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Shirish Nadkarni

Shirish Nadkarni’s past entrepreneurial pursuits have included mobile email service TeamOn and online language community Livemocha. Now, the Seattle area startup veteran is looking to tackle an even bigger challenge: shopping.

Nadkarni today is unveiling Zoomingo, a new mobile application that allows users to discover discounts on clothing, jewelry, handbags and other items at some 70,000 local retail establishments.

Inspired by his wife’s shopping activities, Zoomingo catalogs items for sale at stores such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target and small boutiques. We chatted with Nadkarni, who worked at Microsoft for 12 years before jumping into the startup game in 1999 with TeamOn, for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Zoomingo is a shopping discovery application that helps you find the best sales in local retail stores around your town. It is available on iPhone and Android platforms along with a companion website to help you plan your local shopping trips.”

Inspiration hit when: “I spent countless hours shopping with my wife during a sabbatical and couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a local sales shopping app to help make the experience easier and faster. A light bulb went off and Zoomingo came to be.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap, so we could be totally focused on building a great shopping app and not get distracted. We’ll concentrate on fund raising soon.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “The sheer simplicity of our application and the focus on sale items only. No one wants to deal with the hassle of scanning bar codes to find the best prices locally. With Zoomingo, you shop for sales scan-free.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Populating our sales catalog with thousands of sale items from top retailers to jump start our sales crowd sourcing engine and make our app useful from day one. With Zoomingo, our community will be the biggest asset in building a real time database of desirable sale items that our members have discovered.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Underestimating how long it takes to build an application on multiple platforms. But we have a fantastic team that worked very hard to hit our launch timeline.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Zuckerberg. Building community engagement and contribution for our app is going to be critical to our success.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “When thousands of stores and the millions of Angry Birds players who will flock to Zoomingo start crowd sourcing unique sale items onto our platform”

Rivals should fear us because: “We have built communities of tens of millions of users before and plan to do the same again with Zoomingo. Communities can dramatically amplify the value of your application and create the network effects to create a sustainable competitive advantage.”

We are truly unique because: “Our app is the only one on the market that displays thousands of sales items at over 70,000 retail outlets around the country which will grow even bigger over time with the help of our community.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Getting the product to market in six months. If you have a great idea, get it out there fast before someone else does. We saw this work in spades with our previous company, Livemocha, which launched before several other competitors and quickly became the largest online site for language learning.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Have a big vision but relentlessly narrow your focus to a single easy to understand value proposition.”

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