A startup in Paris called AIRTAG is offering a complete suite of mobile shopping tools for retailers and e-tailers. The startup was founded by Jeremie Leroyer and Cyril Porteret who also cofounded Haiku which was sold in 2004 for $10 million euros.
AIRTAG’s complete suite of products has every facet of mobile shopping covered. AIRSHOP enables shoppers to order and pay in advance for groceries and fast food using their mobile phone. AIRFID is the rewards and loyalty card arm of the company. AIRPASS is a mobile wallet of sorts adding loyalty cards, gym keytags and even transportation passes. AIRTAG kit is the companies development tool kit for developers to interact with their PayPass applications.
The company’s stable of clients already includes McDonald’s, McCafe’, Reebok, Dior and many other globally well known brands. This has prompted AIRTAG to deploy offices throughout the world including a recently opened office in New York. They plan on adding partnerships in both the US and Canada from the New York office.
Mobile shopping and payments have grown into a huge industry and right now it’s still anyone’s game. Google got off to a very rocky start with Google Wallet. Three of the four major US wireless carriers teamed up to help create ISIS an alternative to Google Wallet which was supposed to have seen a larger national footprint heading into this years holiday season.
According to the co-founders of AIRTAG, Japan is light years ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to allowing smartphones to manage people’s lives. Since selling their first startup to Japanese investors both Leroyer and Porteret have spent a lot of time in Japan where they noticed everyone used their phones for everything including bus fare, key locks, and payments. AIRTAG’s hope is to help replicate that system across the world.
We had a chance to interview the AIRTAG team. Check out the interview below.
AIRTAG is a provider of Mobile Shopping Solutions; AIRSHOP a Mobile Ordering and Payment Solution, AIRFID Mobile Loyalty & Couponing Solution and AIRPASS a suite of Secure NFC apps for wallets payment and transit.
AIRTAG clients include retailers; McDonald’s, McCafé, Reebok, Dior, Carrefour, Casino, G20 and financial institutions and MNO’s; MasterCard, Credit Mutuelle, CIC, NRJ Mobile, Orange, SFR, Bouygues
In layman’s terms, how does it work?
Our Mobile Shopping Offers improve the experience of purchasing.
AIRSHOP enables shoppers to order & pay in advance for groceries & fast food by mobile phone
AIRFID enable shoppers to hold their loyalty card by mobile phone and receive paperless coupons
AIRPASS enables shoppers to store loyalty cards, transportation passes and payment cards by mobile phone. We supply the wallet as well as payment applications
AIRTAG Kit is a toolkit for developers to speed and simplify the development of PayPass applications
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Jérémie Leroyer the CEO and Co-founder of AIRTAG is a serial entrepreneur. His first company Haiku was bought out by Japanese Index Corporation for 10 million€ in 2004. Jérémie has over 10 years of experience in delivering technology based marketing solutions, 3 years of strategy consulting experience at Arthur D. Little and holds an MBA from the European Business School. Under Jérémie’s leadership AIRTAG has grown into a team 50+ employees with offices in New York and Paris.
Cyril Porteret CTO and Co-founder of AIRTAG is the technical brain behind the AIRTAG operations. Cyril also a co-founder of Haiku, began his career in aerospace engineering specializing in quantum mechanics and astro physics. His IT skills and innovative ideas, thrive at AIRTAG where he manages the R+D and engineering teams. Cyril’s direction has helped in AIRTAG’s obtaining of 3 patents on POS service technologies.
Guillaume Massis is Sales Leader and Co-founder of AIRTAG. Prior to AIRTAG Guillaume was Commercial Director for GE, developing marketing and financial service solutions for retailers. He has more than 10 years of experience in developing technology based solutions for retailers. At AIRTAG Guillaume manages the business development team and his expertise in mobile shopping for the retail environment has helped AIRTAG to obtain partnerships across Europe and the Middle East. Guillaume holds an MBA from the Bordeaux Business School.
Christophe Pecquerie is Director of Business Development and head of the Mobile teams at AIRTAG, bringing his comprehensive background in Telecom Management, NFC solutions and more than 6 years of mobile transaction experience to AIRTAG. Christophe started his studies as a mobile engineer. AIRTAG is the right place for Christophe to bridge his technical background and management experience, to strategize with key players in the NFC and Mobile Commerce space to develop new and innovative solutions. Christophe holds a Master’s degree in Telecom Management from Helsinki University of Technology and a Master’s of Science in Computer Science from the Compiegne University of Technology.
