Q&A: Dr. Neil Garner, Founder, Thyngs
RTIH: Tell us about yourself and Thyngs
NG: I had the inspiration for Thyngs after running a pilot project with The Royal British Legion. I previously founded Proxama – which has become one of Europe's leading proximity payment and marketing businesses – working on some of the first mobile wallets and contactless payment technology with companies such as Mastercard, Barclays and Orange/EE.
I saw first-hand how the smartphone would become the payment method of choice and, as people started carrying less cash, charities would be one of the first sectors to suffer. So I set about creating Thyngs, a mobile technology platform that turns any physical product into an instant Point of Sale, allowing any business – charity or otherwise – to take advantage of the growth in these mobility proximity payments, without having to worry about apps or terminals.
RTIH: Why have you opted for the crowdfunding route rather than other more traditional ways of funding?
NG: We had already closed a small seed round in 2017 and that, plus the initial startup capital, has enabled us to build and prove our platform, create a suite of products and services, and put key partnerships in place (with an initial focus on charity donations).
Along the way, we'd had discussions with lots of smaller investors (as well as a few big ones) who were keen to be involved, so crowdfunding the money we need to fund our growth over the next 12-18 months seemed an obvious choice. It’s also helped us find new investors that we didn’t know, like Vincent McKevitt, CEO at Tossed, who is already a pioneer in cashless retail.
RTIH: What has been the reaction from retailers and customers thus far?
NG: The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Retailers like our simplicity, flexibility, and the fact that they don't need to worry about which of the hundreds of payment apps they're going to support. Consumers like the fact that they don't need to install yet another payment app but can use the mobile wallets that are already on their phone. We're now taking what we've learned about how businesses and consumers use our technology and applying that to new markets.
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
NG: We're lucky in that we've had no major setbacks so far, although there have been plenty of challenges. The main one had been Apple's lack of native support for NFC and QR reading, but that all changed back in September (which we thought might happen). This was a real tipping point for us. Scaling the team quickly enough to keep up with demand has been a nice problem to have.
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing omnichannel retailers right now?
NG: The biggest change won't necessarily be how people pay for things (there are only so many ways of taking money after all), but the situations in which they are able to do so. We are going to see more unattended and pop-up retail, ordering ahead, out-of-stock ordering, and in-store home delivery booking that makes consumers' lives easier.
As a result, retailers will become less reliant on tills and checkouts and will need to integrate the payment experience into these new in-store or out-of-store behaviours. The problem they face right now is that all the solutions are app-based, and the fact that there are simply so many creates huge confusion amongst both retailers and consumers. We solve that problem by allowing consumers to pay using the major mobile wallet systems.
RTIH: What's the best question about your company or the market asked of you recently by a) an investor and b) a customer?
NG: We get asked all sorts by potential investors, as you can imagine, often around business and exit strategy. Most of the time, though, they want to understand how we differ to the payment apps that are constantly popping up looking for funding. The remainder tend to be questions asking whether our technology could be used for a certain application or in a particular industry (the answer is usually 'yes').
RTIH: What can we expect to see from Thyngs over the next 12 months?
NG: Our immediate priority is on closing the current funding round to give us the support we need to talk to more potential customers. We're about to launch a new self-service model to help our charity sector clients get up and running quickly, which we'll then be extending to small-to-medium sized retailers. This will allow us to focus on closing the bigger deals we've got in the pipeline.
On the technology front, we'll be deepening our existing relationships with Apple, PayPal and Stripe, creating support for more 'out-of-the-box' use cases (e.g. recurring payments, loyalty programmes, etc.) and bringing onboard more mobile wallet options to give consumers even greater choice.