Logo Regione Autonoma della Sardegna
sardegnaricerche  ›  ...  ›  news & events  ›  news  ›  living on an island without...

Living on an island without feeling isolated: the story of Prixe

Prixe’s logo 
At times, innovation follows unexpected routes. Take for example, someone who first set off from her home island of Sardinia on a quest to do and learn new things; who, far from home, met the right people to share her dreams and projects with; and who finally decided to return to her island to find the know-how she needed to turn her vision into reality. This, in a nutshell, is the story of Carla Pinna, co-founder and CEO of the start-up Prixe. Prixe is a mobile e-commerce app which just one day after being released on the Google Play store was nominated "App of the day" by a major online magazine. So we decided to have a chat with Carla to understand how she managed to pursue a cutting-edge activity despite the choice – against the recent trend – to "go back home".

How did Prixe come about and who is on its team?
The idea of Prixe was born almost by chance, from a need of Alessandro Ghilarducci, who together with myself and Filippo Sitzia today forms the team. We'd known each other for quite some time and at the time we were already working together on other projects. One day he told me he needed to buy a new notebook PC and that he was particularly keen on a certain model. The only problem was it cost more than he could spend at the time. He could not afford to spend days on the internet in search of offers, but still he would not give up on that model. So we made some searches and discovered that there were no tools to help him, and we decided to create an app ourselves, something that could search for our dream products at dream prices.

Initially, we spent time testing the soundness of our idea, not only in terms of reception by end-users, but especially in terms of interest by online stores, business model and appeal for investors. We soon realised that our idea could develop into a viable product and so we decided to invite in Filippo. He designed the architecture and developed Prixe as a service. Alessandro created and continues to take care of our network of affiliated stores, while I take care of the user side, from design of the user experience to promotion.

How does Prixe work and how is it different from other e-commerce apps?
For the time being, we have decided to release Prixe as smartphone app, specifically starting from Android. The app in itself is very simple: after quick registration, the user indicates what he or she is looking for and a price ceiling. If there are already one or two offers meeting the pre-set budget, the user receives a list of relevant promotions. If on the other hand no offer meets the budget criteria, users can add the product to their own "prixe" list: the app will continue with the search and will advise the customer when a suitably-priced offer comes up. Obviously this app is not appropriate for urgent purchases. What it does is focus on planned and much-sought purchases, which often potential purchasers give up on. The idea of launching this service as a smartphone app instead of on the web is due to the fact that users enter Prixe knowing exactly what they are looking for: the task of the app is to alert users as soon as their requirements are met, allowing them to take advantage of an offer.

How is the app panning out? Tell us something about feedback.
When we put the first version online, we intended to test Prixe with friends and acquaintances. We were taken by surprise when just one day after its release it was named "App of the Day" by a popular online magazine: this led to user numbers to exceed our rosiest expectations after not even 48 hours. And this of course led to a mass of feedback and comments of all kinds, which we used to improve the service. This has enabled us to reach a very good user rating (4.5 out of 5).

Obviously we are still working on improving the app, not only in terms of design; first of all we are increasing the number of partner online stores. As of today, Prixe specialises in the IT sector, electronics, smartphone and household appliances. Apart from extending the network of stores, we are now testing and adding new categories of products. One of the most frequent requests we get is to release a version for iOS, which is something we are working on as a priority.

We also felt it was important from the start to discuss matters with investors, and this enabled us to perfect our business model. This is a step that many start-ups find daunting, but we felt it was a key element to validate our project.

Prixe is an e-commerce app for smartphones. What is the outlook for this sector?
The sector in which Prixe operates lies at the convergence of two equally strong trends. On the one hand, the use of mobile apps has boomed in the past few years: the penetration and range of use of smartphones and tablets is expanding rapidly. At the same time, concerns about online purchases of goods and services are decreasing, as shown by the sustained growth of e-commerce over the years. Purchasing via mobile devices is not yet as extensive and widespread as that via the web, but – just to give you an example – in Italy about one third of smartphone owners made purchases last year through their mobile. This rate will increase exponentially and we plan to be at the forefront of this trend, with a new approach: matching the sales requirements of online stores with the price indications provided spontaneously by consumers.

You live in Sardinia. Can you pursue an innovative business with global reach from an island?
I am convinced that Sardinia has skilled and smart people who can make a difference in various sectors. It's true that digital technology is breaking down many barriers and bringing the world closer, but it's also true that our greatest challenge is to make an impact outside our island. I don't think it's necessary to abandon forever one's homeland to be enquiring, to learn and to try new things, in other words to innovate. I believe that it can be done while remaining on an island, provided you grasp and create opportunities for meeting and exchange.

But I'm also convinced that you cannot innovate by "holing yourself up" on an island, i.e. refusing to look beyond it, just focusing on local competition and ignoring what happens overseas. I have had the opportunity to take part in many events and programmes, such as Barcamper, TechGarage, MAAC and RestartEurope, which was held just last week. In this event, organised by Microsoft, participants brought their own experiences, the problems they faced in their area of operation, the lessons learnt and the know-how built in completely different contexts, thousands of miles apart. But what enabled us to work together was of course our capacity for dialogue and wish to exchange experiences.

Useful links
Prixe – Official website
Google Play Store - Prixe

Carlo Contu