Found in Town in Crain’s Chicago Business

//Found in Town in Crain’s Chicago Business

Found in Town in Crain’s Chicago Business

Found-in-Town reunites users with lost stuff

Five lost cellphones over the course of a year inspired 27-year-old Zach Haller to create Found in Town LLC, a free online lost-and-found service that launched last month in Chicago.

It’s the digital version of the age-old cardboard box, aimed at connecting good Samaritans with the owners of misplaced items. Users at receive a free key chain and five stickers that can be put on anything from a cellphone or a camera to a coat. Each keychain and sticker has a unique serial number and web address. Find something or lose something? Enter an email address or serial number and see if anyone has the item.

“It’s kind of an easy sell because it’s free and reminds people how much stress and anxiety they had that day when they lost their keys and had to change their locks,” says Mr. Haller, who started the company with $15,000 in January 2010 while continuing to work full time as an immigration paralegal at a Chicago law firm and part time as an aerobics instructor.

Mr. Haller plans to make money from selling advertising on the key chains to local bars and restaurants. Users can select a bar or restaurant affiliation when they sign up, which he says will be an incentive for local businesses because it allows them to build on loyalty. Special offers could even be redeemed with the key chain ID.

“One of the main elements behind creating this program was—what better way to integrate people with the local businesses they patronize,” Mr. Haller says. “It uses the Internet to facilitate these connections.”

For now, Lakeview spots the Closet, Minibar, Halsted’s Bar & Grill and DS Tequila have teamed up with Found in Town on a free trial basis. The service has been in beta testing since mid-November and has about 100 users. Mr. Haller anticipates strong demand in Chicago, where he says thousands of cellphones are lost in taxi cabs each year.

Found in Town is planning to launch an app for Android and iPhone and a mobile-friendly website in April. Between now and then, he’ll be pitching investors to try to raise $250,000 in seed capital for marketing and expansion to other cities like Ann Arbor, Mich., and Madison, Wis., where Mr. Haller attended the University of Wisconsin. “I really think this service could flourish on college campuses,” he says.

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