Lee Clarke, CEO and co-founder of Bink
Bink co-founder Lee Clarke tells BQ how a family holiday to Greece inspired him to launch a loyalty card app which now counts the likes of the Arcadia Group, Morrisons and Virgin Atlantic as clients…
Entrepreneurs draw inspiration from all sorts of places when launching businesses from conversations in the local to solving problems at work.
But for Lee Clarke, CEO and co-founder of loyalty card app Bink, inspiration struck him when he was traveling to Greece for a family holiday with his wife and three young daughters.
He told BQ: “My family and I were stocking up on holiday supplies at an airport Boots when we realised we’d forgotten our Advantage Cards.
“Faced with the prospect of missing out on £300 of loyalty points it occurred to me that you always have your payment cards, but you don’t always have your loyalty cards, so why not link the two?
“I ran the idea past my friend and co-founder Greg Gormley who agreed that there was an opportunity to disrupt the industry and we decided we should be the ones to take it.”
Bink is a free payment linked loyalty app which eliminates the need for retailers to distribute and consumers to carry plastic loyalty cards.
After scanning their payment and loyalty cards into the app consumers can then shop as normal with their payment cards and automatically collect points and rewards from shops and retailers.
In turn it saves time, effort, and ultimately the planet as it removes the need to create, distribute and dispose of plastic cards that can take up to 450 years to biodegrade.
Prior to launching the business Lee worked in private equity and for a number of publicly listed technology and services companies before branching out into the real estate and international securities sectors.
Greg on the other hand, who is Bink’s CFO, held a number of top financial and director roles at major corporates and has always been passionate about exploring how innovation can transform stagnated industries.
It was this experience and desire to disrupt which helped them launch Bink. “I’m a natural problem solver and once I get an idea in my head I will persevere until I make it a success,” Lee says.
“Before starting Bink I applied this to my roles in tech companies, such as Amdocs, which gave me real insight into how tech can be harnessed to revolutionise both out of date systems and commonly held problems.
“With this experience and my natural propensity to seek out answers, I felt confident identifying a gap in the market for Bink and recognising the technology that would make it possible.
“Greg’s impressive background in financial and project management complemented my experience perfectly. It has been crucial in helping us secure the investment we needed to develop the app. As well as achieve key financial partners, including American Express, Mastercard and Visa.”
For most entrepreneurs setting up a business and bringing a new idea to market is quite challenging and Bink was no different.
Lee adds: “We were launching something that had never done before, so we needed to take people on a journey with us and explain our proposition from a blank slate.
“Demonstrating the strength of our proposition to established companies under these circumstances was undeniably daunting.
“However, we found that having a team who believe in the product, are able to passionately demonstrate its capabilities to streamline the loyalty industry and are mindful of our mental, physical and financial reserves made us more than capable of forging ahead.”
Lee and Greg started Bink by pumping their own funds into the business back in 2014 but it didn’t take too long for the company to pay for itself.
“To enable proof of concept myself and Greg initially put money in,” Lee says, “before focusing on securing investment from high net-worth individuals through demonstrating the strength of Bink’s value proposition.
“Since 2016, this has enabled us to raise £10m in seed capital. Our next round of funding will focus on both individuals and VC’s.
“We also secured several notable board members early on including Dr Steve Perry, the former head of Visa Europe, Bob Wigley, chair of UK Finance and formerly of the Bank of England and Merrill Lynch.
“Their business advice was invaluable in helping keep Bink on its development course.”
What started off as a conversation around Lee’s kitchen table following his holiday to Greece has since grown into one of the UK’s most exciting tech firms and the pair couldn’t be happier with how it has went.
Not only has Bink trended on the AppStore twice but it surpassed 10,000 downloads shortly after its launch, has been shortlisted for Best Payments Industry Newcomer at the Card and Payments Awards and secured partnerships with numerous household name retailers.
“We’ve come a long way since the conception of Bink,” Lee says proudly. “It’s hard to believe that what was originally a handful of us around my kitchen table has grown to a team of 60 people across two sites.
“Since our launch in late 2016 we’ve already secured partnerships with some of the UK’s best loved and biggest brands. From the likes of the Arcadia group, Avios, Dixons Travel, Virgin Atlantic and Harvester to Morrisons, Pizza Express, River Island, and Gap, the number is growing every month!”
So, after an exciting few months since Bink hit the market, what’s next? Lee concludes: “The future is looking bright at Bink. We are excited to take Binks’ USP payment linked loyalty to the global markets.
“The combination of our technology, knowledge, industry expertise and strategic partnerships place us in a unique position. We bring significant value to retailers, airlines, coalition loyalty schemes and financial services internationally through our ability to enhance the customer value proposition.
“Later in the year we will launch our Series A funding round for £25m, which has already generated a lot of interest. This will enable us to grow Bink as a global brand, from the simple idea I had a couple of years ago – this really excites the team and myself for the future.”
Lee’s top tips for entrepreneurs: