Payables

 

Personal Finance and Payments App

What is this about?

Having graduated our previous project Samay, there was one need that remained more prominently than others that was not substituted: The ability to pay bills fast and easily every month and avoid fines for late payments. This is a universal need for businesses and individuals alike that was made even more painful because of the variety of formats a person can receive a bill: on paper in the post, digital by email, SEPA. On average, Belgians pay between 20 and 50 eur per month in fines for late payments, which sometimes translate to court hearings and executors getting involved. Our goal is to help people avoid these fines by providing an easy and fast system that could save them over 600 eur per person per year.

Inspired by our own need for a management assistant in our busy entrepreneurial lives.

 

What is the vision?

Payables is envisioned to be a payments app, with an integrated finance management system, giving you an overview of your income and spendings over various banks and accounts. The app will most importantly be able to convert your paper and email bills into payments and load them into your e-banking system, where you would be able to authorise them directly through your phone.

 

What happened then?

After completing the parts of the Viability Process Pipe confirming business and financial viability, we have now started our market viability testing. We’ve observed some interesting insights in our research confirming the existence of a market. At the moment, we are building partnerships to confirm the technical viability and see if the rigid banking API infrastructure would allow for a viable user experience that would turn the product into one that meets our target’s needs. This project is ongoing and we are planning a public alpha test in Q2 of 2020. To join the testing, please contact one of the partners.

 

Learnings

So far from operating in the Fintech sector for the first time, we have learned that it is challenging to work on a concept dependent on bank APIs, especially on Belgian bank APIs. While some banks are compliant with the European Payment Service Directive (PSD2), some are not and this presents a technical viability challenge outside of our control. Being a full blown fintech startup also meant we had to obtain a banking licence from the Belgian National Bank and fulfil capital and staff requirements, even though we are a startup. This raised the barrier to entry in this business segment. We are yet to assess if this will impact the business model we outlined in the beginning of the Viability Process Pipe.

Samay

On-Demand Personal Assistant

What is this about?

Samay started from an internal necessity of a “less than part time” assistant. In a nutshell, the schip.gent partners needed help for administrative tasks, like paying bills, booking a ticket, reserving a meeting room, but also help in their personal life, like finding a cleaner or a plumber. Out of this need, Samay was designed to automate users’ administrative tasks and free more time for people whose time is expensive. In a nutshell, Samay was to help people manage their busy lives and give them more time.

What is the vision?

We envisioned Samay as a bot that will perform administrative tasks quickly and efficiently. Before we started developing the tech behind it, we needed to test the market viability. We therefore started the project as a human driven company, with assistants who performed the tasks. The goal was to gain clients and prove market viability, gain insights and data about the customers and support the development process.

What happened then?

We had a fruitful partnership with a specialist assistant who provided the expertise behind the core business and could follow the clients’ needs. We increased our marketing efforts, examining the market and targeting entrepreneurs and freelancers in Belgium as early adopters. We soon realised that the market for this service is not mature and that we will need to create demand for this service and nourish the idea that sometimes time is more expensive than money. This inevitably meant that the market viability test did not pass and Samay eventually graduated.

Learnings

We had a lot of learnings from the 18 months we tested Samay. Namely, following the viability pipe is not easy and requires a lot of discipline and expertise from a versatile team. It’s important to be able to stick to the initial plans, as the viability process allows for changes and adjustments of all segments of the project, so the initial idea could be lost or forgotten. We learned that partners working on the project are key and one of the main building blocks of whether the project would succeed. We learned that it takes time to determine viability and start the project. We learned that marketing is a job for a specialist, not something the team can just do in their spare time. We learned that we tried to do too much with one tool and that we need to focus more and have a more precise offering in the next project. We learned, maybe most importantly, that the Viability Process Pipe works and is a methodology we will use consistently for future projects.

Gewoon Wijn

A box of assorted wines delivered to your house

What is this about?

We started Gewoon Wijn because of our love for wine and hoping to have an excuse to drink on the job. It was a perfect opportunity to explore ecommerce, payments and shipping, while at the same time gaining insights about what it takes to run a fully online store.

What is the vision?

Gewoon Wijn was to be the “Hellofresh for Wine” – a platform where you can get a box of wine to explore at an affordable price. It would solve the problem of being in the supermarket and having no idea of what wine to buy and what price to pay for it. The concept was simple: 40 EUR for a selection of 4 bottles of wine, delivered at your house. The ‘menu’ changed every month. We worked with local wine importers to present premium products from Europe and beyond. Every wine came with a story, presented in a card that came with the wine box.

What happened then?

We built an online sales platform, which helped us explore the online payments and shipping landscape. We built a strong network of wine distributors and sommeliers, which got us to drink some delicious and special wine. We explored partnership options, we built an experience for our clients and improved the concept to have more of a market match.

Learnings

The main learning from Gewoon Wijn was that the market was too small in the local landscape we worked at for it to gain significant return. We also learned that building a sales platform won’t guarantee visibility or customers coming to it to look at it or buy the box. We learned such a concept is greatly rooted in good marketing and sales investment, which we at the time had no capacity or resources to invest in. We also learned that partnerships with people working in the business that have good connections is a key to product quality control and ultimately keeping customers happy.

 

Display.io

Indoor digital information displays and Indoor billboards

What is this about?

In Belgium, at the time we started the project, the only options for indoor display were expensive and required scale to implement. Basically, only big companies who needed 10 or 50 displays could get a good price to implement these solutions. Therefore, the needs of small companies and local businesses for this kind of digital displays were not met.

What is the vision?

Display.io was a full hardware/software solution that would upgrade any HDMI screen to a digital information display. This display would be easy to manage for the user, who would be able to operate what is displayed through their phone.

What happened then?

We built a technical Minimum Viable Product, which consisted of an inexpensive computer that can be connected to a TV via HDMI and would have the capability to connect with a phone. While the market potential was promising, we stopped the Viability Process Pipe at the technical viability. The technology at the time was not sufficient to hit the core values to the customers that we identified. Building our own bespoke tech solution was not viable with the resources we had. Ultimately, the concept wasn’t strong enough to support the necessary technical and sales staff the project required.

Learnings

As a first try to explore a solution that would solve a problem to a target market, Display.io provided a good baseline for the type of idea and nature of concept a startup needs to have in order to be considered a ‘big idea.’ Looking back at this project, the project would have been helped by a partnership with a cofounder from the Out-of-Home Advertising industry or a company providing signage and billboard space. Based on this learning, we since tried to make valuable connections with partners from relevant industries, who would further the concept and would bring important insight about the nature of the business we may not have.