Bouxtie sees a future for electronic gift cards

N Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on January 20, 2018

Renato Libric, founder and CEO, Bouxtie N Ramakrishnan

Offers personalised electronic cards, with option to attach personal messages, videos

Renato Libric says he is out to disrupt an industry with his venture and he is also clear that he will sell it after a year, once its valuation increases to much more than the offers it has already received.

The 37-year-old from Croatia describes himself as a serial entrepreneur. With his experience in the commercial real-estate space, he started his first venture in that segment in Europe and sold it. His current venture, Bouxtie, an electronic gift card company, is looking to carve a bit off the global multi-billion dollar gift card industry.

Bouxtie — pronounced bow-tie — has tied up with more than 120 retailers, mainly in the US and Canada, and is looking to bring on board many more in India, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the UK and a few other countries in Europe. It will tie up with a major airline for its appeasement programme and with two major card issuers shortly.

During a recent visit to India, where he was in Chennai and Bengaluru, Libric, founder and CEO, Bouxtie, held discussions with potential investors in the venture and retailer space hoping to get the latter to switch from issuing plastic gift to electronic cards. “We have 12 retailers in the pipeline here,” he told BusinessLine. He hopes to launch the services in India by the end of 2016. Bouxtie was launched in Canada in the second quarter of the year, the second country outside the US.

Electronic cards

According to him, the plastic gift card industry is estimated at nearly $400 billion worldwide — $175 billion in the US, $200 billion in Asia and $25 billion in Europe. Of this, the electronic gift card industry is just about $20 billion. Right now, those wanting to gift cards to someone, pay for a plastic card from any of the retailers and mail it. The recipient has to redeem it at that store within a specified period. This is what Bouxtie aims to change. Its electronic cards can be personalised, with even a video attached and sent to the recipients.

Bouxtie was founded in the UK in 2013, but Libric shifted base to the US in October 2014 and within a short period got offers for funds. He says Bouxtie got its first cheque of $100,000 within a week. Fund raising has not been a problem for him since then. In April 2015, he presented in front of nearly 700 investors, including the Keiretsu Forum, a US-headquartered global angel investor network, and raised $2.5 million in no time, from a combination of Keiretsu members and venture capitalists.

When it raised the funds, Bouxtie did not have plans for a global play. Now, with plans to tap several countries, Bouxtie is looking to raise $5 million in a Series A round. This too is more or less tied up, says Libric. “Without the Series A, we are okay for the next two years. We didn’t have a global roll out then.” He says the venture will break even in September.

Personalising cards

How does Bouxtie work? It ties up with retailers and gets its income as a percentage of the value of the gift card that customers buy on its platform. Customers can send the gift card instantly, and add a personal message and a video to it. This, says Libric, is not as easy as it sounds. It requires stitching together three different elements. For retailers, Bouxtie reduces operational costs, ensures they get real-time payment, makes available valuable consumer data and helps monetise social media.

From a user perspective, plastic gift cards are not convenient, they are not instant, there is nothing personal about them, he says. Bouxtie solves the problems for both the retailers and the users.

Libric, who studied Hotel and Resort Management at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the US, worked in a marketing agency in Europe, before entering the real-estate sector, where he worked with consultancy firms CB Richard Ellis and Jones Lang LaSalle, in Europe. He also did a Masters in commercial real estate at the University of Reading in the UK.

According to him, Bouxtie has already got offers for a buy-out from a couple of large plastic gift card issuers, at a value of $75-120 million. He is not selling out now and is looking for an exit in 2017. Bouxtie has attracted some top-level talent from established companies and these are people who can enormously help in marketing the product. With them on board, Libric is confident that in a year, the firm’s value will be much higher. It will also be present in a few other countries.

He says investors will get a 10-12x return on their investment, when he exits the venture. What after he sells Bouxtie?

“I will take a break for a few months; I want to start a venture in commercial real estate,” says Libric and adds, “I am going back to where I came from, but with more money, more knowledge and more connections.” He has invested in a venture called Branchub, which connects shopping centre owners with retailers in Europe. That is what he will run and develop.

Libric attributes all his achievements and success to his spiritual guru in Rajasthan, from whom he has also learnt to be a yoga instructor. He has visited India several times. “It is all guru kripa.”

Published on June 15, 2016

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