App helps you save money
Use technology to find bargains in your neighbourhood
A STELLENBOSCH technology start- up has secured R4 million in funding for its smartphone app, which links shoppers to special deals in their neighbourhoods.
“The idea is to save you time and money when shopping,” Leonard Brewer, chief executive of MySidekick, said this week.
“It helps you easily find specials when shopping, or plan where to go for the best deals.”
The free MySidekick app, which sells itself as “South Africa’s best bargain-hunting buddy”, features a small blue superhero as its logo.
“The idea is that users get their own superhero shopping assistant,” Brewer said at the start-up’s offices in the Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab, a technology and innovation incubator hub.
It has been downloaded 10 000 times on Apple and Android smartphones.
The investor is Alchemy-A, a technology incubator owned by EM Software & Systems (EMSS), a Stellenbosch company that designs and produces highly-specialised electromagnetic software and systems
Brewer called the investment a “massive boost”. “To a certain extent we were struggling on our own,” he said.
“Apart from their funding, we are also getting invaluable advice and assistance with running our company.”
The investment contract was signed last month, and most of the funding will go towards product development and marketing.
When using the app, shoppers can either search for specials at a specific store, or check out all bargains at a nearby mall.
To prevent a user in Cape Town receiving specials from malls located in places like Polokwane and Pretoria the app only searches within a set radius of the user.
Users can also search for specials in categories, such as supermarkets, pet stores or footwear.
These specials can then be “favourited”, creating a specials “shopping list”.
For added functionality, MySidekick also gives users information about the closest ATMs, petrol stations, as well a list of updated emergency numbers.
Brewer said the idea to develop a bargain- searching app came about in 2012.
He and his team spent much of 2013 creating and refining it, with the help of a coder. To make the concept work, they needed buy-in from large retail groups. This was tricky, as they were faced with a “chicken and egg” scenario; to get users to download it, they needed retailers to offer their specials.
At the same time, they had to convince retailers to buy into the concept without having any users to show.
Brewer said after they signed up large retailers including Incredible Connection and HiFi Corp, things became easier. “The thinking among retailers was: ‘we can’t afford not to be on the app’.”
The first version was launched in August last year.
Retailers pay a flat fee to have their specials, sales and bargains carried.
Some of MySidekick’s clients include Edgars, Vodacom4U, Specsavers, Clicks, Foto First, Builders Warehouse and Verimark.
Brewer said 95 percent of the retailers they approached were enthusiastic about the idea, since it was designed to drive more customers to their stores. And MySidekick has big plans.
“We want to build a community of users who interact and spread the word about specials,” said Brewer, who aims to have 100 000 downloads by the end of next year.
An upgraded version of the app is also in the works, which will focus on providing users with specials tailored to their wants.
CUT PRICE: MySidekick CEO Leonard Brewer at the start-up’s office in the Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab, a tech incubator.