Where are you based?
AIRTAG is headquartered in Paris, France and recently opened an office in New York. The next years will be really focused on gaining partnerships across the North American market, in Canada and the US.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
AIRTAG has a really distinct tech start-up culture and global attitude. We gained our first international clients starting with McDonald’s, in 2009. We work with brands all over North America, Europe, the UK and the Middle East; which is reflected in our company dynamic. Work life at AIRTAG is fast paced and everyone here is very dynamic and really enjoys being part of the AIRTAG team.
How did you come up with the idea for Airtag? The idea for AIRTAG was inspired when co-founders of AIRTAG; Cyril and Jérémie made numerous visits to Japan for their prior business Haiku, eventually bought out by Japanese Index Corporation in December 2004 for € 10m. Amazed at the way people could pay, enter the metro and live life by mobile phone because of Felicia technology (the Japanese equivalent of NFC), they came up with the idea of bringing that to France. At that point you could only use plastic cards and paper cards for loyalty. AIRTAG was born and became the first Mobile Shopping and NFC based solution provider in France.
How did you come up with the name? There was a brainstorming session with all of the founders. The idea was passed around about “swiping the air,” as though the air could be scanned as a tag. The plan from the beginning was to expand globally, so the name had to be English. The business was going to deal with NFC payments as well as retailers, so AIRTAG seemed appropriate to meet both. AIRTAG also fit with the company vision of user friendliness; a user friendly name that had connotative meanings for non tech people.
What problem does Airtag solve?
· AIRTAG helps retailers and banks conform to the Mobile Commerce revolution and meet the demands of the mobilized shopper
· AIRTAG solves a problem with the existing shopping experience especially in proximity shopping stores: long lines, no connection with customers, no interaction. Our Mobile Shopping Solutions can improve this, to help our partners build better client relationships
· AIRTAG solutions make life easier for ordinary people: holding a loyalty card, paying, ordering, carrying transportation passes
What’s your secret sauce?
We have two secret sauces, firstly our Middle Ware strategy, which includes “plug & play” solutions, meaning our solutions can connect our solutions to any existing POS. We also provide our partners with valuable information about purchasing behavior and store performance. This is very attractive, and makes it so that any kind of retailer can deploy our solution with no difficult installation procedure and no extensive costs etc.
Our other secret sauce is our “Secure Apps strategy” for Mobile payments. We have put an extensive amount of investments that into Research & Development over the last six years. Other start-ups are popping up all over now, but big companies like MasterCard are interested in our in-depth research. We also have a unique advantage because of our extensive experience with retailers across the field of mobile commerce and this is quite attractive to financial institutions, because mobile payments have to fit into the larger picture of mobile commerce.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
· We started out bootstrapped with personal investments
· In 2006 2 million€ from Seventure
· In 2011 4 million€ from Seventure & CM CIC Capital
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
One challenge that AIRTAG has overcome in the start-up process is convincing people 6 years prior right now, that Mobile Shopping, NFC and “living by mobile” was going to take over. Retailers are resistant to try new things that they think may be a risk, and rightfully so. We were seeing already in 2006 drastic changes in Mobile user behavior. But, we had to convince people then that developing a Mobile strategy and changing the in-store shopping experience would be fundamentally important.
Things have changed a lot now. We started working with McDonald’s in 2009 and that was the start of us really growing, now the brand is leading the way for innovation in fast food retail. Our business has exploded in the last two years. Right now, every day you hear about a new retailer choosing an innovative mobile solution and those who are not risk being left behind.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
AIRTAG is a fan of all disruptive innovation companies that we have witnessed in our time. Companies like Apple and Google completely changed the way that we live, a before and after the revolution you might call it. Mobile Shopping is similarly becoming a way that we live. We are trying to simplify people’s lives with Mobile Shopping and we look up to those who have already done this in our time.
What’s next for AIRTAG?
The next years for AIRTAG will focus on growing our business partnerships across North America specifically in Canada and the US. We will also continually work to improve our existing solutions: we just added Passbook integration, 3D pictures and 360 product visuals to our AIRSHOP solution as well as Virtual shopping walls. Who knows what the future will bring…voice recognition for product purchasing? Our R+D team continuing to innovate, is as important as growing our business partnerships.