It’s an experience common to many: You lose a valued item, frantically retrace your steps, and hope that if someone finds it, you’ll get it returned to you.
Husband-and-wife co-founders Neha Shah and Vir Mehta know that experience well. They were inspired to launch their Frisco-based startup, DoTells, after their child’s lost water bottle had them searching throughout Paris to find it and stop the crying.
“[Our child] just had a meltdown over it. He just wanted to drink water from that water bottle and left it somewhere,” Shah, who serves as CEO, told Dallas Innovates. “That was when I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, there has to be a better way.’”
A problem finds a solution
Having moved from India to the U.S. as a teenager, Shah says she’s always been ambitious. So she made the leap having a corporate career as a CPA to launching her lost-and-found web and mobile app at the beginning of the year.
“When you have your own business, the potential is unlimited,” Shah said. “That was kind of the driver. I was like, ‘If I don’t try it today I never will, and I will regret it.’”
Using technology to solve an age-old problem, the concept behind DoTells is simple. Users attach a QR-tagged sticker that’s registered to them to any item they value—from car keys and credit cards to luggage and cell phones. (And yes, children’s water bottles.) If that item is lost, the person who finds it can scan the tag with their phone and connect anonymously with the owner to work out a way to return it.
“It’s a low-key technology, but with game-changing effects,” Shah said.
‘People just got it right away’
While still in its early stages, the company has seen its concept validated by garnering more than 100 users. The co-founders have also seen it validated through personal experience. When the company was developing its MVP, Shah and Mehta would walk around their community leaving keys with DoTells tags attached. Once found, the majority were returned through the platform.
“People just got it right away,” Shah said.
Plans to add incentives for returns, and integrations with shipping firms
Bootstrapping and with a boost in the knowledge and use of QR codes by users amid the pandemic, DoTells has plans for building out the platform. The co-founders plan to add features that include ways to incentivize the return of items and integrating with shipping companies to expedite returns.
The company is also looking to eventually change its business model, shifting away from its current direct-to-consumer focus to become more of a B2B2C company. It’s exploring partnering with manufacturers and credit card issuers in order to have DoTells tags pre-affixed to items that can be activated to the individual owner upon purchase. Shah said the company has already partnered with a few daycares in the community, to help parents track down items lost by their students.
“This is going to really solve a common problem, which doesn’t have a simple, solid solution,” Shah said. “This is going to help people. We think that everybody should have this.”
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