Startup Spotlight: RejjeeJuly 31, 2016
This week we meet with Ken Smith, Co-Founder & Head of Product for Rejjee. After creating a successful anti-bike-theft program in the US, he also wanted other stolen consumer goods to return to their rightful owner. The mission is clear: to take $1B in stolen goods off the internet.
GH: What is Rejjee?
Ken: Rejjee is a personal property app that lets you register an unlimited number of valuables. It includes a real-time loss/theft reporting module where reports are posted immediately on our crowd-sourced lost & found so neighbors, local & online used goods dealers, as well as local police can be on the lookout.
Rejjee launched SAFE Bikes in August 2015, the largest most successful anti-bike-theft program in the country returning stolen bikes to their rightful owner at 7X the national average. SAFE Bikes is now expanding from Boston throughout New England and into New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Florida, with Kansas and California coming online before the end of 2016.
GH: What is your name and role?
Ken: Ken Smith, Co-Founder & Head of Product.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Rejjee get started?
Ken: When I saw the statistics reported by the FBI that approximately $40B in consumer goods are lost/stolen in the US each year and less than 7% are recovered by the rightful owner. In the bicycle industry the recovery rate is just 2% which as an avid cyclist got me really motivated.
GH: How did you build your team?
Ken: Gary O’Neil, my Co-Founder, and I met when I was teaching a class on entrepreneurship at the MIT Enterprise Forum. From there I have leveraged my personal network in the cycling industry to expand both our team and our business relationships.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
Ken: Our mission is to take $1B in stolen goods off the internet.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Ken: We spent a ton of time trying to work with the law enforcement community in the State of New Hampshire. We spent thousands of dollars, sent hundreds of emails & phone calls, had scores of meetings and even several significant presentations to leadership in that community. What we finally realized was that in spite of stated interest in our platform there was not going to be any active engagement any any NH law enforcement agency anytime soon. So we focused on our partnership energies where agencies were both interested in an willing to directly engage with us.
GH: What did you learn from your first users?
Ken: Very few people will pay for an app. You have to have an alternative business model or you won’t get large-scale adoption in the consumer marketplace.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
Ken: The Microsoft BizSpark program has been fantastic – huge support on many levels. And the Microsoft New England team has been very supportive.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Ken: Boston does a lot more consumer tech than many people realize. I think we need an ‘innovation pavillion’ where startups can rent a small table/kiosk for very little money and showcase their products to the 1000’s of tourists who visit every year at say Faneuil Hall or the like so people from other parts of the country and the world can go home with a Boston innovation and not just another tourist T-shirt.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
Ken: We were told that our platform had significant impact in a market segment about which we knew nothing, but in the interests of growing revenue we followed that advice. It lead to nothing.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Ken: Expanding partnership with multiple channel partners in multiple industries helping us expand our low-cost, rapid user adoption process.
GH: What does the future hold for Rejjee?
Ken: Rejjee was designed as a platform, not a product. We have focused on the bicycle vertical for specific reasons and now that we have started to reach self-sustaining penetration in that industry in Boston we will be expanding into other markets including New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami, Utah, Kansas, and California. We have also already started to expand into other product verticals such as sports equipment (Skis, boards, golf, etc.), power tools, and others. We have also signed a significant partnership with a new peer-to-peer risk sharing company and will not only be offering an innovative product specific risk sharing (‘insurance’) product to our customers but we will be the claims processing back-bone for the provider as they scale throughout North America.