Q&A with James Duchenne from mplifyr
If you can name it then James Duchenne has done it. From aeronautical engineering to a masters degree in law to a role in commercial waste management. He has a resume which is both diverse and interesting. Lately James has been working on a brand new startup called mplifyr- a one-of-kind rewards platform that allows businesses to build their own, customized rewards program. We talked to him about mplifyr and how its all going.
Pitch mplifyr in 60 seconds.
mplifyr is a cloud-based software for businesses to create and manage their own comprehensive rewards program in minutes. With mplifyr, businesses have all of the functionalities and tools to create and manage their own customised rewards program rivaling any large loyalty program but at a fraction of the cost.
In addition, mplifyr allows charities, non-profits and schools to build their own rewards program for free to reward individuals and show their appreciation for volunteering their time, donating or attending their events.
mplifyr uses our patented universal points system for transactions which allows users to have access to all rewards programs built on mplifyr and they can earn and redeem seamlessly with any of them, anywhere in the world.
mplifyr allows for some pretty awesome things such as universal status, businesses to business rewards, converting mplifyr points to cash, exchanging mplifyr points for points in another participating loyalty program (such as airline and hotel points) and a rankings page showcasing the contributions by members towards positive outcomes.
Explain to me how it works.
Businesses sign up for free at mplifyr.biz, design their rewards store and add their business details to promote their business. They can then set up the type of rewards they want to give to their customers, such as giving reward points for purchases, custom activities, online interactions and more. Businesses can create over 64 different combinations of deals, engaging activities and redemption offers for their customers. Online businesses can also use mplifyr to create their own rewards program and tap into mplifyr seamlessly.
Businesses can sign up their customers and transact points and rewards with them in a matter of seconds. To reward their customers, businesses simply purchase points in lots of 4,400 points (each point costs 2.5 cents). When they run out they simply top up. There are no contracts or subscription fees.
Businesses have access to analytics and other functionalities that allow them to determine the efficacy of their program.
Organizations (charities, non-profits and schools) can request an invite to set up their rewards program onmplifyr.org. (All organizations must first be vetted by us before joining mplifyr). Organizations can reward their supporters for volunteering, donating and attending their events. Unlike businesses, organizations do not pay to operate their rewards program; mplifyr donates the points for them to reward their supporters.
Businesses or organisations can sign up individuals or they can join mplifyr themselves. They can redeem their points for item or cash vouchers, exchange their points for points in other participating loyalty programs, convert them to cash or convert them to credits to rank higher on our Rankings page.
What was the inspiration behind it?
I wanted to create a better system of influence for those that have a hard time through social media or in the real world to engage an audience. I started research on this in 2009, which I called a SEIIAN (System of EnvironmentalInfluence for Individuals Acting Now), looking at the behaviour of people and how they are influenced to choose a product over another one. Similar inroads were being done on this around the same time in the USA and people were calling it the “influence layer” (or “game layer”) and the name that is commonly being touted in the media for this is “Gamification”. In essence, this is the use of game mechanics (levels, status, engagement, virtual rewards) to engage audiences and solve problems.
Tell me about your team and their backgrounds?
Our team is balanced for the work required. We have 21 shareholders and 10 employees with diverse background and agents in the USA, South Africa, Mauritius and France. Our technology “build team” has a combined 60 years of IT experience. We are comprised of lawyers, marketing experts and several people on our board of directors with extensive experience in growing and managing businesses.
I have a background in law, engineering and finance. I have worked for large corporations as well as fast growing companies and have run my own businesses for a number of years.
Was it hard to get funding?
It is always hard to get funding at early stages of developing an innovative product. I think we had the right ingredients for raising seed capital, being a strong team, an innovative patent, a solid plan of attack and a lot of belief. Our seed capital raising process was very successful and snapped up almost immediately after it was offered. In my view, the absolute hardest thing in this whole process was to find the right team for the job and keep them motivated through the highs and lows of taking the project from concept to build then to commercialization.
Where do you hope to take mplifyr (i.e. expansion to Texas)
We are currently in a beta phase and extensively testing our platform and have not started our sales or marketing efforts. We are monitoring usage, architecture and slowly growing our database. We will be starting aggressive marketing and our sales strategy with the full release live version in late November. The approach for releasing mplifyr is through hotspots globally, with USA, Australia, South Africa and Europe being looked after by our overseas agents. We are opening the USA office in Texas in November with full-time staff.
I noticed you used crowd sourcing for your name, why did you go that option?
We needed a name that described who we were and what our product does but also one that was able to be uniquely associated with us and appealed to others. Since our product allows businesses and organizations to “amplify” the value of their products or services, it was an easy choice of words that described the whole platform. Although mplifier, with the ‘ier’, was the most popular amongst others, we made the decision to go with mplifyr for uniqueness. Don’t worry even if you tried to reach us through mplifier.com you would still get to us!
Are you using social media? Is traditional media working for you?
Yes, extensively. Our key personnel have been in the social space for a number of years. We have a good following and have the bases ready for people to engage with us. My opinion is that social media works well for largely-branded, already established businesses or if you are in the very small proportion of people whose content is excellent and goes viral. We know its difficult for brands to engage on social media without great content and this is something we focus on extensively through blogging and sharing great content our audience likes. We primarily use social to connect, inform and create relationships. We have not started much on traditional media yet because we are an online business; we plan to grow in an organic and controlled manner, so digital and content marketing will be our focus in the short-term.
What kind of hurdles do you foresee?
Hurdles are part of every business, especially as a start-up technology company. At present, the major hurdle is to achieve a level of recognition in the marketplace. Our sales initiatives, which will be implemented very soon, will go a long way in addressing this area.
Tell me about working in Parramatta and why over other suburbs?
Parramatta was a great choice for us. At the initial stages of development, cost, accessibility and great outdoor space was a must for us. We had a choice of going to Pyrmont a few months back but all things considered, we decided that management of the expenses was more important and the move was not required. However, where initially we had three people in the office, we are now outgrowing our current office.
Advice for startups?
You’re either in it or you’re not. There are no half-measures. You will be challenged at every turn and it will be very hard. However, there will be days where you will feel that you have the best job in the world. These days are definitely worth it, if you have the guts to risk it!