Valuable and even sentimental personal items are lost on a regular basis. You may have left your iPhone on the subway, or unknowingly dropped your wallet on the floor of a cab. But there’s a solution that’s commanding the attention of the absentminded. Belon.gs is a QR code-based lost-and-found service that makes it possible for the good Samaritans among us to return lost items to their original owners.
The three month old startup, which launched its open beta on June 18, is the brain child of CEO Tomi Alapaattikoski, and his six co-founders, all Finnish natives. Among the team, Alapaattikoski and two other co-founders have been touring the United States after arriving only one week ago. With their plush blue mascot resembling the Japanese character Domo in tote, the trio has been handing out free cards of QR-coded stickers to crowds of early adopters. The service, despite its infancy and non-existant PR push, has already amassed over 7,000 users, with a bulk of them now coming from the United States.
The concept of Belon.gs is simple. If you’ve received a free set of stickers, you’ll notice that each QR code is accompanied by a unique URL. You may either scan the code or enter the URL (the code will open up the URL), which then prompts you to register an account (if you haven’t done so already) or type in a description of the item that will sport the sticker. If you end up losing the registered item, the person that discovers it can simply scan the QR code, which opens up the item’s Webpage, and immediately notify the owner with a click of a button – the notification is sent to the owner’s email address.
Alapaattikoski’s Belon.gs is his second company. Currently he runs Andersinno, a successful medium-sized technology company he founded in Finland, which builds e-commerce platforms for major Finish corporate clients. But Belon.gs is bootstrapped and a labor of love that he hopes will make an impact. “We want to make our mark on the world,” Alapaattikoski told us.
To penetrate the market, its industrial strength vinyl infused plastic stickers (which can be ordered on Belon.gs) and platform will remain free of charge (including shipping and handling) for everyday consumers.
So how can Belon.gs sustain itself? Belon.gs enables users to set “reward” amounts for finders of the lost item. Belon.gs will then take a percentage of the rewards for items that have been found. Alapaattikoski recapped a meeting with an interested investor who had signed up and placed a $1,000 bounty on the recovery of her iPhone.
And on the enterprise side, the team has recognized that its Web platform can double as a cheap asset management tool for businesses. With corporate equipment exchanging hands regularly, the management of its assets becomes cumbersome and costly. By using Belon.gs, simply sticking a QR-coded sticker and registering the item will enable businesses to keep track of who owns what and where the item is located for less than a hundred dollars to a couple of hundred dollars per month, depending on the number of stickers ordered. All that is needed is a smartphone, stickers, and Internet access. It’s by far a cheaper alternative to competitors requiring corporations to purchase scanning equipment and tags for thousands of dollars.
In fact, Belon.gs already has a pending contract with the second largest media company in Finland.
The team has already begun fleshing out future iterations of Belon.gs to streamline and possibly expand its services. QR codes admittedly have a spotty record in the United States, unlike South Korea, Japan and even China and haven’t caught on as marketers had hoped. With that in mind Belon.gs, the team is looking into other types tags. In the short term however, using QR codes is the most cost effective strategy, short of purchasing expensive micro RFID tags – something that the team has looked into.
Ultimately, Alapaattikoski hopes that Belon.gs will be licensed by manufacturers of smartphones, glasses, plush toys, handbags and t-shirts, or just about anything that a consumer could misplace. By enabling manufacturers to tag its products with Belon.gs serves a dual purpose. With an improved tag, buyers of the item will be able to learn about the history of the product. If you’re attempting to authenticate a vintage Louis Vuitton bag, a Belon.gs tag could simplify the process without having to spend hundreds on an authenticator.
“We envision a greater future were good deeds are the norm and people don’t have to be afraid of ever losing anything valuable for good.” Alapaattikoski said. “To achieve this we aim to stick a Belon.gs tag on every valuable item in the world.”
Admittedly the success of the consumer platform at the moment relies on the altruism of the finders, but you just need to browse Reddit to know that Alapaattikoski’s idea could find a home.