Q&A with Tapit co-founder and CEO Jamie Conyngham on breaking new ground in the NFC land-grab
SUB: Please explain what Tapit is, and the value proposition you bring to both advertisers and consumers.
Conyngham: Tapit is the simplest way possible to get content to your mobile phone. Straight out of the box you can tap your NFC enabled phone on a Tapit symbol and get content.
For consumers we take the pain out of getting content on your mobile phone. Tapit makes content available to everyone, it passes the “mother test”—it’s so easy your mother could do it. But more than that, Tapit introduces a new way of interacting with your environment when you are out and about or at home. Suddenly, lots of objects that used to do nothing now give your phone instructions on what content to show you when you tap them.
For advertisers this is a new media network to engage with people whilst they are out and about and also to continue the conversation with them when they are at home or wherever if the consumer chooses to. The beauty of this is that it is not intrusive, the conversation only continues when the consumer chooses to tap something.
Tapit goes beyond these two categories, its usefulness covers all digital content and opens up content to those people who didn’t even know they wanted it. For example, people no longer need to collect information brochures, they can just Tapit and get it with their phone. Tourists could tap a subway Tapit point and get a subway map on their phone or find out the history of a famous tourist spot while they are actually there.
SUB: How does the technology behind Tapit work?
Conyngham: We encode NFC tags with IDs and instructions which tell the phone to go to our servers for further instructions on what content to deliver. This is where the real skill comes into play—our CTO has over four years NFC experience and a lifetime of large system development. Our team has a long history in mobile since mobile content was created. In fact, some of us helped shape the mobile content sector. All of our learnings have come together in the Tapit technology. We know it has to work perfectly for all different phone types.
We use cloud-based scalable systems to deliver content fast to people. Our aim is to have the best NFC enabled content delivery network in the world. Our entire system is bespoke, built around the needs of running an NFC campaign and delivering content to peoples’ phones. It’s a professional media system built to service the needs of media agencies, brands and other large organizations. But stay tuned—we will be releasing a self-service system as well which small businesses will be able to use to create their own local campaigns.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Conyngham: We just formed an alliance with Blue Bite in the USA and Proxama in the UK. These are two of our competitors but they are not startups, rather established players in mobile content delivery for outdoor campaigns using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and QR.
We are under no illusion that there will be a host of competitors as NFC gets more and more ubiquitous. We do however have a pretty strong team and very deep connections so with the right backing we will give any competitor a run for their money.
SUB: What do you offer that differentiates Tapit from your competitors?
Conyngham: In Australia we have a strong relationship with the number one Out Of Home (OOH) media owner in the world, JC Decaux. We have enabled a number of the JC Decaux street furniture panels and this is something that our competitors have not done. Also we feel that our systems are pretty robust and we understand mobile and media very well.
I think versus the bigger players like the handset manufacturers we are seen as independent. We are not pushing one type of handset over another, there is no hidden agenda with us. We are not trying to tie people into an overall ecosystem.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind Tapit? Was there an “aha” moment, or was it longer in developing?
Conyngham: For myself and David Kainer, one of the four co-founders, we were sitting at a coffee shop in Surry Hills called Bang Bang cafe discussing what would be a good idea for a company. We often did this but this time we were focusing on NFC and we wondered if you could do content with NFC. Everyone else was doing payments and we knew payments would be owned by the banks and credit card companies. The idea ballooned until the vision was created. I wanted people to be tapping everything in the urban environment, tags everywhere. Most static items enabled. David then came up with the possible business models. We both were excited about the idea and took it further. It so happened that two of our colleagues from different companies, Andrew Davis and James D’Arcy, the other two co-founders, were also wanting to do something NFC so the stars aligned and the team formed. It was actually very rare as all the personalities in the founding team are quite different and complimentary.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Conyngham: The company was founded March 2011. The first full-time employees started August 2011. The first steps we took happened prior to the founding of the company. Forming the founding team was very key. I have started companies before and I knew that the right team members and balance was essential for the success of this company. Everyone had different skill sets and there wasn’t much overlap.
Once the company was created, the first steps were to get the business plan and strategy into place. Once this one done, we applied to the NSW government for a grant as we had little of our own capital to invest. This was a competitive process and luckily for us we won the process and were awarded the grant (http://www.business.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/14059/rel_stoner_20110531_mobile_tech.pdf).
With Tapit, we have made the right moves but a lot of things have gone our way as well. Something about Tapit appeals to people and in most meetings we have people really like what we are doing. It excites them.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building Tapit?
Conyngham: Obstacle one—getting the team to buy into the possibilities of Tapit enough to leave their well-paid full-time jobs. Obstacle two—winning the NSW Government Grant in May, Collaborative Solutions Mobile Concierge (CSMC) with Initiative and Nokia as partners. Obstacle three—completing the seed round successfully. Obstacle four—convincing people that NFC phone penetration will be huge.
SUB: You recently raised seed funding—how do you plan to use the funds?
Conyngham: Basically, the seed money brings the four founders into the business on a full-time basis to allow us to get a foothold and some major deals done as well as taking the product to the next level. We have executed four campaigns with JC Decaux so far and we have some really exciting deals to announce shortly.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funds?
Conyngham: For us the founders were all in full-time positions with other companies. We needed the funding to enable us to move out of these jobs into Tapit full-time. Luckily for us, we raised the funds in record time.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Conyngham: Yes, we are interested in speaking with VCs or strategic investors for a Series A round. What we are doing is a bit of a land grab and we need to be properly capitalized to grab as much as possible in as short a time as feasible.
SUB: Where do you hope to see Tapit in a year from now?
Conyngham: I hope to see us with some major contracts under our belt and the Tapit brand becoming more well known by consumers. We want people to see our brand and know that if they Tapit they will get something on their phone, be it an offer, content or information.
Tapit – www.tapit.com.au