Startup AI Softbox Maintained Grit Amid Pandemic

If we were to look back pre pandemic, many countries struggled in their digital journey. Ticketing on transportations were not cashless, payments at our favourite restaurant only accepted cash and card transactions, not forgetting having to rush for meetings while getting stuck on traffic. Today, Malaysians can make purchases via e-wallets at a local hawker stall and pay bills online without having to queue!

Upping the level by leveraging technology and to reduce carbon footprint, a Penang-based tech startup founded AI Softbox in 2020 introducing e-receipts. The founder, Tenllieyh Lee, devised a clever strategy to address the complex problem of e-receipts adoption. Understanding that the transition may not be easy for his vendors, he came up with incentives for both consumers and retailers were required to kickstart the change.

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The transition is almost painless for consumers. Customers simply scan a QR code with their smartphones to receive their digital receipts following a transaction. Thanks to the pandemic and approximately 29 million smartphone users in Malaysia, us Malaysians are familiar with scanning a QR code on our smartphones.

“We have made it easy for business owners to sign up for AI Softbox’s service with our free plug-and-play digital receipt device called POP. Easy to set up, businesses only need to connect POP with their POS system and the device will automatically generate receipt data into a QR code with effortless configurations”, said Tenllieyh Lee, Founder of AI Softbox.

AI Softbox introduces a solution that is effortless by allowing both consumers and retailers to benefit from advantages that paper receipts simply cannot supply. Customers can also monitor warranties, collect reward points and manage all types of receipts in a single platform on AI Softbox’s app available on the Google Play Store and browser.

Retailers, on the other hand, will benefit significantly as the information of customers acquired will assist businesses in offering their goods more successfully based on the interests and behaviours of their customers. Leveraging on its artificial intelligence (AI) technology, retailers can establish better ties with their customers based on their transaction behaviours. Promotions can now be distributed directly to the app’s intended recipients in just a few clicks.

Taking him two years to develop the software behind AI Softbox, Lee’s technological prowess and a staunch belief that going paperless is the way forward was what motivated him to explore this business venture. He added that companies overseas may link their e-receipt devices to a specific POS, however, Al Softbox’s POP is interoperable with every Malaysian POS.

Hampered by the state-wide Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed in response to the pandemic, creating and debugging POP necessitating on-site testing with merchants was just not practicable. Majority of physical stores were shuttered, and the handful that remained open did not have adequate customers to make significant evaluations. This impediment, however, did not prevent Lee from progressing on. Instead, he took the time to concentrate on perfecting his product.

When the MCO was lifted, Lee started with a prototype test with a friend in the retail industry, who is now his co-founder, Jeremy Hiew of US Pizza Malaysia.  Lee gradually improved his products before launching AI Softbox in 2021. The firm now has four employees, with Lee serving as the technical lead and three others serving as sales and marketing specialists, applications support, and backend support, respectively.

Al Softbox’s strategy of concentrating on people’s needs has already generated major achievements. The start-up has received IP Patterning sponsorship from the DANA-IP 2.0 initiative. The Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) award allows AI Softbox to secure copyrights and protect its product.

In 2022, AI Softbox made an impressive debut appearance at the Startup Wheel 2022, the largest Southeast Asian startup competition. In just a year since its establishment, the tech startup was selected to be one of the Top 50 out of 1,800 applicants worldwide.

Founder Tenllieyh Lee and his co-founder Jeremy Hiew at Startup Wheel 2022 in Vietnam

Lee had the opportunity to pitch his idea and innovation in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Although AI Softbox was unable to advance to the next stage, the startup is unquestionably an example of the inventive spirit that is currently incorporated in startups that tackle our day-to-day challenges.

“In your startup journey, you will encounter challenges. If that happens, keep faith and be willing to seek a variety of approaches to reach your goals,” shared Lee during an e-mail interview with Digital Penang. Also shortlisted in Digital Penang’s Founders’ Grit Seed Programme in Cohort 2, Al Softbox underwent a 1-month bootcamp as well as opportunities for networking, exhibition and pitching with venture capitalists, investors and other stakeholders in the tech industry at TechFest 2022, Penang.

For more information on AI Softbox and its services, visit aisoftbox.com.

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