Tech Pitch: Shopwave

Having sold their previous business as part of a £55m deal, tech entrepreneurs Ben Brown and Julian Polzella explain how their latest online venture brings retail tech into the 21st century

Company name: Shopwave
Founders: Ben Brown (33) and Julian Polzella (27)
Background: The duO previously co-founded VouChaCha, which was acquired as part of Markcomedia in a deal worth £55m by Monitise PLC in 2013.
Based in: Shoreditch, London
Launched: 2014

Very simply, what does your tech start-up do?

  • Shopwave provides an easy to use omni-channel iPad Point of Sale (PoS) system, which enables retailers to control all aspects of their business through one platform.
  • The iPad application has enterprise-grade cloud data and analytics integrated into it, which lets retailers make smarter business decisions and generate more revenue.
  • All this allows retailers to focus on delivering a great customer experience.

Tell us why there’s a need – what do you disrupt?

Current market-leading PoS systems fail to utilise cutting-edge real-time technology, meaning retailers are missing out. They are often very expensive and quite ugly – a big black box on the counter. By contrast, Shopwave’s system incorporates every part of the retail process in a user friendly iPad application for a fifth of the cost.

In real terms, this equates to faster transaction times and a simple interface to monitor sales and manage stock. The user-centric design cuts down staff training time and our open API gives more flexibility than closed legacy systems, allowing each retailer to tailor the system to its requirements.

We aim to bring retail technology into the 21st century and in doing so will disrupt the biggest players in the market.

Are you funded?

Yes, we raised more than £340,000 on CrowdCube and have recently been accepted onto the Wayra accelerator programme, which will help take us to the next level.

What were you doing before starting?

The idea for Shopwave was born out of our experience building VouChaCha. As part of VouChaCha’s multi-channel coupon distribution we would track the in-store usage of each coupon in real-time, charging the retailer a percentage of each transaction, which would be shared with the publisher. To achieve this we needed data from in-store PoS systems but this ended up being quite a challenge as we found large retailers tended to have clunky, incapable systems that couldn’t integrate with ours – even though it would be to their advantage.

We realised that the retail PoS sector seriously needed a technology shake-up. There wasn’t a single product providing everything a retailer needs in one system, with flexibility for future technology advances on top of that. So once we sold VouChaCha to Monetise as part of their Markcomedia acquisition, we decided to build something that filled this gap in the market.

What’s the best thing about where you’re based? 

We’re currently split between two offices. Our headquarters are over in the heart of London’s tech scene which is ideal for a growing company, and we also have space within Wayra, Telefonica’s startup accelerator.

Wayra is a great environment in which to work as you’re constantly among loads of other smart, driven entrepreneurs, all of whom are inspiring in one way or another. You can bounce ideas off your peers while being given expert mentoring and support at regular intervals from a network of industry leaders and investors. Even in our short time there so far we have learned a whole host of unexpected skills, from how to better focus in a busy workplace full of distractions, to learning a full dance routine courtesy of Pineapple Studios!

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