First AngelsJa Successes | Billodex brilliance - App allows the purchase of digital tickets for events via smart phones
Our series on how businesses have moved from mere ideas or struggling enterprises to resounding success, with assistance from First AngelsJa, continues with Billodex Limited.
It was two o'clock one April morning in 2013, and the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, was quiet and cold. Lights shone from a few of the rooms on ELR Towers Hall as several students were up pulling all-nighters in preparation for upcoming exams. D'Andre Fraser, co-founder and CEO of Billodex Limited, was among them. In addition to a good grade in his business law course, he found that he needed a phone card, but none of the businesses on campus were open at that time, and he didn't feel like going outside into the chilly night air anyway. So he turned to his friend Aundhrae Richardson and wondered out loud, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could just buy credit right from our phones whenever we wanted?"
FROM IDEA TO LAUNCH
That was the genesis of the company and the app now known as Billodex, but the idea has evolved since it was first conceptualised. After giving it some serious thought, D'Andre and Aundhrae realised that the initial idea of selling phone cards from an app wasn't as scalable as they would have wanted it to be, especially since they had designs on making it a global platform. They went back to the drawing board and eventually came up with the idea of selling tickets since they each had several years of event-planning experience under their belts as well. "I've been doing events since I was 16-17. By virtue of that, I understand the needs of event promoters. It was, therefore, a natural segue into building a ticketing platform that would allow people to buy and sell tickets from their mobile phones and allow promoters to access analytics for their event as the app would track ticket sales and revenue," D'Andre explained. "That's the basic version of what we do, and in the future, we'll be building out those features to something very dramatic and very grand-scale."
Billodex allows for the purchasing and redemption of digital tickets via smart phones. It offers great convenience for the customer, who doesn't have to spend time and money driving to a specific location to buy or collect a ticket for an event. Customers can also purchase tickets for others, share with their friends, and receive event updates on the go. Plus, there's no need to worry about losing or misplacing tickets.
For event promoters, the app provides analytics and real-time updates on ticket sales, with additional marketing of events through Billodex's social media platforms. It also provides sales lead generation, with the names and email addresses of all purchasers and saves promoters money by not printing excess tickets or losing sales to scalpers.
Patrons can also purchase merchandise and other items such as 'early bird specials' in addition to entry tickets, using their smartphones, thus opening up new revenue channels for promoters to make more money. Safety is also virtually guaranteed as the app's 10-step security protocol also makes it the most secure online platform available in the Caribbean.
Even after they had ironed out what exactly they wanted the app to do, D'Andre and Aundhrae found that the process of getting from idea to having something to launch would be long and arduous. For one, they were both still at university (D'Andre graduated in 2014, Aundhrae in 2015), so they didn't have any capital to speak of, and "technology is capital intensive", D'Andre said. "Back then, we, basically, didn't exist, and we didn't even have a product. All we had were some designs. We applied for an accelerator programme at StartUp Jamaica and were accepted. In fact, our office is still located there."
Things would soon get better in 2014, as Sandra Glasgow, founding member and manager of First AngelsJA, was StartUp Jamaica's project manager. They shared with her what they were doing, and despite the bare-bones nature of their presentation - "We didn't have anything but some JPEG slides" - she liked what she saw. She later proved instrumental in helping them get an opening to pitch to First AngelsJA, along with several other entrepreneurs, in January 2015.
Pitching is already a stressful undertaking but even more nerve-wracking when something goes wrong in the room, as it did for D'Andre and Aundhrae. "The projector wasn't working, so we literally had to pitch and sell the idea right from our heads. Luckily, we had practised the presentation so many times so we knew what we were doing, and it was successful," D'Andre said.
They received the financial investment in August 2015 and began working on the organisation of the business alongside two board members elected by the Angel Network - Sharon Roper and Nevada Powe - with Michael Claire as the independent chairman of the board. "That money was seed money, which we used to build out the Billodex platform. We hired a development team and built the product from there. We encountered a lot of challenges. We had to design and redesign and try to get it right. That took some time until we finally had a market-ready product in about April of this year. But right before then, we ran out of money in September last year, and we had to pitch for a second round of investment in December," D'Andre shared.
This time around, they were able to show significant progress in what they had built, and satisfied that they were on the right path, the Angels invested again. "We're now here today with a beta product," he said. "We're trying to work out the last-minute kinks, but so far, so good. It's in the Google Play Store right now. It can be used, but it's not the Rolls Royce that we want yet."
Watch for Part 2 on the progress made by Billodex