Tech

A then 23-year-old's varsity project led to creation of algorithm now running Checkers' Sixty60 app

Business Insider SA
Kimberly Taylor, the founder and CEO of Loop.
Kimberly Taylor, the founder and CEO of Loop.
  • University project turns into a platform that guides Checkers' Sixty60 drivers to your door.
  • The project was meant to come up with a solution for the "Travelling Salesman Problem."
  • Solving this problem comes down to the best way to make multiple stops when going to several destinations.
  • Her technology allows companies to come up with the most cost effective routes.
  • It also allows customers to track the delivery
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Kimberley Taylor did not foresee her university project being turned into the delivery management platform now guiding Checkers' Sixty60 drivers to your door.

In 2015, Taylor, who was then 23-years-old, a third year student studying engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) had to come up with a solution for the "Travelling Salesman Problem."

The "Travelling Salesman Problem" is basically coming up with the most efficient way for someone to make multiple stops when going to several destinations.

Taylor did not know it at the time, but solving this problem is at the heart of e-commerce. Figuring out the best route to deliver goods quickly to the end customer, and allowing the customer to track how far the package is away, is what delivery services like Uber Eats and Mr D are effectively doing.

A difficult problem

Taylor, however, was not thinking that far ahead when she came up with her solution for the "Travelling Salesman Problem". Though standing on the corner and tracking a delivery bike on your phone now seems like normal behaviour, back in 2015, no one could imagine how transformative these services would eventually become.

Taylor might not have foreseen the future, she was, however, rather curious about whether logistic companies had come up with their own solution to the "Travelling Salesman Problem". To satisfy this itch, she just started randomly calling up these companies to ask them about their logistics issues.

To her surprise, they agreed to speak to her about it, but to her shock she found they had no solution to this problem.

Their logistics system amounted to them sending a delivery truck out in the morning, with a list of several stops to make. No real thought was given to sequencing the stops, so as to make the trip more efficient. There was also no clarity for either the company or their customers to where the truck was on the route.

"It was not just that the drivers didn't have an optimal route to follow, it's that the business had no idea where they were," Taylor recalls. "There was no visibility to the business. There was no visibility to the end customer."

She then realised she could come up with some technology that provided best routes and visibility to all concerned.

Taylor's curiosity paid off, as one of the companies she had met was the now defunct Taste Holdings, the then owners of the Dominos Pizza chain. Taste liked the concept so much, they hired her to come up with a platform to track pizza deliveries to its customers.

They told her, they had a mobile app, but they had no way of showing their customers how far the delivery was from them.

Pivotal moment

By that time Taylor already knew what she wanted to create in terms of features for the solutions, but when Taste came into the picture, it was a real game changer for her.

"That was such a pivotal moment, because I had created a sales deck of technology that I wanted to build but did not exist."

Before Taste had come along, she had already worked with a software development group to flesh out her ideas, but she still needed a financial backer to invest in her company, then called Cowa-Bunga.

This proved to be a difficult exercise. Taylor approached everyone she thought could fund her.

"I LinkedIn in all the sharks. I called everyone."

Prospective investors told her she was just a student with an idea and that she did not have an actual product.

In the end she managed to get the attention of auto and property focused investment group, Lightstone, which invested an undisclosed sum in June 2017.

It did not take long for Cowa-Bunga (now named Loop) to get off the ground, as about two months after the investment it had created the platform for Taste to start tracking its drivers.

Keeping track

Though Taste has since been shut down, Taylor was astute enough to keep track of how the technology she developed reduced costs and improved delivery performance for the fast-food group. This enabled her to show other companies the impact of her technology.

She later signed up Nando's and Kauai as customers, but the breakthrough moment was when she partnered with Checkers' Sixty60 in 2020.

Taylor had been speaking to logistics and distribution giant, RTT, who suggests she pitch to Checkers about using her technology. She did, and RTT, Checker's logistics partner ended up doing a deal with her.

Taylor does not give a figure for how much the group has made with its deal with RTT, only saying that it earns a fee for every trip.

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