Christopher Adams

Christopher Adams is the Markets and Banking reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Bike crash leads to retail software start-up

Discount scheme that does away with loyalty cards conceived during convalescence from motorbike smash.

Enis Bacova's Rippr product is a web-based system that grocery retailers, restaurants and cafes can use to offer rewards to customers. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Enis Bacova's Rippr product is a web-based system that grocery retailers, restaurants and cafes can use to offer rewards to customers. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Every cloud has a silver lining, so the cliche goes, and for Enis Bacova it was a road accident, which nearly killed him, that led to the establishment of an internet start-up.

The Auckland-based Albanian was holidaying in his homeland when he crashed a motorbike at nearly 100 km/h, without a helmet, in the seaside city of Durres.

In addition to breaking his hip and a number of ribs, Bacova split his head open and spent 48 hours in a coma.

Albanian surgeons worked for seven hours to repair his brain.

"It took me six months to recover and Rippr came out of those six months of thinking," he said.

Rippr was launched in February and is a web-based system that grocery retailers, restaurants and cafes can use to offer rewards to customers.

Instead of getting yet another loyalty card to put in their wallets or lose in a drawer at home, customers give their mobile number to the retailer to join up for free.

After activating their account online they earn "Rippr dollars" with each purchase (usually 5 to 20 per cent of the purchase price) that can be earned and redeemed on subsequent visits by entering a pin number at the store.

Users can also earn extra rewards based on the total amount of Rippr dollars that build up in each retailer's "pool". They are also encouraged to promote the service - and subsequently the businesses that use it - through social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

Ten companies are offering Rippr so far, including Dante's Pizzeria in Ponsonby and the Covo restaurants in Fort St and Grey Lynn, as well as a number of grocery stores.

Around 3000 users are signed up, Bacova said, adding that he was focused on lifting the number of retailers using the technology to 100.

At that point Rippr - which charges a weekly subscription fee to its business clients - would become profitable, he said.

Bacova, whose brother Remion developed the technology that powers Rippr, said it was a challenge convincing companies to introduce the loyalty scheme because it was a "new thing".

But it encouraged repeat visits from customers, as well as providing a database of clients that retailers could target in their marketing.

"Eighty per cent of revenue comes from 20 per cent of customers so these loyal customers who repeat business are very important," Bacova said. "It's much easier to keep a loyal customer than to bring a new customer in."

The 37-year-old said he came to New Zealand in 2001 with the intention of getting as far away from Albania as possible.

Growing up under that country's communist regime, which ruled the country from the end of World War II until the early 1990s, had taught him that "political extremism" - whether from the right or left - was never a good thing, he said.

Bacova graduated with a degree in political science from the University of Auckland in 2005 and gained an MBA from AUT after returning to this country following the motorbike crash.

"My move to New Zealand was a good thing ... I feel alienated in Albania," he said. "The way I see it is I want to give something back to New Zealand - I got educated here."

Auckland business incubator The Icehouse owns a small stake in Rippr, while the other shareholders include members of Bacova's family.

www.rippr.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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