Q&A: Pointimize, the Startup Making it Easy to Use Your Credit Card Rewards for Travel

Q&A: Pointimize, the Startup Making it Easy to Use Your Credit Card Rewards for Travel
Photo Credit: Pointimize

What you need to know

'What we want to do is compile all the information on what hotels and flights you can redeem with your credit card reward points,' says Keith Wang, co-founder and CEO of Pointimize.

Ever had the experience of opening your credit card statement and seeing a huge amount of reward points you have no idea how to use?

In the past, people probably had to read-up online before getting a better idea of how to redeem their credit card reward points. Pointimize is looking to save people the time scrolling down endless blogs or FAQ's.

The new platform is aiming to compile all the information on what hotels and flights you can redeem with your credit card reward points. With a few taps on your keyboard and a click of your mouse, Pointimize will show you what those thousands of points are worth.

The startup is one of the 12 Taiwan startups showcasing in TechCrunch Disrupt NY this year, and The News Lens caught up with Keith Wang (王振濃), co-founder and CEO of Pointimize, to learn more about developing the platform.

The News Lens: What inspired you to start Pointimize?

Keith Wang: My first job after finishing graduate school in Taiwan was being a tour guide. I took tour groups to Japan for a little over one year and then did business development at Delta Electronics. That’s when I started thinking of launching a startup but never came across any good opportunities.

Then I traveled to the States to get a doctorate in computer science. Many schools in the U.S. offer programs under their business school that teach you how to launch a startup, and I applied for such a one-year business development program when I was studying at UC Davis. It was during that program I learned more comprehensively how to set up a startup, especially in Silicon Valley.

I grew interested in credit card reward points after finishing the program so I began writing a blog on the topic. I didn’t give it much thought when I started the blog, but because I had done the program and my professors had given me some connections, I decided to launch Pointimize in my third year of my doctorate program. The readership of blogs on credit card reward points was around 400,000 back then but it reached 3 million by 2016. That is 1 percent of the U.S. population, and over the threshold of a “niche market” in the States. So this industry is taking off in the U.S., and after getting my doctorate, I moved to Silicon Valley to start Pointimize (in 2015).

TNL: What are the features of Pointimize?

Wang: When you apply for a credit card in the States, you might get 50,000 reward points. This is a kind of promotion because competition is fierce in this market in the U.S., and around 2011 and 2012, many blogs teaching people how to use their reward points to travel started popping up. I was also one of them. But then I started thinking if I could design a platform, like Priceline, to change this ecology.

What we want to do is compile all the information on what hotels and flights you can redeem with your credit card reward points. This is the core value of our product.

TNL: Who are your competitors or potential competitors?

Wang: We currently don’t have a very clear competitor because no one is doing what we are doing. There are some potential competitors, like the bloggers I mentioned, but we’re asking these bloggers to work with us because we want to open this market. So, many of our potential competitors are now our partners.

We believe that in the future, platforms such as Expedia, will import our mechanism. This is also why if we succeed, there’s a high possibility they will acquire us. Everyone is watching this market, but it will be faster for startups to push it forward compared with big companies.

TNL: What is your current userbase?

Wang: We have 10,000 to 20,000 monthly active users.

TNL: How are you funding Pointimize?

Wang: We just raised our first round of angel fund from both Taiwan and the U.S.

TNL: How do you make revenue?

Wang: For now, when a user books a room or flight through our platform on any hotel or airline website, we receive a commission. But we believe in the future, all airlines and hotels will hope that consumers can use their reward points on their services, especially during the off-peak season. So we will make revenue if we can help bring in users then.

TNL: What are the challenges Pointimize has seen so far?

Wang: We’re a startup. We’re always seeing challenges. For example, we don’t have experience doing marketing in the U.S., so we need to try all kinds of marketing. But everyone in our team comes from a diverse background, and we are all excited to try things we haven’t done before. When you force yourself to learn, you will find that it’s actually not that hard.

So there will always be challenges, but they will always pass.

TNL: What are your expectations of TechCrunch Disrupt NY?

Wang: Because I’m based in Silicon Valley, I have met quite a few venture capitalists and potential investors. There are a couple of investors we could potentially work with, but we’re hoping to get more exposure. If we could attract investors that are already investing in tourism and are interested in our idea, then in addition to giving us money, they could bring more connections. This is very important to us.

There are two objectives we have for TechCrunch Disrupt; first, we hope to meet investors in New York that we haven’t met before. Second, we want more people to know about our platform, so in addition to reaching out to investors, we also want to promote ourselves to the general market.

The News Lens was sponsored by Taiwan Startup Stadium to attend TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017.

Editor: Edward White