Centiba, Inc., is preparing to launch its automated coupon processing technology by the first quarter of 2010.
The technology, created by LaMon Evans, is designed to automate the use of manufacturer’s product coupons. Users would go online to select desired coupons, which would be recorded through a personal code or a grocery store loyalty card. Coupon deductions would automatically be made during the checkout process and Centiba would collect a transaction fee for the technology.
Evans got the idea for the product while watching his mother, who has arthritis, clip coupons, says Darryl Jackson, Centiba’s new CEO.
Jackson, previously vice president of sales and development at Memphis Bioworks Foundation, had a background working with startup companies created under the umbrellas of General Electric Co., Xerox Corp. and Eastman Kodak Co.
Ken Woody, president of Innova, a biotechnology incubator that has invested in 1-year-old Centiba, says Jackson was selected to help bring Centiba’s technology to market.
“You need an individual who knows how to do sales and marketing after you develop the product,” Woody says.
Innova typically invests between $20,000 and $1 million in startups. Woody is working to bring other investors into the company.
Other Innova investments have been made in Cagenix, a company that makes the frameworks for dental implants; Vaxent, a vaccine development company; and arGentis Pharmaceuticals LLC, a specialty pharmaceutical company. Woody says the success of Centiba could help spread the word that Innova isn’t limited to investing in biotechnology or medical device companies.
“We have the expertise to help technology companies achieve a high level of success,” Woody says. “In Centiba’s case, we carried them by ourselves the first year, but we wanted to keep investment as low as possible. If we’re going to fail, we want to fail as quickly and cheaply as possible, but we have a strong belief it’ll work.”
Centiba is currently involved in field testing to prove the technology will work. Once that testing is done, the company will seek contracts with retailers and manufacturers. Jackson says digitizing the coupon process will speed up reimbursements (which typically take six to eight weeks), and make coupons more user-friendly.
Centiba would be able to send e-mails and text messages to consumers to let them know a coupon is about to expire. The technology would also allow coupon-users who may not be comfortable in the digital world to print their coupons.
“We’re actively having discussions with retailers and they see the value right now,” Jackson says.
Once Centiba is in the market, he says the company will seek controlled growth. It currently has four employees all focused on rolling out the technology.
“The most critical thing is getting it to market,” Jackson says. “We’re in a first-mover position and don’t see anyone else with this kind of technology. It isn’t very often you get to be involved in something this transformative.”