RefundMe Could Help Tourists Reclaim Billions in Unclaimed VAT

This year’s 4YFN Shanghai Awards brought together an impressive group of startups from around the world to battle it out to be named the show’s top startup.

On the final day of 4YFN Shanghai, four of the finalists pitched live on stage to a panel of investors and startup experts. Each startup was given four minutes to deliver a punchy presentation and two minutes to take questions from the panel. The finalists included:

  • YouBeWon (China) – is building a big data service platform and products based on operator networks. Its core team members come from Huawei, Lenovo, HNA and other well-known Chinese tech companies. The business has already attracted millions of dollars in angel investment and big name partners in the real estate and telecoms sectors as customers.
  • ClareKnows (China) – delivers interactive AI-powered marketing solutions. It engages existing and potential customers using artificial intelligence natural language chat and provides product recommendations and information to customers, partners and employees.
  • RefundMe (Netherlands) – is a platform that digitizes the VAT refund process for Non-European tourists using IoT.
  • Ambeent (USA) – An app that optimises Wi-Fi by reducing wasted capacity and interference from neighbouring routers using predictive AI.

The slickest pitch on the day came from Jerome Ibanez who wowed the crowd with a polished presentation about his startup’s plans to reform the VAT refund system at airports. He outlined a big problem: tourists bought approximately €126 billion worth of goods in 2018, entitling them to approximately €23 billion worth of VAT refunds. As little as €3 million of the money eligible for VAT refunds is reclaimed each year because of the lengthy, inefficient manual process at airports.

Using RFID and IoT, he explained how RefundMe could digitize the process to create a seamless transaction at the border for travellers that could validate up to 1000 items per second. The startup is making swift progress, with a gamechanging pilot project with Europe’s third busiest airport, Schiphol, in the works.

We spoke to Jerome after the ceremony to see how he felt about RefundMe’s triumph in Shanghai and he was understandably delighted. According to Jerome: “Winning the 4YFN Shanghai Awards 2019 is a huge boost for us. We’re currently in the pilot phase in the Netherlands but winning the prize gave us a lot of exposure in Asia, where most of our future clients are going to be from. We’ve only been up and running since late last year but it feels amazing to get such good feedback not just from the judging panel, but also the people in the audience during the pitch.”

4YFN’s Director Pere Duran agreed: “We were blown away by Jerome’s pitch. He’s identified a big opportunity and was a clear winner on the day. We want to wish RefundMe the very, very best of luck and I hope that we’ll all be using their service soon!”

 


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