Former intelligence advisor partners with his brother to form Des Moines startup

As an officer in the United States Army Corps of Engineers Keokuk native Carl Maerz was an intelligence advisor who trained a battalion of high-level Afghanistan soldiers how to collect and process evidence to find terrorists.

Maerz would train them how to identify potential terrorist threats and locate bombs or explosives. For nine months in 2012 he was stationed in Panjwai, a district in Kandahar Province, a place considered the spiritual home of the Taliban.

He returned in December and was discharged later in 2013 after four years of service. Maerz initially lived in Colorado before moving to Des Moines to start a business with his brother Torey Maerz.

“Because it’s Des Moines we realize there’s a lot of insurance here so we thought we would focus on that industry” Maerz says.

“We wanted to identify a problem first, then create a solution and use technology to make it better. So we didn’t start with an idea, we started with the concept of wanting to start a business and wanting to use technology to make peoples lives easier and more profitable.”

Both brothers would call insurance agents and ask about problems their business was having. What kept coming up was customer referrals, but nobody had any systems in place to automate anything.

Torey and Carl Maerz
(From left) Carl Maerz, 33 and his brother Torey Maerz, 35 started Rocket Referrals in 2013.

“And we’re coming from the side of technology, so we thought lets create a program that can automate communication to try and resolve this problem,” Maerz, 33, says.

So the duo started Rocket Referrals, an automated software program focused on existing clients and improving those relationships within a company. Their software helps companies get more referrals, retention, sales and better visibility of an existing client base.

Maerz says there a lot of marketing automation companies target prospects and then funnel them into a sales pipeline.

“We’re more focused on the existing customer,” he says. “And since it’s evolved from not just referrals but better relationships and retention. It’s bettering communication for existing clients.

“Then we sold that technology.”

Since the company started in 2013 Rocket Referrals now employs six full-time employees and has their own 3,000 square foot office in downtown Des Moines with equipment they purchased.

For the next entrepreneur, Maerz recommends looking for a problem that needs solved, that people are willing to pay for.

“It can’t just be an idea that you think people will want,” Maerz says. “Instead take the time to discover what your target market will actually pay for. It’s about building a client base, not impressing investors. Generating revenue is the best way to prove your concept and open doors to success.”