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Botteega and the SME instrument

Young woman buys grocery 
Botteega is a startup based in Cagliari, which has set up a platform for making online purchases at Cagliari's municipal food markets with home delivery within 1-3 hours from placing the order for local deliveries, or delivery within a few days if shipped outside Sardinia. The company is one of the beneficiaries of the SME instrument of Horizon 2020 under the topic "New business models for inclusive, innovative and reflective societies", for which it applied in the round closed in September 2016. The application was successful and Botteega was selected as one of the beneficiaries of Phase I (€ 50,000). Through Sardegna Ricerche, which is a local node of Enterprise Europe Network, the company will access coaching services (an expert made available by the European Commission) for the duration of the project, to maximise its chances of success. We asked some questions to Alessandro Massarelli, the founder of Botteega.

Can you run us through Botteega's activities and its current mode of operation? Who are your ideal clients?
Botteega is a solution for buying fresh, high-quality food products from local markets, groceries and producers, with deliveries in a few hours, or in a few days if the order is placed from another city.
We create "virtual markets" which bring together several sellers located next to each other, for a simpler, handy online purchasing experience for consumers. Customers can simply type in their delivery address, pick one of the available markets and make a single purchase from several market stalls or shops, with a single delivery. Our network of independent "Shoppers" manage orders assisting the customer by chat, phone and email.
They ensure our customers get the best deals, as we select the sellers on our platform on the basis of product quality and freshness, focusing on local, artisan-produced and/or organic produce and food products. Any suppliers that fail to meet our strict quality standards on quality and freshness are removed from the platform. So far, out of more than 8000 deliveries, we can count on the fingers of one hand the complaints we have received, all of which were easily solved.
Our ideal clients are people who like to eat fresh food, but whose time for fresh food market shopping is limited and thus need a personalised service that takes the experience of shopping at the greengrocer's online. Moreover, by shopping from small suppliers, customers support the local growers and food producers and the local economy, thus benefiting the local community.

What is the aim of the project you submitted, and why did you choose the SME instrument?
The Botteega project aims to become the default platform for small-scale organised distribution, with a focus on the agrifood sector, which is the one most tied to local production and the territory. The presence of this platform generates a number of positive economic and social spinoffs for the entire local community. Many studies have shown that small-size businesses generate a larger number of jobs, improve quality of life in the local communities in which they are based and help increase the consumption of the healthier, fresher food produced in the area. For centuries, greengrocers and food markets have been the key commercial outlet for the produce from the local farms, with sellers having extensive experience in and knowledge of the products for sale.
However, there is a major problem, which is fragmentation. This means limited resources for innovation, difficulty in reaching consumers effectively and lack of coordinated marketing actions. As a result, small-scale food trade is in crisis under the pressure of large supermarket chains and must adapt quickly to the needs of present-day consumers; otherwise it risks becoming relegated to a few small niche areas. The consequence is that today even Sardinia, a region with vast agricultural areas if compared with its resident population, is forced to import more than 80% of its food products, while much of our farmland is abandoned and the municipal food markets are declining because their sales model no longer meets the needs of today's consumers.
Thus, our project is addressed to SMEs to offer them a new way of approaching their customers: a "turnkey" solution that covers marketing, e-commerce and deliveries, without forcing suppliers to revolutionise their usual business practices. It is a solution that improves life for all: buyers, suppliers and local producers.

Being a startup, what are the next steps you plan to take? What are your priorities?
Our project was born in Cagliari, where we were able to design our model around covered markets, street markets, individual greengrocers and farmers. The project has been built on almost no budget. We know well that to be effective this kind of service needs strong demand, which at least for the time being is more readily found in large cities, in Italy and in Europe. This is why we will examine the possibility of exporting our service to other areas too, not only in Italy but also abroad, since the issue we are addressing is experienced in many cities. We are also thinking of offering our service to the city councils too. For instance, we could provide a city council that manages a historical market with our platform to map the products available in the market and offer them online at competitive prices and with fast delivery, enabling sales in mainland Italy (and in the future abroad too).
One of the priorities is certainly to upgrade our software, which right now is little more than a prototype with many limitations, in order to make it scalable across several areas. Clearly, to do this we need to secure funding. We are working on finding public and private partners, also to participate in Phase 2 of the Horizon2020 calls. We are quite optimistic: the world is changing and many now realise that economic development models need to be more participatory and have a stronger focus on sustainability and on spinoffs for the local community.

European Commission - SME Instrument
Enterprise Europe Network