Start-up of the week: Buymie

15 Feb 2016294 Shares

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Have your groceries delivered to your home in just one hour

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Our start-up of the week, Buymie, is a new on-demand mobile app that allows consumers to have any grocery and household item delivered to their door in as little as an hour.

Buymie is an Irish grocery delivery service that allows users to have their shopping handpicked and delivered to their door.

The aim is to provide an open, mobile marketplace that democratises access to online and on-demand delivery for local retailers.

“Buymie is a mobile application that offers personalised convenience. We do this by allowing customers to order from their favourite local stores and have the goods hand-delivered, to their door, in as little as one hour,” explained CEO and co-founder Devan Hughes.

“This is done by developing a crowd-sourced network of trained personal shoppers, or pickers, as we call them”

The market

“Buymie’s mission is to bridge the gap between convenience and online shopping, we believe it shouldn’t be an either/or conversation,” Hughes explained.

Taking Ireland and the UK alone, the total value of the grocery retail market is upwards of €140bn, with only €9bn of this being online, this channel is expected to grow to more than €18bn in the next five years.

“It’s also worth noting that, today, this portion of the market is owned nearly entirely by the big retailers.”

The founders

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Buymie was found be a team of three. COO Gabor Krasznai has 10-plus years’ experience in risk and operational management having worked for Bank of Ireland and Vodafone.

CTO Art Sokhikyan, has more than 15 years’ experience in software design and development and has previously built a successful software company in his home country of Armenia after working for Oracle in its CRM division.

CEO Devan Hughes’ background is mostly commercial and operational.

“I started my first business in university while studying finance, importing and wholesaling sporting equipment. Actually, when I look back on that business, to this day, it was probably one of the most challenging and stressful things I’ve ever done.

“I’m really glad I had that experience early on in life, as the fear of failure was something I found a real challenge in the early days. Having successfully closed a few more businesses since, today I am very comfortable with failing, I now see it, not as a barrier, but as an important tool to correct your trajectory.

“Since then, I’ve worked mainly in tech within the energy industry and, most recently, I took a step outside early-stage start-ups and spent time in cloud computing, working for Salesforce.com.”

The technology

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Hughes explained that Buymie’s core technology is the backbone of the business and key to its promise to deliver groceries within one hour.

“Our fulfilment engine leverages big data and machine learning, to make sure the Buymie service is reliable and effective.

“Our algorithm, which we’ve been calling J.A.R.V.I.S (Just a rather very intelligent system, for any non-Iron Man fans), takes into account everything, from the number of items in your basket, the weather conditions, your distance from the store all the way down to the time of day and potential queuing times. “We’ve also built it to be super intuitive, so it can react to any issues that might crop up. Let’s say a picker gets a flat tyre or there is a traffic accident, we’ve built-in mechanisms to send out an SOS call to us so we’re aware of any issues and can ensure they are solved as quickly as possible for the customer.”

“We’ve also built it to be super-intuitive, so it can react to any issues that might crop up. Let’s say a picker gets a flat tyre or there is a traffic accident, we’ve built-in mechanisms to send out an SOS call to us so we’re aware of any issues and can ensure they are solved as quickly as possible for the customer.”

The digital revolution for the butcher, tailor and candle stick maker

Hughes said that the three founders built the Buymie platform to democratise access to online and on-demand delivery services for retailers of any size.

“By partnering with us, a retailer can develop a new channel to increase their customer reach, drive additional revenue and connect with their customers in a whole new way. Most importantly, this can all be done without the heavy upfront capital cost that has traditionally been associated with rolling out a service like this.

“Also, if we look further down the road and take into account the movement towards internet of things, we’re going to need to have an infrastructure in place that allows for all retailers to participate in a world of data-driven consumerism.

“The pivot to passive has begun and with it brings a lot of opportunity to develop some truly incredible technology.”

Hughes said the team began validating this idea with consumers over 12 months ago. “And since then our pilot testing has been all about understanding the customer journey and iterating over and over again to ensure the experience is as seamless as possible.

“Up until now we’ve done very little marketing, but with the small amount we have done online, we seem to have connected with a lot of people straight away. In a very short space of time, we’ve had more than 300 pre-registrations on our website of people waiting to get access to the Buymie app.

“As for investment, we have received a lot of interest from investors about when our next round will be, but we’ve done a lot of bootstrapping to get us to this point, and have only recently raised some capital from angel investors, as well as Enterprise Ireland.

“We have enough funds now for a sufficient runway, and our focus will be on building out further proof points to show the long-term potential of the Buymie platform.

“We want to avoid the mistake a lot of founders make, which is focusing more on fundraising than on the actual business itself. When the timing is right and we have the data, we will then look at raising a new round of funding, which will allow us to begin steps towards launching into other cities.”

Moving parts

Hughes explained that there have been plenty of challenges along the way. “With the nature of our business, most of our challenges have been technical for the most part but, as a start-up, there are a lot of moving parts to consider.

“The most important challenge we had at the start was putting the right team together. Once we came together as founders, our first focus was on building a strong advisory board to help us navigate the journey ahead.

“This is not something that was done over night, but now we are lucky enough to have an incredibly accomplished board of advisers, including: Karl Aherne of Red Planet Ventures and former managing director for Wayra Accelerator; Owen O’Byrne, head of product for Fire Financial Services, and former chief product architect for Realex Payments, and Rob Cumiskey, former EMEA marketing manager for Hailo.

“Having these individuals on board has been instrumental in us dealing with any challenges, commercial or technical, that have arisen, and what we have achieved to date is in no small part due to the ability of us to draw on their wealth of experience.”

A defining time in Ireland’s commercial development

Hughes said he believes the start-up scene in Ireland is incredible right now.

“I feel like we’re living through what will be described in the future as a defining time in Ireland’s commercial development.

“Over the last six months, we really began immersing ourselves in the scene, which has opened up some incredible doors and opportunities for us.

“We’ve connected with some amazing people,, such as Gene Murphy, entrepreneur-in-residence for Bank of Ireland, and participated in some terrific programs, such as Techstars and Startup Next. Becoming a part of the scene is a crucial part of the start-up process and well worth dedicating time to.”

The first step onto the start-up path is always the hardest, according to Hughes. “For anyone who is thinking about starting up, but for one reason or another hasn’t, the hardest part is making the first phone call or having that first conversation to turn an idea into an action. Get it over with and I guarantee you won’t regret it.

“Also, if it’s going to fail, make sure it fails quickly, so you can get started on the next one.

“For anyone in tech, focus first on your team, co-founders and advisers, in that order, and be extremely diligent when choosing.

“If things go well, you’ll be working together a lot, and for a long time. Get creative in how you look at structuring your business, for instance, not everyone needs to be based in Ireland, people tend to forget we live in a global community. Finally, there are some incredible free tools out there, like Slack, WhatsApp, Microsoft BizSpark and others.

“It’s never been cheaper to start a business, and to communicate with your team in real-time, so do your research and find the free tools you can use to get things up and running at a low cost.”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com