By Jessica Kuhn
American flag stickers placed in storefronts aren’t the only tell for veterans cruising for a discount.
Deal Patrol, a recently-launched mobile application created by two former service members, maps out local military deals, said co-founder Darren Smith.
“What makes this app so special is how comprehensive our data is,” the Army veteran said. “We’re really working hard by calling and reaching out to thousands of stores to try and get all the local military deals we can on there.”
The app’s co-founder, Gavin Light, an Air Force veteran, told Smith about his idea for Deal Patrol about three years ago while the two were hiking in the mountains.
“Gavin went to the Air Force Academy here, and back then, the monthly stipend was only $100,” Smith said. “You get free housing and food, of course, but still that money doesn’t go very far when you’re trying to do things out in the community.
“Getting any sort of military discount really makes a huge impact, and Gavin always wondered, ‘Why isn’t there any place that consolidates the discounts, where I can find all of them in one spot?’”
That’s exactly what the Deal Patrol mobile app does, Smith said, adding it’s available for download on both on Android and iOS platforms.
“You open the app and right away it shows you a map that automatically scales to show the 20 closest discounts around you,” he said. “That auto-scaling feature was really very difficult to implement, but we thought it was critical because, depending on where you are, the deals could be far away.”
Users also are able to put in a specific location and search for nearby discounts, Smith said.
“If someone is going on a business trip somewhere next week, they can look at that city and kind of plan out where they want to stay and eat based off the deals in the area,” he said.
Deal Patrol staff verifies all the discounts submitted by businesses to the app, Smith said.
“We also have a way for users to submit online messages if someone goes to an establishment and, for whatever reason, has a problem with the discount,” he said. “We already have thousands of discounts in the app because a lot of national chains have a discount, like Home Depot and Lowe’s.”
However, Smith said they are more interested in connecting with local businesses to highlight those deals being offered.
“We really want all the local ‘mom and pops’ on there,” he said. “We started our focus here in the Springs and we’ve just now started reaching out to other large military communities around the nation, like San Diego, Pensacola and Fort Bragg, N.C.”
Businesses can submit offered military discounts online at militarydealpatrol.com or on the app itself, Smith said.
“They just put the details in there, hit submit and we give them a call to verify it,” he said. “We are trying to make it a really quick, easy process.”
Thus far, the biggest hurdles have been the development of the app and making sure it was a product they were proud of, Smith said.
“We spent over a year with a developer and ended up with a product that we weren’t happy with at all,” he said. “We ended up scrapping that and went with a new company to develop the app and get the product we have and are extremely happy with.”
Going forward, Smith believes the biggest challenge is going to be connecting with all the local businesses that have military discounts, he said.
Deal Patrol co-founders Gavin Light and Darren Smith speak with guests during the mobile application’s launch party in November at Tap Traders.
“Getting all those discounts and then getting them populated on the app is extensive work,” he said, adding they are automating systems “to be able to reach out to as many business owners as we can as quickly as possible.”
Smith said the app donates 10 percent of advertising revenue to the military charity The Home Front Cares.
“It’s just a small way of us giving back and saying thank you,” he said. “We’re so thankful that businesses show their respect for the military by offering deals.”
Meanwhile, Smith said they also hope the app will help veterans and military members interact more in the community.
“A lot of the deals on the app are for eating, and when businesses offer those types of discounts, more military members go there and that creates a little bit of camaraderie there,” he said. “This app really is a win-win; it’s a win for businesses offering the deals and for the military members able to take advantage of them.”
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Colorado Springs Business Journal.