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Reppin’ Australia right: Meet the Melbourne tech start-up that won the US$50,000 grand prize at an Asian competition

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After a grueling five day and four night long competition in Taiwan, an Australian team of four from Melbourne-based tech start-up, AFTR scooped the championship title and grand prize of US$50,000 in travel to and within Taiwan at Meet Taiwan’s Asia Super Team CSR-oriented incentive initiative.

Led by company co-founders Teresa Truda and Zia Word, along with senior staffers Bryce McCoy and Anthony Sharples the Australians competed against companies from Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Check out this report for more about the competition and AFTR’s own detailed account of their whole journey there (It was pretty intense, I must say). Anthill also caught up with one of the team members, Zia Word to tell us all about AFTR in an in-depth interview.

Who are these Aussie champions?

AFTR (2)
“The swag of winners”

Below is what Zia had to share with us.

Who are the people behind AFTR?

I am a co-founder and the CSO, previously Head of Growth & Product at The Health Consultancy. I have worked in tech since the early noughties in many different industries including TV, advertising, e-commerce (Selfridges) and two start-ups (one which was bought into by Sony).

My co-founder Teresa Truda is the CEO, previously Head of Operations at Grey Group Australia. She has worked in digital a number of years and gets shit done. She has also worked at CHE where she met me over four years ago – we started our own consultancy before starting AFTR.

Ryan Blunden is our CTO, previously Head of Technical Learning & Development at Linkedin in Silicon Valley. He was at Williams-Sonoma prior to that and has previously started his own pet-friendly rental site, and also teaches at General Assembly.

We met Ryan through a mutual university friend of Teresa’s and started working with him/using him as a supplier in the consultancy about a year and a bit ago. We all came together really well as we have similar vision, styles and love working together.

What exactly inspired you to start AFTR?

Teresa tells it like this, “Working 16 hour days, six days a week. Always stuck late at work. I never get the time to get personal services done within the traditional hours of service.”

“10pm one night, business flight the next day. I needed a wax from Linda but she wasn’t available. Linda was my local groomer at the time. I trusted her, she knew what I liked.

“I couldn’t pack Linda in my suitcase and couldn’t get a wax that late from anywhere. So, I flew to a foreign city, 24 hours later I had to find my Linda in London. I didn’t even know where to start.”

“If only I could pack Linda. Or find Linda’s equivalent of service standard, price, and feel like I could trust it in London. That’s how AFTR was born. From there we did further validation, testing it out and understanding what services we needed to focus on.”

What gap are you looking to fill with AFTR?

Business travellers are always on the go, they have little time to organise personal services and there is no easy way to find personal service providers you can trust and are personally relevant, without spending precious time trawling various resources.

Business travel can be stressful and have negative effects on health – happy, relaxed travellers are more productive workers who are more engaged with their companies. As well as individuals we offer corporate accounts to help companies incentivise their employees.

There are often very defined hours that services are available – we have service providers who offer services within the hour, at any hour – allowing both consumer and provider to work their own hours.

There is a gap between understanding consumer’s offline preferences for personal services in the online space and the data around these movements is rarely appropriately mined and applied.

We offer the opportunity for small business owners to larger travel partners (airlines, hotels vacation rentals et al) to understand a customer’s journey outside of their own environments or programs and we will soon reach intention based purchasing.

So how does AFTR work?

AFTR is your smart little black book. Users login and choose what they need from our wide range of business travel specific personal services categories – from tech help and personal shopping to wellness and grooming.

Within a couple of taps they can see who is available to provide the service and whether they can do it at your place or their place, the providers specifically recommended to your tastes are highlighted (these are based on a combination of data science, machine learning and human curation) and you book and pay within the app. The service happens within the hour.

Essentially we are building a global network of brick and mortar service providers allowing a user to effectively navigate a city based on their own existing preferences rather than just others recommendations or reviews with the convenience of booking on-demand. Like a Netflix for services IRL.

We’ve built loyalty into the UX, the more users invite trusted people in their network into the invite-only VIP membership program the higher up the member tiers they go – providing more perks, offers and access to exclusive events in cities across the globe. Once a user is actually inside the app the more they use it the higher they are and stay.

How is AFTR doing so far?

We’re currently private and have around 150 users (we are staggering signups at the moment). There are around 200 providers signed up across Sydney and Melbourne.

Last week we launched our VIP incentive program and currently have around 1,000 people on the waitlist. The member who refers the most valid members will become our AFTR-all member – receiving free services for life!

We also recently hired a machine learning and data science expert as well as adding a young gun from Ireland to the tea and are finalising partnerships with a major airline, a large global expenses company and a USA-based travel booking concierge start-up.

Funding?

We are self-funded/bootstrapped thus far. We intend to open a round at the beginning of next year.

What inspired you to sign up for Asia Super Team?

Asia is a high priority market for us and we see many business travellers going to Taiwan from all over the world, we felt it would be a great opportunity to understand some of those customers as well as how we can work with and in Taiwan in the future. We hope to showcase AFTR and our work culture as a great company to work with.

What does it feel like to represent Australia on the international scene?

It’s the first time Australia has been allowed to enter the competition and we are super proud to be representing Australia’s growing and vibrant start-up scene – showing off how well we can compete with businesses from all over the globe in both our offering and can-do Aussie work culture.

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