Wife’s mild frustration with Indian American husband leads to inspiration for polling app Bestest

From left, the Bestest team, Kelly Helmuth, chief growth officer; Lalit Goel, co-founder and CEO; Vickram Goel, co-founder; and Rachel Shatkin, product development. (Photo: Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo)

Buffalo, N.Y.-based serial entrepreneur Lalit Goel had already helped his wife Sandra shortlist three pairs of glasses she was trying to decide upon at a store. All three look good he told her.

“Oh! You’re no help. I wish I could poll my friends about which one I should buy,” Sandra Goel said, and they both turned to each other in a Eureka moment – “There should be an App for that!”

And Bestest was born. The name of the company was another great story- when his now-18 year old son Suneil was around 6 years old, he left a voicemail for his father – “My bestest, bestest, bestest, bestest, bestest friend is leaving town.” Lalit Goel saved it all these years — now it jumped at him as the best name for the new App.

Bestest is an app for phones and tablets on which one can instantly poll a universe as small as one’s closest friends, to the whole college, maybe from your intimate family, your buddy group, your clubbing group, or high-school friends, alumni, or 100,000 people in a city, Goel told Desi Talk. “It could change everything. It could be used by designers, politicians, school teachers, schools, businesses, families. I realized its scope was huge.”

At the same time, Goel was doubtful it was not already on the market. “I thought everything’s been done already. I couldn’t be the first one.” His research revealed however, that most similar apps catered to niches. He ran his idea by both his sons, and his older son Vickram, 20, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tried it out with his soccer team, asking them which cleats to get from a choice of two. He is co-founder of the company.

The University at Buffalo sent out a press release that it was the primary test market for the new app. “UB is a microcosm for us, for our entire marketplace,” said Kelly Helmuth chief growth officer at Bestest said. From clubs to academia and entrepreneurs, the university provides an ample and diverse population that can benefit from instant polling, she said.

Bestest is housed in the UB Technology Incubator on Sweet Home Road in Amherst, New York. Goel has designed the app like a game. Helmuth calls it the “gamification” of polling. The diversity of use is obvious from current ongoing trials.

University at Buffalo is using Bestest to poll the school’s Alumni Association Board of Directors

The Entrepreneurship Center at Mercy College, is using the Bestest app in two upcoming New York City events where quick judging will be needed – the StrtupBoost Annual Investor Conference where 100 judges will be judging companies making pitches; and the New York 33 under 33 event, where again, numerous judges will be selecting top young executives. The UB student newspaper plans to use the app as well to solicit students’ opinions.

Born in Ferozepur, Punjab, Goel grew up in Chandigarh and came to the U.S. for his Masters in Architecture and Planning, at UB. He followed it up with an MBA, also at UB. He has started at least 6 companies in the past 15 years and now runs two companies successfully.