Ouibring isn’t a typical StartupYard startup, and Joel Gordon isn’t a typical StartupYard founder. In a year dominated by deep tech companies, Joel, with Cofounder and fellow Australian Andrew Crosio, are trying to change the way we think about online shopping- one trip at a time.
Ouibring is an e-commerce and sharing economy platform, for shoppers who want access to international products and prices, and travelers who want to make extra money. How does that work? Ouibring gives shoppers the chance to make requests that travelers can fulfil during their trips, helping them make a bit of extra money, and bring a little joy into a stranger’s life.
Ouibring has already garnered nearly 40,000 Likes on Facebook since late last year, making it one of the most instantly popular startup ideas that StartupYard has ever accelerated.
I sat down with Co-Founder and CEO Joel Gordon to talk about his vision for OuiBring, and why he thinks the world is ready for a new way of shopping:
Hi Joel, tell us a little more about Ouibring. Where did you get the idea?
The idea for Ouibring came from experiences gained living and working abroad for the last 15 years. The fun and excitement when a special package delivered by a friend arrives is the inspiration for Ouibring’s tagline – “Bring a little happiness”.
As any expatriate knows, living abroad can give you a special appreciation for things that those at home just take for granted. You look forward to that time when a friend will bring a special something you’ve requested from your home. That’s a magical feeling, as if you’re the only person in the world that has what you have. We wanted to capture that feeling, and make it something anyone could enjoy. A special moment of joy only for them; an experience no one else is having.
At the same time, we can give others the chance to make a bit of money, and reduce waste by sharing their spare luggage capacity.
One story I really like is how even a small, generic item that is plentiful in one location can provide a whole lot of pleasure and luxury when it appears in an unexpected context. When a Ouibringer arrived with three massive bags of Monster Munch Pickled Onion and delivered them to a travel blogger living in Bangkok. They really made her day.Cool! Check out @Ouibring, the startup that helps you get anything you want, from anywhere in the world – Exclusive Interview Click To Tweet
The fun of getting a previously impossible to obtain snack from home delivered to the other side of the world is a great demonstration of our values in action.
What about the team you’ve put together makes you confident you can grow Ouibring as a global business?
We have a great team of people who are passionate and excited about making Ouibring a success. For us it’s the ability to focus on what matters most, avoid bullshit and listen to our customers every day that is key.
We share a belief that the sharing economy needs to focus on making things easy for customers and making sure that the participants reap the majority of the rewards. We’re making sure Ouibring is easy, fun and safe to use while at the same time only charging fees for real value add services. We’re customers ourselves, and our experience buying and bringing, as well as hearing what our other customers have to say, helps keep us grounded.
Let’s talk a bit about the economics of Ouibring. How do you think you’ll make money? What will be the main attractors for buyers and “bringers?” Why would people choose it over more traditional channels?
One of the key challenges in making this kind of system work is establishing trust. We want to offer that by creating a safe system that ensures delivery, as well as payment, for each transaction.
We’re going to keep it simple and charge a small fee to cover the cost of managing payment transactions. Because our bringers are doing the leg work we’ll always make sure that they get the lion’s share of the rewards.
When we survey our customers that live abroad they all answer that they have asked friends and family to bring products for them. Ouibring is as an extension of this network, and connects shoppers with travellers all over the world who are willing and able to help source speciality items. The cool thing is that whether somebody is an adventurous traveller who likes the idea of meeting interesting new people, a frequent business traveller with luggage capacity to spare, or a long term expat who just wants a reliable supply of favorite comfort items from home, Ouibring can help connect and make these people happier!
The real attraction for our shoppers when they decide to use Ouibring is that they are able get the exact product they’re looking for, rather than settling for a substitute (not to mention a possible fake) from Amazon, or waiting until next year when their friends are next coming to visit. Our shoppers choose Ouibring because we offer the best, most reliable and effective way of getting exactly what they want, no matter where they are in the world.
Think about any great trip you’ve had somewhere far away. I bet there was something you enjoyed there that you just haven’t ever been able to find again. That’s a Ouibring kind of thing.
Our bringers are up for making extra money in a fun new way, enjoy learning about new products and places to explore, and we often get feedback from both people about how they enjoyed meeting each to exchange goods too!
When talking about a sharing economy platform, security is always a big concern. How has your thinking evolved since you joined StartupYard on how to build trust with your users?
The challenges of ensuring that the platform is used safely and for its intended purposes are daunting if you consider every possible bad thing that can happen. We are doing everything we can to make sure we are up to those challenges: having the appropriate contingency plans in place, verifying users and identifying bad actors, is something every sharing platform must face.
But it’s all about people. It’s all about building trust with our customers. We work hard to show people that we take each bring seriously and are there to help out if needed. This starts with taking care of people’s onboarding when they start using the site, guiding them through the process of signing up and creating their first request, through to connecting them with a reliable and trust-worthy traveller who will bring them what they’ve requested.
Since joining StartupYard we’ve learned a lot about how to use word of mouth marketing channels more effectively, and we’re also focusing on clear and simple testimonials to help show potential customers that other people just like them are already using Ouibring to import a little bit of happiness from anywhere in the world.
Where do you hope Ouibring will be in a year, and how are you going to get there?
Our focus right now is to get to 10K customers in BKK and by this time next year we will be expanding into other cities in Asia and Europe.
Long term, what’s your hope for Ouibring 5 years from now?
Longer term we are super excited about the future and where Ouibring will be. The combination of increasing bespoke and localised manufacturing with more and more sophisticated consumers that travel more often will create the perfect setting for a dynamic, scalable and agile global supply chain.
The inefficiency of all the wasted capacity when people travel with empty bags, suitcases and car boots is crying out for a better approach and we see Ouibring as being part of the solution by connecting this underutilised resource with demand.
People all over the world right now ask for, buy and bring things for friends and family when they travel, and with Ouibring at the end of the day we’re working hard to make this kind of personal, reliable and trusted shopping and delivery service something that everybody can use to get exactly what they want and bring a little happiness.
You joined StartupYard in November. What prompted you to seek out an accelerator, and has the experience fit with your expectations?
We want to make Ouibring a success and the decision to join an accelerator was motivated by being humble and willing to throw ourselves into an unfamiliar environment to maximise our chances of growing our business. We had very high expectations coming into the program and have really been impressed with the variety and calibre of the mentors, alumni and people we’ve met through the program.
Which mentors, advisors, or investors have most surprised you during acceleration? What were you not prepared for?
Petr Ocasek, Daniel Hastik, Ondrej Bartos and Jan Urban. I really liked the advice about taking responsibility for the conversation and making sure that you get as much out of it as possible. Ask questions and listen more.
How would you say your team’s outlook has changed since you joined StartupYard?
Startups have to make do with limited resources and we’re very mindful of where our energy is being spent. We try even harder now to make sure we get a good return on it! We also have a clearer idea of the runway we’ll need to make this business a success and are even more excited about the future than before.