Amazon revolutionized one-click shopping, and it has a nearly $2 trillion market cap to show for the effort.
Now, a 10-person startup founded by JD Maresco, who previously cofounded the public safety app Citizen, says it plans to make it a lot easier for retailers who sell directly to their customers to make re-ordering their products just as fast and simple through its QR codes. Indeed, Maresco's new startup, Batch, is already working with numerous products and brands that use Shopify, promising their customers "one-tap checkout" when it's time to re-order an item as long as the retailer has slapped one of Batch's codes on their items or incorporated the codes directly into their packaging.
For the moment, New York-based Batch is wholly reliant on Apple's App Clip technology, which produces a lightweight version of an app to save people from having to download and install it before using it. (Users can instead load just a small part of an app on demand, and when they’re done, the App Clip disappears.)
But Maresco -- whose company just raised $5 million in seed funding co-led by Coatue and Alexis Ohanian's Seven Seven Six, with participation from Weekend Fund, Shrug Capital, and the Chainsmokers, among others -- says Batch will eventually work on both iOS and Android phones. We talked with him yesterday to learn more about Batch's ambitions to make the physical world "instantly shoppable." Our chat has been edited lightly for length and clarity.
TC: Citizen and Batch are very different companies. Is there a unifying thread?
JM: I've spent a good portion of my career, trying to change the way people think about and interact with their physical environment. With Citizen, we were questioning why everyone doesn't have immediate access to information about what the police are doing in our neighborhoods. With Batch, we're asking a simpler question but something that matters to me as a consumer: Why isn't it easier for me to get more of a product I love and use?
With subscriptions in general, I've found myself constantly frustrated because every few weeks I'm emailing to either pause a subscription or restart it. I wanted an easier way to use my phone to re-order in 10 seconds on the spot. Our phones are capable of much more than we put them to use for and, so we set out to tackle that problem.
TC: Right now, Batch integrates with Shopify alone, correct?
JM: We have a Shopify plugin that brands can connect into the Batch platform, and then we integrate the experience, all the way from the physical world wherever this QR code lives, through the purchase experience on the mobile side of things into their fulfillment on the back end. But we're also expanding to other e-commerce platforms.
TC: And Batch takes a per-transaction fee from every item that's purchased using your codes?
JM: We're developing our pricing model over time, but currently we're taking a service percentage-based fee.
TC: How are you getting brands to partner with you?
JM: Brands are starting to wake up to this idea that they can actually create a new retail channel off their physical packaging, where a customer can effectively shop throughout their home or their place of work or anywhere where they interact with these products the moment they run out of an item. So we've been able to spend time with dozens of brands now, and work with them to actually reengineer their packaging and say, 'Let's put QR codes front and center and figure out how to make this a really important customer touchpoint.'
TC: How many brands are using the codes currently?
JM: We're launching dozens of brands this summer. We've had overwhelming demand, to be honest, and we haven't really even fully launched yet.
TC: These are physical codes that you're sending off to your retail partners -- stickers, magnets. Are you also creating digital QR codes?
JM: We have customers that are integrating QR codes into out-of-home advertisements, into direct mail, into T shirts, into promotional vans, so we're not just limited to packaging. There's a wide range of places that you can integrate QR codes for your customers.
TC: It's interesting that Coatue led your round. We've seen the firm delve more into early-stage deals but a seed round seems anomalous. How did you connect?
JM: We met during the seed process. They reached out to me and I developed a relationship with Andy Chen and Matt Mazzeo and it was a great opportunity to work with their platform -- the way they support the go-to-market motion around B2B companies; they have a great data platform.
Alexis [Ohanian's] experience in the consumer space was really appealing, too.
TC: Your company makes sense, but I wonder what's special about these codes. What's to prevent countless other startups from doing what you're doing?
JM: QR codes are all over the place. The product we're building makes it really easy for brands to create high converting shopping experiences and a native mobile interface. It's a combination of our Shopify integration and our native product design experience and the relationships we have with these brands and how we help them with their packaging that's not something you can spin up overnight.
TC: I have to ask about Citizen, which was in the headlines recently for all the wrong reasons. Is there anything you want to say about the company or the app or some of that recent coverage?
JM: I'm not going to comment on the recent press, but I continue to be proud of what the company is continuing to do to help communities stay safe and understand what police and first responders are doing in their neighborhoods.