“There comes a time when the path of your professional life has to change.”
Doaa Abdel Hameed was working in people and operations management in the food delivery industry when she and her co-founders saw a gap in the market for a single application to provide multiple but closely related services clients. Personally, she also felt it was time to take the next step in her career.
Earlier this year, she co-founded Bonbell, which started as an app for ordering and delivering food with plans to eventually branch out into these other services.
So far, Egypt-based Bonbell has worked with 300 restaurants and aims to increase that number to 750 by the end of 2022. The company is also creating a “super-app” to serve customers in different locations like sports clubs, universities, hotels and corporate buildings. These people can pay subscription fees to access services such as food ordering, hotel booking, movie booking, etc.
Bonbell has already raised $550,000, including a round this summer secured from a Canadian angel investor.
APN spoke to Hameed (DH) about his vision for creating a one-stop-shop application to serve customers not only in North Africa, but also in the MENA region and Asian markets where the team is conducting research.
APN: Why did you create Bonbell? What challenge did you want to solve?
DH: When we were back in 2020, it was the peak of Covid-19, which was not the best time to approach the hospitality industry. Our vision was to be a one-stop-shop platform to help customers get different services based on their location, including food ordering services.
What we have today are food ordering services, reservation services and delivery services. We currently serve over 13,000 customers, but we aim to serve customers in clusters, hubs and gated communities like clubs and universities.
APN: Did you start with food delivery in order to acquire customers quickly?
DH: Actually, we didn’t start with food delivery, but rather we focus[ed] on dine-in and take-out meal orders.
We believe that both areas need more innovation and service improvement by deploying the latest technology trends. I believe the food delivery industry is somehow heading towards saturation and high competition, and it’s not smart to go dancing with the wolves while we’re still at this start-up stage.
On the other hand, we have differentiated ourselves through our market expansion and product development strategies, which help us acquire new customers at a very effective cost compared to the industry benchmark.
APN: How did you switch to a super-app in a few months?
DH: Bonbell’s vision is to be a multi-vertical super-app operating globally through online subscription and self-integration and we are well on our way to achieving this.
We are designing robotic stations to be launched by 2023 that will provide a 100% contactless ordering and service experience. These may be distributed or assigned to different locations and will be available at all times. Therefore, we [will] be able to cover the unavailability of workers in certain public places such as shopping centers and clubs.
[These stations] will be responsible for the preparation and service of coffee, green vegetables, small sandwiches, pizza and foods that do not require complicated preparations.
We are also launching hotel services to enter new market segments and distance ourselves from intense competition.
APN: Which segment of your super-app is currently making the most money?
DH: Despite the importance of food delivery in our service portfolio, most of our revenue is generated from takeout, which covers the gaps in food delivery services.
In addition, we invest a lot to leverage restaurant service and improve restaurant skills to provide substantial service to our customers. Helping restaurant workers is indeed part of our mission!
APN: You are also ready to raise a funding round of 10 million dollars. How will the funds be used to further Bonbell’s mission?
DH: Because we are a technology-based company, a lot of the money will go to product development. The other part will target growth and eventual expansion in Egypt and the MENA region, as well as infrastructure and systems development.
APN: What do you think of the push for investing with a gender lens?
DH: In my opinion, I don’t think we have a level playing field when it comes to fundraising, but what we do have are promising programs that regularly support women founders.