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Monday, 7 November 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Tapit founder Jamie ConynghamTapit utilises near field communications (NFC) technologies to market brands via mobile phones, describing itself as a pioneer of NFC location-based marketing across Australia and Asia.


“Tapit” refers to the act of tapping a mobile phone to one of the company’s NFC tags to receive content and offers.


The Sydney-based business was founded by Jamie Conyngham, David Kainer, Andrew Davis and James D’arcy.


Conyngham talks to StartupSmart about coming up with the concept, and the challenges associated with raising capital in a country like Australia.


What inspired the idea for Tapit?

For me it was driven by Oyster Card in the UK, where I used to live – just the ease, simplicity, popularity of it and the way it took off so quickly.


We then thought it would be cool if you could just “Tapit” to get information, entertainment and offers as you were walking around your environment.


Our vision is that everything static could be “tapified” to make it easy for people to get stuff. Everything you interact with visually, you should also be able to interact with digitally.


But basically we just wanted to make it easier to get stuff on your phone, for the mass market, as typing into your phone, QR, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi spots is too hard for a great number of people.


How long did you work on the business before you launched it?

Around three months.


How did you fund the business?

Initially, the founders just put in their time and about $20,000 worth of expenses.


Shortly after company formation, we received a grant from the New South Wales Government as part of the Collaborative Solutions – Mobile Concierge program.


This was a collaboration with Nokia and Initiative. Following this, we completed the Sydney Angels round and an investment from another private investor.


How did you secure funding from Sydney Angels? 

We pitched at one of their pitching events. Twenty-two calendar days later, we had secured the funding that we were after.


It was the fastest funding round closed by Sydney Angels to date. I am told this is extremely unusual in Australia, so we feel lucky.


How do you promote the business?

Mainly through international and local PR, Twitter and Facebook. However, now our activation symbol is starting to become more known so when people see it, they realise that they can get something on their phone if they “tapit”.


How many staff do you have?

Four full-timers plus two non executive directors who help out as well. The rest of the work we outsource.


What are your revenue projections for 2011/12?

We don’t expect that much revenue for the first year of operations while penetration builds.


We are in the invest/build stage at the moment. However, there are a few big deals in our pipeline that could change that. We don’t reveal our exact numbers.


What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

I think getting enough cash to get all the founders into Tapit full-time. This is particularly difficult in Australia as the tech seed/VC sectors are tiny.


We overcame this challenge by assembling a strong founding team and creating a simple product, which is easy to sell to investors.


The NSW Government loved the idea of Tapit pretty much straight away, as did the other investors.


Is there anything you would have done differently?

No nothing yet, but there will be things in the future for sure. Everyone makes mistakes.


What’s the biggest risk you face in the local tech scene?

The biggest risk is to take Tapit to the next stage in a short timeframe. To do this requires expansion capital.


So the biggest risk would be if we were undercapitalised because of the local tech scene versus, say, an international company getting finance from a more mature tech investment country.


So far, our capital is good but we will be looking for a Series A round soon.


What advice would you give to other local start-ups operating in the sector?

I think for Australian start-ups, government funding is pretty key as the seed investment community here is quite small.


The Government seems to be keen to push entrepreneurial activity so they have become a good resource to use.