2019 Finalist: Bonnie
Next, we sat down with Arian Khoshchin, the brains behind Bonnie, and discovered a bit more about what he is looking to make a reality:
- What is Bonnie?
Bonnie is a new technical solution that aims to get rid of paper receipts.
- What inspired you to work on this?
I came back from a business travel from the US and I probably had around 40 receipts that I had to manually take pictures of [for reimbursement]. While there are a lot of apps which can digitise my receipts for me, I wondered why I couldn’t have all my receipts in a digital format already. Of course, I had some receipts in my [e-] mailbox, because when I stay at a hotel, they ask whether I prefer a receipts or if they can just e-mail it to me, so I say ‘yes sure, e-mail it’. And even some restaurants did that as well.
I felt fine doing that for the first five restaurants or hotels, but then I wondered whether they are certain that their technical back-end is secure enough that if there’s a breach, my e-mail won’t be out there in the blue along with all my other information. That’s why I thought about it for myself and I wondered ‘how can I design the next generation of receipts?’
It’s not about the technical know-how, it’s just about being creative. I don’t have any technical know-how, my training is not in IT or Information Sciences; it is purely in Bio-Tech as I have a Bio-Tech background. But in Bio-Tech you don’t start with the technical know-how of what is possible, you start with “What is the mechanism of the problem?” and then you can address it. Here, the mechanism of the problem is that the receipt is being printed. That’s the problem. But it’s a necessary evil that the transaction takes place and then the merchant has to give you proof that the transaction has been confirmed.
I thought about how are we currently dealing with digitising money, and that is through cashless payment. Cashless payments happen through interfaces and something called tokenisation of information. And I thought ‘how can we reverse that?’ Instead of only you [the customer] giving something to the merchant, the merchant would be using the same platform and technology to give something to you. Getting something back is always good. So it’s basically reverse engineering the process, turning the technology that we use to pay contactless/cashless around. Instead of just paying, you get something back – the receipt.
- Tell me more about you, how are you involved and why are you the best person to this kind of business?
Why I am the best person? I am currently the ONLY person trying to bring all the puzzle pieces together, because this is not something that has already been performed. That means it’s a conceptional project, although there is some proof that it is feasible. The stuff I’m talking to you about doesn’t sound like science-fiction. So because it’s feasible, I am trying to put together the software parties, the hardware developing parties, and actual end-users and buyers, to see what’s going to be the best fit.
- You’re in the finals now, and you’re in a very exciting period for the business. What is the thing in the near or far future that you’re most excited about when it comes to Bonnie?
I think I am excited about when the project launches. And I am excited to then see on a daily basis how many users the product has and what kind of user base is getting involved. The initial way of advertising the product will be to have it shown on every cash register, on every counter. There will be an interface and probably some kind of banner that people will look at and see “oh, I could have my receipts in paperless form now”. I’m wondering how that adoption will go and if I can see an exponential growth in user-adoption. That will be something I will probably be addicted to. Like some Youtubers that keep pressing refreshing their analytics to watch their subscriber count grow. I think that would – for me – be something to be excited about.
- Naturally there are up sides and exciting bits to the journey but there are also times where that isn’t quite the case. Talk to me about one of the hardest parts you’ve had so far with Bonnie.
Well, the most challenging moments are the moments where you have to deal with something you know absolutely nothing about. And then you have to put time and effort into this tiny bit that you had absolutely no intention of using in the future. But it’s essential, because it’s a question that comes up. It’s also a case that sometimes you feel like you’re the only person that knows anything about the product and you’re the only person that can answer this. But in reality you’re not the only person who can because you don’t know the answer either.
- Anything you can name specifically?
Off the top of my head, some of the market research I am currently doing is “What is the cost of an actual receipt?”, because something like that can easily be dismantled within the operational cost of a store as something minimal. We are obliged to buy these receipt rolls every now and again but the numbers don’t really seem to add up, in our opinion. When you scale that stuff up, there are some really interesting calculations that I had to do because nobody on the internet has the answer, nobody was crazy enough to calculate it.
Once you scale this to more than a 100 stores –some franchises have easily more than 500 locations – it starts adding up significantly to the operational costs of a store. Up to hundred of thousands of Euros which is mind-boggling to a lot of people. It’s something we don’t think about but it’s actually a hidden cost within retail operations. And even with the calculations that I do – which I put a lot of effort into making them as accurate as possible, because I see it as a type of research – I still sometimes think that the numbers must be too high. That’s why for actual presentations that I give to retailers, I say “Well this is the calculation, but let’s say your procurement department is really good, let’s slash the price in half, even then it’s a compelling case.”
- Why do you feel Bonnie is the best of the three finalists? Why do you think you should win?
I don’t necessarily think Bonnie is the best of the three. I think that in the future, whether we like it or not, paper receipts will be dying or at least should. And it is inevitable that some sort of digital alternative will take its place. Whether it is Bonnie or another innovation is up to the general public to decide, but I think that between the three choices the jury has, Bonnie is the most disruptive technical solution that can tackle a large market.
- For the end-user, where can people go to find out more about Bonnie, what you’re doing and where you’re going – follow your journey?
I’d say right now it’s a bit too early for end-users to see where we are. But after the competition I will be disclosing some of the new features of Bonnie and some of the user experience elements. So if you’re really interested in knowing how the app is going to look like and maybe if you have comments our new website will launch a couple of days after the Gulliver, but we will also be showing the new user interface on social media and through presentations.
- What’s your advice for newbies?
Don’t do it. I don’t know, I think it’s hard. I think entrepreneurs aren’t made. You either are an entrepreneur or aren’t. And this doesn’t mean that if you ARE an entrepreneur you have to own a business or build a company, you can also express yourself within a company, but my idea is if you feel that this thing you are thinking about is worth pursuing, then do give it a shot! Most ideas people start companies with, it’s something you’re in love with the idea of it becoming reality, so you start thinking about it constantly, as if you’re in love with a girl. And it’s actually this thing you obsess about. So if you have THAT in your brain, start that company, it will probably work out for the better.
To find out more about Bonnie and keep up to date with the work, get in touch with Arian directly or keep an eye out for the launch of the website following the Gulliver final.