SPECIAL FEATURE STORY: The kings of Pop!

Justin GreyMelbourne’s Chris Koch and Chad Stephens are back with another game-changing business that offers a new convenience for customers. By Justin Grey.

Melbourne’s Chris Koch and Chad Stephens are back with another game-changing business that offers a new convenience for customers. By Justin Grey.

 chris koch and chad stephens
It’s amazing just how many successful businesses are formed – and flourish – purely from a simple idea that takes the pain out of mundane tasks that bog us down. Now more than ever, giving consumers a simple way to take the hassle out of anything they’d rather not bother with is a surefire path to business success.

Just ask Melbourne 30-somethings Chris Koch and Chad Stephens. In 2014 the boys sold their first business – 1Form, an app that lets potential tenants store their information so they can easily apply for multiple rental properties without having to repeatedly fill in applications with the same data – to REA Group for $15 million.

In late 2014 the pair, who met at high school, officially launched their next venture, Pop!. Like 1Form, Pop! is an online app that aims that promotes convenience for consumers. Pop! is essentially a digital wallet that houses all of a person’s personal data on their smartphone. When you change jobs, move house, update your phone number, for example, Pop! will intuitively scan all of the organisations that have your personal information on file. The user then has the ability to exchange that information as they choose – to know where it’s gone and have the ability to update it whenever they want.

Both 1Form and Pop! are prime examples of how start-ups can leverage new technology to offer consumers conveniences that otherwise weren’t available to them.

“You can see that in so much of the tech that’s out there these days,” Chris says. “Even the most basic apps that just perform one simple function, but help you do that really well are just doing amazing things.

“One of the things we provide the user with is the ability to know who’s got their data at any given time. Interestingly, we don’t actually think that people will straight away think that that’s something they want to do. So we designed Pop! in a way where it actually helps you to transact instantly and pass your data when you need to. It takes the pain out of having to repeat yourself. And then we keep track of who you’ve given what to, so you get that benefit too, which maybe isn’t the first thing that you think about.”


CONVENIENCE FOR FREE
While Pop! certainly offers users with a tool for negating some of life’s necessary nuisances, Chris and Chad didn’t think that people would be willing to pay for the conveniences that their app offered. So they designed a business model whereby the companies that require the up to date personal information of their customers pay a small fee to Pop! to access that information.

“We never really envisaged that the Pop! app would be something that consumers would pay for,” Chris explains. “So it’s giving it to them for free and putting the power back in their hands. Companies are more than happy to pay for an updated record.

“If you look at mail redirection with Australia Post, mail redirection is a massive business for Australia Post, but they charge the consumer for that. So we’re really changing the model here. We’ve got a way for you to know exactly who needs what, and a way for you to update them instantly. And we’re not going to charge you for it. We’re going to charge the businesses for it, because they’re the ones that actually extract the value from that information being up to date.”


DATA SECURITY
As is the case for any organisation that deals in personal information in today’s digital world, data security can be a major issue, and this was a key problem that Chris and Chad sought to solve from the start with Pop!the kings of pop

They didn’t want to have the personal data of all of Pop!’s users sitting in the Cloud somewhere. In fact, they didn’t want even their company to hold the data of all its customers. So they designed the app so that each individual’s personal information would be stored in the app on the user’s smartphone – and nowhere else.

“We’ve been so strict around the fact that we will never store user’s data,” Chris explains. “You’ve got it on your phone – it’s not sitting anywhere with millions of other records so that it’s attractive for a hacker to try and hack. If you lose your device there are remote wipe features that can remove the data from the Pop! app. But the fact that we break the data out into individual points has inherent security within it.

“The user stores the data in the mobile app, our company never has it, and then the user can inject it into the processes that they use. Pop! is a way to get data into something; it doesn’t replace that something itself.”

With more than 100,000 people already using Pop!, Chris adds that they’ve been approached with offers to buy the data of their users: “But that totally undermines the concept here. If our consumers had any idea that we were doing that, they wouldn’t want to use the product.”


BODY ON THE LINE
Putting his body on the line for a bit of fun profile-raising for the business, Chris recently swallowed a 4cm by 2cm capsule containing a computer chip for the Pop! cause. The stunt was designed to prove that Pop! could send data anywhere – even to a computer chip inside a human body.

“It was such a nerve-wracking thing to do,” Chris chuckles. “For 24 hours while I swallowed this tablet and it was actually a computer that was communicating via Bluetooth. People could submit their entry into the competition we were having for that 24-hour period by ‘popping’ their entry, quite literally, inside me. The pill didn’t come out for over a week, but it came out without any hiccups in the end.”

 

This feature was originally published in the March 2015 print issue of My Business. To read more in-depth features for SME business owners immediately upon publication, subscribe to My Business magazine now. 

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