Posse and Beat the Q merge

Two Australian internet shopping platform startups, Posse and Beat the Q, have merged with the aim of creating a unified app they are dubbing the 'Uber or Airbnb of shopping'.

Online multi-city shopping community platform Posse.com and coffee mobile payment platform Beat the Q have merged to create a new unified app that they say will include features of all three apps under the two brands: Posse, Beat the Q, and eCoffeeCard.

Posse.com founder Rebekah Campbell said the goal of the merger was to create the "Uber or Airbnb of shopping".

"The success of these platforms was in large part because they help people develop relationships as well as transact," said Campbell. "Using Airbnb is a very different experience to something like the Stayz website — you get to see who owns the place, communicate with them, and build a relationship.

"Our vision is to bring the same connection to shopping. We bring shop owners and shoppers together. We'll facilitate a seamless ordering and payment experience, and we help the people on both sides of the transaction get to know each other through private messaging, recommendations, loyalty, and rewards," she said.

Beat the Q founder Adam Theobald, whose company acquired the eCoffeeCard loyalty platform in March this year, said the market for retail apps is set for a "major convergence".

"Consumers and shop owners are being bombarded with retail-related apps from coffee ordering to loyalty programs to bar tab apps," said Theobald. "We believe consumers and merchants want one app that can do it all, and that's part of the vision behind this merger."

The new app is expected to be revealed "within weeks".

Campbell told ZDNet that, over the next few months, the Beat the Q app will undergo further development, but would eventually be rolled into the unified app. Campbell said a new brand for the joint effort would be revealed in January.

The Australian startups estimate that together, they will rack up around half a million users, manage more than 400,000 transactions per month, and claim 56,000 partner shop relationships.

To date, the two businesses have raised a combined AU$5 million to date from investors, including Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Tai; lead Facebook engineer and co-founder of Google Maps Lars Rasmussen; Simon Rothman, partner at Greylock Partners and former top eBay executive; and Vocus Communications founder James Spenceley.

The merger comes as fellow Australian technology startup Ninja Blocks has secured a $700,000 (AU$795,000) funding round from local and international investors, including SingTel's Innov8 investment arm, Blackbird Ventures, and 500 Startups.

Ninja Blocks, which kicked off in 2012 after being accepted for Australian incubator Startmate, designs and makes connected home automation products.

The Sydney-based company plans to use the new investment boost for sales and marketing efforts, backing the launch of its new Ninja Sphere product, which is a smart home device that can monitor temperature, lighting, energy usage, and other smart devices in a home.

It is designed to take data from home sensors and actuators in order to build a model that can inform users if something is out of place in the home.

In January, the company raised over AU$700,000 through Kickstarter to fund the development and production of the device, well over its AU$115,000 pledge goal.

"The team gave us an early sneak peek at the Ninja Sphere, and we were simply blown away. The combination of sensors, gesture controls, and intelligence put the Ninja Sphere in a league of its own," said Niki Scevak from Blackbird Ventures. "It's not really about home automation anymore; it's all about home intelligence, that's where we see the next frontier. We believe Ninja Blocks have the right team and product to become the industry leader."

The company will initially focus on the US market, with the launch of a San Francisco office in early 2015.

"Our focus right now is on making the Ninja Sphere a household name in the US," said Ninja Blocks CEO Daniel Friedman. "To achieve this, we will be setting a local presence, expanding the local team, and focusing on delivering home experiences that feel truly magical."

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