When restaurants and retailers shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many of their customer loyalty programs did too, leaving frequent shoppers empty handed, explained Jordan Williams.
“I had a $200 Southwest Airlines voucher and 6000-plus Chipotle restaurant points expire,” Williams said, detailing a pandemic-presented problem that finds its solution in his newly-launched startup: Veeper.
The platform — led by two English transplants to Missouri — builds customized loyalty programs for online stores and rewards customers with automatic, incremental discounts instead of points or cash.
Elevator pitch: Veeper builds customized loyalty programs for online stores and rewards customers with automatic incremental discounts, instead of cash back or points. Each time you add an item to the cart, you’ll see your discount increase.
• Founding year: 2020
• Funding raised/secured to date: $20,000
• Founding team: Jordan Williams and Julian Taylor
• Current team size: 5
“[Current programs are] a one-size-fits-all scheme and make you wait to get rewarded,” said Williams, co-founder and CEO, noting the startup’s technology has already shown the potential to help its 24 partner companies increase customer transactions by 27 percent — putting it a step ahead of such competitors as PayPal-backed Honey.
“Veeper’s discounts are personalized to each shopper and reward them instantly — unlike universal promo codes, cash back, and points. It’s the only program that adapts to the spending profile of each customer and profit margin of each product,” he explained of the platform, which acts as a real-time cloud wallet, gathering and applying automatic discounts to purchases — free of the threat of expiration dates or lost or forgotten codes and vouchers.
“Veeper aims to increase online stores add-to-cart rate, average transaction and loyalty. … The shopper no longer has to sign-up, download an app [or] extension, or search for promo codes as Veeper is already integrated into the site they are shopping on. Each time a shopper adds an item to the cart, they’ll see their discount increase,” Williams said.
“Veeper’s discounts are also incremental, meaning the customer will see their discount increase each time they come back as a reward for their loyalty.”
Veeper expects to formally launch its Shopify app in March, he said, adding one of the early-stage company’s primary goals is to rid the retail space of universal promo codes all together.
Fuel for the future, Veeper recently secured $20,000 in support from the Dorm Room Fund, which is expected to help bolster the official launch of the startup in a number of ways.
“The $20,000 — don’t get me wrong — will be great for us in the short term. But the access to the DRF partners [and] advisors — and doors they can help us open, will be far more valuable than the money in the long term,” he said.
‘Two golfing Brits’
Veeper co-founders Jordan Williams and Julian Taylor both hail from England — Williams from Bristol; Taylor from York — but the duo didn’t meet until they crossed paths on the golf courses of Missouri.
“We both came to the U.S. to play golf on scholarships to William Woods University (Julian) in 2011 [in Fulton] and myself to Mizzou in 2012,” said Williams, who noted mutual friends connected the area’s “two golfing Brits.”
“We became good friends,” he added, “And then in 2018 I joined Julian as a graduate assistant for the WWU golf teams, where we were together almost every day for a year. Julian then finished the MBA program and moved to KC. I am currently still enrolled and come to KC every weekend to work on Veeper and hang with other mates.”
The Dorm Room Fund injection comes at a critical point for the startup and its journey to scale.
“We’ve been in that ugly stage of pre-product where you’re selling a concept to store owners rather than being able to demo the product and allow them to play around with it,” Williams said in anticipation of the platform’s launch and ways its been challenged by the lingering COVID-19 era that initially inspired the startup.
“In the early part of the pandemic, collaborating and expressing ideas was difficult,” he admitted, noting challenges in communicating the concept behind Veeper to developers working remotely.
“Now that the team has a better understanding of how it works, we have been able to move faster and not spend as much time onboarding or sharing ideas,” he said of the realities of building a company in remote, rocky, and rare times — circumstances that have forced the startup to hunker down, effectively tell its story, and aggressively enter a booming eCommerce market.
But first, a mountain of work remains for Veeper, Williams added.
The company hopes to turn its focus to raising seed funding and securing a spot in an accelerator program he said, adding Lesa Mitchell, managing director of Techstars KC, has been one of the leading voices in its locally-built support network of fellow founders, mentors, and advisors.
“[Mitchell] has helped us to structure Veeper in a way that best prepares us for growth and recruiting key players. Moreover, she has helped facilitate introductions to [venture capital] partners,” he said.
Additional guidance has been received from Peter Crisp, co-founder of Venrock; John Hall, co-founder of Calendar.com and Influence & Co,; Tristan Mace, CEO of parkermace; Parker Graham, CEO and founder of Finotta; and Brad Starnes, co-founder and president of Splitsy.
Such a show of support has been an encouraging sign of strength within Kansas City’s startup community, Williams said, new to its ways and resources — all of which have been transformed in the wake of the pandemic.
“We’re still relatively new to the Kansas City entrepreneurial community. But connecting with fellow founders such as [Graham and Starnes] and being able to bounce ideas and questions off of them has been great,” he said.
“[Taylor] and I want to become more acquainted with the Kansas City startup ecosystem, so please reach out to us. Moreover, we’d appreciate any product feedback and advice we can get.”