By Jenny Sant’Anna (PA2/C12), TraXactions Sustainability Coordinator
Jared Brick, C13, recently launched a new platform to reward and track shoppers’ use of reusables such as cups, bags, straws, and more. The concept for his new business was cooked up in PoSuM during Jared’s first semester at PGS. While studying Starbucks’ target of diverting 25% of its single-use cups with reusables, Jared was swayed by Hunter Lovins and Gil Friend to look at incentives for both companies and consumers. TraX was born.
TraX is essentially about changing consumer behaviors. Encouraging the use of reusables is a no-brainer; it results in zero waste. Not all single-use items are suitable for reuse, but some shoppers easily substitute durable, reusable goods for single-use disposables. TraX is designed to encourage and inspire the rest of us to switch to reusables by rewarding us (with cash and donation opportunities) and getting us to share our positive actions within our own circles and with other shoppers.
While at PGS, Jared studied lifecycle analysis of reusables and applied systems thinking to the issue to come up with a completely new storyline. Reusables in retail go unacknowledged, unthanked, and untracked. Currently, this consumer data, which speaks to consumer values and motivations, is not being collected. Retail marketing principles tell us that data is powerful. TraX is a data platform with a rewards arm and sharing leg. TraX collects and organizes data, quantifies the impact, and shares it with our paying clients. There is great value in this service for retail partners, sustainable brands, and now even cities.
TraX is different because it is not tied to a brand or retail location. Most rewards programs are silo'd and not open to all the potential places you want to use them. Some are so niche market that you kind of forget about them. TraX is designed more like credit card reward programs, but for eco-positive actions. Jared modeled many credit card companies’ techniques to build out the usage of TraX, including eventually linking the payment with companies like SquareUp and PayPal.
Jared used his time at PGS to develop his business plan, but in the end, venture startups are about speed, user acquisition, and scaling fast. Student entrepreneurs need to get out and network with professionals in an industry that inspires them. When you are a salesman of something you are passionate about, you will attract the people you need to meet. Get a public persona out there and leave the door open so people can find you.
Jared is doing just that. The start-up community is already validating his up-and-coming model. TraX just won first prize at the PitchClubSF competition in San Francisco. Awards included entry into Softlayer’s Catalyst Startup Program, plus start-up services such as crowd hosting by Softlayer (IBM) and co-working space at Citizen Space.
Several professors pointed me to Jared’s work while I was working on my capstone project last year. My capstone was directly concerned with plastic bag regulation in the US. I had noticed there is an uptick of complaints right after a municipal plastic bag ban is passed, but that the citizenry quickly adapts and adopts new, less wasteful habits. Not every municipality in the US has the same issues with plastic bag waste, so many won’t adopt single-use bag ordinances. Yet, distributing single-use products that are easily substituted with something more lasting is both wasteful and costly for businesses and cities alike. I am excited by the potential for TraX to disrupt the current system by encouraging consumers to both seek rewards and share their positive actions.
Jared launched TraX this summer with several sponsoring partners including ChicoBag, Simply Straws, and Clean Water Fund. Tango Card enables the rewards distribution. We are also working with West Orange, NJ to set up a program rewarding citizens for both using reusables and shopping locally. The rewards program is only the first step. Developing and launching the mobile app will make TraX easier to use and increase its appeal to a broader audience. In another innovative move, TraXactions is crowdfunding for the funds to develop the mobile app on Indiegogo. Friends, family, and of course, Presidians are invited and encouraged to try out TraX and support the shift away from single-use disposables.
Seeking Action Heroes http://igg.me/at/trax.
*This is the second article in our Q&A series with our current Student Representatives. Scott Bright is a second-year student...