Finding the right vertical has helped a Canberra startup taking the hassle out of split bills to this week surpass over $340,000 in total payments processed.
QPay is an app developed by Andrew Clapham and Zakaria Bouguettaya to minimise the inconvenience of splitting payments between friends.
“QPay started as an idea while were students in Canberra. Every night we’d leave the ANU late after working on assignments, and head to the city in search of cheap curry. Inevitably, the restaurant wouldn’t allow split bills, and so one friend would have to pay for everyone,” Andrew explains.
“Chasing someone for $10 or $15 doesn’t seem right, but on the other hand, if a few people don’t pay you back, that’s a lot of money. So we built the QPay app to solve this: everyone should know who has paid, and who hasn’t.”
After founding the startup in Canberra, Andrew and Zakaria were accepted into Melbourne startup incubator AngelCube. They returned to Canberra and spent a significant portion of their savings on expensive advertising campaigns that did little to increase app downloads.
“We tried many different strategies to get people to download QPay, all of which failed. More time passed, and more money was burned,” Andrew says.
After months experimenting with different verticals, the pair finally identified an untapped market – ticketing for student events such as faculty balls and O Week celebrations. .
Andrew and Zakaria built a ticketing system that processes payments through QPay, which allows event hosts to manage bookings and payments for group purchases (such as a table for eight people at a dinner). One person pays for the whole group, and everyone can immediately view their ticket, and pay them back in QPay.
“Many full tables of 10 costing well over $1000 were purchased this way, and they quickly got paid back right in the QPay app,” Andrew says.
App downloads skyrocketed almost immediately, and Andrew says that users who interact with QPay to make a ticketing payment are far more likely to then use the app, which is available on the App Store and on Google Play, to split bills among friends.
“We’ve seen massive uptake since adding in ticketing for student events. Students, perhaps more so than any other group, really care about getting paid back, even if it’s just $20 for tickets to that party on campus. I certainly wanted to get paid back when I was at uni, studying late into the night and eating noodles because they were all I could afford.”
“Since we’ve locked onto the student vertical, we’ve started to see steep growth, repeat usage, and happy users.”
QPay now facilitates split payments for university events across Australia, and Andrew says the start-up learns more about human behaviour every day.
“When there’s a split bill of 10 people, everyone is sitting silently in the chat, until one person pays. Then it’s a cascade of payments. It seems nobody wants to be the first to pay, but more than that, nobody wants to be last.
“QPay naturally includes this human element of accountability, showing clearly who has seen the bill, and who hasn’t paid,” he says.