App helps you save money

Use tech­nol­ogy to find bar­gains in your neigh­bour­hood

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - OPINION - JAN CRONJE

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.

PIC­TURE: JAN CRONJE

CUT PRICE: MySide­kick CEO Leonard Brewer at the start-up’s of­fice in the Ned­bank Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity LaunchLab, a tech in­cu­ba­tor.

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