ATTACQ Retail Challenge winner: Jacobus Kriel and Gift Drop
Gift Drop’s Jacobus Kriel has always been interested in technology. He’s the guy that built a computer from donated parts, he’s the one that reviews the latest tech for shows on Kyknet and Expresso. So when his first child was born and things at home started to get busy, he thought there must be a way for him to help his wife with the shopping and started developing an app. As a lean start-up (a method of building a business by learning and applying new knowledge quickly), and following an iterative model, Kriel developed, adapted and pivoted his ideas, again and again, until he realised that there was a real need for digital gifting within the retail space.
A film director by profession, Kriel developed a captivating video of his initial concept which he pitched to retail developers Attacq at LaunchLab’s Retail Innovation challenge. Out of 150 entrants, he made it through to the next round of 15 to do a live pitch. He then used Photoshop to create images imitating screenshots of his still-not-yet-developed app, giving the Attacq judges a better idea of how his idea would work, through a very visual presentation of the intended process. He even filmed Lego men against a green screen to explain the concept! Seeing is believing they say, and Gift Drop was one of three companies to win the challenge.
Winning has opened so many doors for Gift Drop. The Incubation Programme at LaunchLab provides access to a network of professional mentors and angel funders, as well as practical assistance in providing desk space, boardroom facilities and a cash prize. In addition, the bragging rights that winning a LaunchLab challenge provides is essential to establishing a reputation in industry, and having the support of Attacq as both a corporate mentor and a first customer is a giant leap for a small start-up. Other invested companies like Nedbank that provide funding to LaunchLab are also open to fresh ideas, and are currently looking at ways of incorporating Gift Drop into their own in-house gifting programme.
To start up a business, Kriel says “you need patience to manage a team, and the persistence to continue with an idea even while it is not making money. All of a sudden, your existing day job becomes your night job while you spending daylight hours pursuing development of your start-up. It is critical to have a very supportive team.” Jannie Griesel, Jacobus’s business partner, is just that. He’s left an established accounting position to join Gift Drop, and brings a wealth of financial experience. “It’s a useless exercise to try and do everything by yourself,” says Kriel, “you need to pair up with others that have skills that you don’t. We’re living in a perfect time to get into technology, and it’s an exciting time in the industry. Jannie and I don’t need to understand the ones and zeros, we outsource to a development team to do that. We need to drive the vision and break new ground with our digital innovations.”
And they seem to be doing just that! Watch out for Gift Drop’s launch in early 2018, and happy gifting!