

Suit up · Spruce, a new app created by Marshall alumni John Sutherland and Ted Hadjisavas, works to help men discover desirable products. — Photo courtesy of Spruce

Suit up · Spruce, a new app created by Marshall alumni John Sutherland and Ted Hadjisavas, works to help men discover desirable products. — Photo courtesy of Spruce

Upon graduating, however, Sutherland and Hadjisavas both took opportunities to work in the corporate world. After realizing that a spot in the corporate world wasn’t the life for them, they decided it was time to move on and follow their true passion: entrepreneurship. Sutherland and Hadjisavas applied and were ultimately accepted to the Viterbi Startup Garage. Thinking they wanted to create an app, they went forward with an idea, only for it to completely fall apart. Their second attempt was successful and introduced. The app Spruce, aims “to help men discover amazing products.”

But starting the app was not as easy as one might think.

“The startup process is a roller coaster ride,” Sutherland said. “It’s a constant battle to acquire users and learn from them, raise money from investors and work together as a team for 12-16 hours a day while maintaining some level of sanity. In my opinion, having a fantastic startup team that works well together is the most important key to success. When there are only a few employees in a company each person has so much responsibility, and if they don’t deliver the company will fail.”

Every day, Sutherland and Hadjisavas collect products from around the web specifically for men, and then the users of the app decide, by up-voting or down-voting, which products become popular. Usually when an app is downloaded, it takes some time to understand and get acquainted with it. Spruce, on the other hand, is simple. By simply clicking on the trending tab, every product gets split up into a category: cars and vehicles, clothing, gadgets, sports and outdoors or combined all together under the category, “everything.”

From Cole Haan shoes to modern hookahs, there is something for every taste and price range. By inputing the minimum and maximum amount of money to be spent, Spruce finds more than enough options. The app studies the preferences of its users from their likes and dislikes and allows for products to be saved, creating a profile on the user.

“There is no use [for] men spending their money on things they just like and settling, when they can spend their money on something they love,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland said the duo came up with this idea after finding a need for it in their everyday lives.

“Ted and I decided to go shopping at one of our favorite stores, which is Nordstrom, but when we walked inside we realized that as a whole we only like about 5 percent of the products and merchandise,” he said. “So we thought, what if we could make a store where every single product we see is right for us?”

Sutherland and Hadjisavas wasted no time.

“When we came up with Spruce, Ted and I were so excited about it that I just jumped in and started building the first version right away,” he said. “I finished it in about four sleepless days, and we pushed it to the App Store in its raw form. From there, we put it in front of anyone that would listen and gathered feedback. Since then, we’ve gone through a recurring cycle where we gather feedback, improve the product and launch a new version, working toward finding that perfect product-market fit every startup is looking for.”

For even more convenience, Sutherland and Hadjisavas have been putting together complete outfits for purchase. In addition, if one does not wish to purchase the whole outfit, individual pieces can  be bought separately.

Sutherland could not feel more fortunate for the resources USC has given him.

“Words cannot describe how thankful I am for my time at USC,” Sutherland said. “It really shaped me into who I am today. During my time at USC, I jumped around between computer science product design and business — three things I use every day to improve our products and build a young, thriving company.”

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