For the past ten years, Chris Shaw, CEO of Mimojo, had been working in the incentives and cash-back industry in the UAE, leading The Entertainer, a membership-based buy-one-get-one-free vouchers publisher. So, when investors approached him last year asking if more could be done in this space, Shaw had a very simple answer: “Yes, as long as we change the tech.”
Indeed, Shaw, along with his ex-colleagues and now co-founders David Ashford and Dan Lloyd, had seen the discount industry evolve over the years, from books of printed vouchers that people would tear out to websites that still required users to download, print, and carry the vouchers, to the mobile revolution and the flurry of competing apps that we see today. And at every stage, two pain points remained: friction and control.
Fixing the Pain Points
Shaw explains, “From a consumer perspective, to redeem a discount with any of the current players, you need to: have an app and a phone that’s WiFi-enabled or data-enabled; search for the offer or the merchant; select the offer that you want to use; volunteer to the waitstaff or go through a process of putting a payment amount or a PIN code that needs to be verified or photographed; another bill will be printed out, possibly with an error. Meanwhile, the merchants have to go through all that operational process as well, train their staff, etc. That’s a lot of friction.”
In addition, merchants are prescribed the discount for a year while the consumers have to pay a lump sum upfront for a period. “The choice and control elements have been removed,” says Shaw.
Mimojo, incorporated in October 2022, aims to give this choice and control back to consumers and merchants while removing pain points by way of technology – specifically card-linked services (CSL), rewards that consumers automatically receive just by linking their debit or credit cards to an app, website, or loyalty program. Leveraging the card-linked offers of credit card schemes like Visa and MasterCard, the platform enables enrolled customers to use their card normally and receive almost instantaneously a notification that they earned cashback. No redemption processes, no app codes, no codes. They subscribe for AED 10 per month and can pause or cancel at any time. The solution sounds supremely simple but, as Shaw says, “Simple is not easy.”
When the Stars Align
As is often the case with innovative products, what Mimojo does seems obvious… in hindsight. The card-linked services technology has been around for some time, for example by banks for their own cashback systems, but no one had thought to use it outside of such closed ecosystems. Similarly, subscription models are now the norm across industries but have never entered the cashback and loyalty space, which relies mostly on annual lump-sum payments.
“This is something that I and my co-founders had been mulling over for a couple of years now. We were in the industry, so maybe it was easier for us to see it than others,” says Shaw, who nonetheless adds, “It’s hard work! You’re getting a number of moving parts together. But it all goes back to motivation. I guess that’s an entrepreneurial journey, isn’t it?”
Mimojo officially launched only a month ago, so there’s still a long way to go. But Shaw is confident and has ambitious plans. “The technology that we’ve built is very flexible and can be used in a straightforward B2C use case, whereby consumers will save money; or it can be used in more of a B2B context, where companies might white label or license the platform as a service, for example,” he explains. In particular, “One of the areas where we feel we can make a real difference is in e-commerce because the technology and the experience are the same: we register the e-commerce merchant ID and your enrolled credit card, and once you’ve input that into the merchant’s cart, your mobile will ping letting you know to keep an eye out for the cashback,” he adds.
Whatever happens, creating Mimojo is something that Shaw and his team felt they were bound to do at some point, and the time was now. As he concludes, “When you have an inside view and a shared vision of how to improve an industry, and you have something that you know people are going to want, there’s absolutely a desire to make it better. Could we have done it without investment? Maybe. Would we have done it without investment? Maybe not. [So] when that alignment happens, you seize the opportunity.”