VoucherSkout savings tool helps to fill those empty seats

Chief executive David Tobias moved to Dubai in 1994 and launched an advertising agency, half of which he sold to fund VoucherSkout’s launch in September 2016.

David Tobias, moved to Dubai in 1994 and launched an advertising agency, half of which he sold to fund VoucherSkout’s launch in September 2016. Courtesy David Dunn

VoucherSkout is a voucher-based value delivery platform, offering 50 per cent off deals on a pay-as-you-go basis. It gives users discounted access to F&B and five other categories when they buy credits, while driving custom to merchants. Chief executive David Tobias, 47, moved to Dubai in 1994 and launched an advertising agency, half of which he sold to fund VoucherSkout's launch in September 2016. The married father of two reveals he has his sights set on taking the app global.

What prompted you to launch VoucherSkout?

The idea was hatched in 2011. I woke up at four in the morning; bolt upright, like a light bulb had gone on in my head. It took me four years to really act on it. I brought my family up here. We’ve been pretty avid Entertainer users. The premise behind VoucherSkout is not to save people money; we’re actually trying to get people to go out more often. Our brand essence is “enjoy more”. Rather than go out once a week at 100 per cent, go out twice at 50 per cent. You can still do it on the same money.

So what’s in it for the merchants?

I wanted a way of raising expenditure in merchant outlets. I knew percentage-based discounts give a bigger spend on average than a single item concession. Value-seekers know intuitively that if they’re getting 50 per cent off the total food bill they order more food. As a result dwell time within the outlet increases. It takes longer to eat three courses than one, so the consumption of drinks increases. We’ve tried to re-engineer the business of footfall driving. No restaurateur wants to discount their own menu because they have to give it to everyone. To solve that they turn to companies that can deliver an invis­ible discounted footfall; the only people that see our discount are people carrying our app. The rationale behind VoucherSkout is to help them fill seats they’ve not been able to through their own marketing efforts. Restaurants are very much like aeroplanes; fixed costs are extremely high, it’s better to take off with seats filled, even at 50 per cent off, than for that plane to fly empty. The chef doesn’t get paid extra for making another 100 starters. Even at 50 per cent off they’re still making profit.

Is your system available to tourists as well as residents?

I felt there was massive opportunity within the tourist market coming into the UAE. I wanted a system that would be very accessible, free to download, first usage free and thereafter you top up your wallet. All of our vouchers are priced in credits. Those credits are sold in bundles and don’t expire. You don’t have to worry about subscription. From a consumer proposition it’s a no-brainer; if you use (the app) great, if you don’t, it’s cost you nothing. If you’ve got tourists coming in from different markets and they’re not sure about dirhams they can turn credit bundle pricing into a series of other currencies.

So have the public and outlets taken to VoucherSkout?

With fairly limited marketing we’ve gone from zero to 36,000 registered users – most achieved through either word of mouth or limited click to install ads on social media – and 300 outlets across six categories in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Sharjah, RAK and Al Ain. We’re focusing at the moment on Dubai but taking on merchants who call from other emirates. We’re in the process of acquiring additional funding so I can ramp up the sales team. F&B is the most important one (category) for us, because people eat every day and might get their hair cut once a month. The biggest amount anybody has saved with our app in a single voucher was Dh6,375, which was for half the term fees at Kidville Nursery, when we first started. They paid Dh15 for the voucher; three credits. Our customer base is really varied. We have the chairman of a major private bank, CEOs of aviation companies. I wanted to get to a point where a user was defined as somebody who does something once a month.

What are your plans for VoucherSkout?

We built the app to be entirely scalable. We went with a credit system so in the future if we want to sell off city territories – if we prove the business model successful here – and somebody wants to take VoucherSkout to Singapore, all they have to do is buy the franchise rights and build the network. Anybody who bought credit bundles in Dubai and subsequently flew to Singapore would be able to use the same credits in the wallet. That’s where the exciting part starts to come in. We take something and really grow it. Eventually we might have an extensive network where this credit system becomes a universal currency.