Cobber and bayanihan.
One is Australian slang for a mate, the other is a Filipino word representing the spirit of community co-operation and working towards a common goal.
Together, they drive Roann Junio-Hartmann’s vision for a more inclusive society that uses technology to improve lives, and has been put into fruition with the beta launch of her app Cobber.
Originally born in the Philippines and now based in Adelaide’s southwestern suburbs, Junio-Hartmann is the founder and inventor of a peer-to-peer delivery platform, Cobber, which aims to amass a fleet of drivers to transport bulky second-hand goods.
The innovation came through the founder’s own lived experience as a single mother, raising two children in public housing, who relied on second-hand goods sourced from Facebook and Gumtree to furnish her house.
Junio-Hartmann doesn’t drive and often sellers did not have a suitable vehicle to transport larger items.
“This business is important to me because it is solving a very real social problem,” she says.
“Social marketplaces offer amazing second-hand goods, but if you are among the many people in this country who cannot afford a car, or you are too busy to go and pick up a couch, accessibility is a huge barrier.
“This is not just about another gig economy business; it’s rooted in a story about social isolation and connection; that’s why at Cobber, we are using technology to create a more inclusive world.”
Customers will be able to book a delivery driver on the Cobber app using a similar technology to that of Uber. The customer will have to upload a photo of the product, including approximate dimensions, and once the job is submitted a driver is alerted.
With an automated payment system, and an upfront instant quote for cost of service, Junio-Hartmann says the app provides a hassle-free customer experience, avoiding lengthy negotiations.
Junio-Hartmann, who has a computer engineering background, says Cobber provides a smarter, economical and sustainable way to transport goods, while financially rewarding drivers who want to use their vehicle and spare time to help in the community.
“Research shows that people are likely to pay more for delivery if it’s a second-hand item because they know they are still getting a saving,” she says.
At the time of publication, the app had 31 pre-registered drivers and some 200 people waiting to test the software.
“The goal is to increase the brand presence, and encourage more people to get onboard and help their community and put some extra money in their back pocket,” Junio-Hartmann says.
And with the value of unused and unwanted goods in the Australian circular economy estimated to be $62 billion with projected yearly growth, according to Gumtree and Planet Ark’s 2022 Trading in the Circular Economy Report, Junio-Hartmann says the potential of Cobber is unlimited.
Roann has raised an initial $45,000 for product development and aims to officially launch the app in mid-2023.
She was among six national winners of Stone & Chalk 2023 International Women’s Day Scholarship, which aims to support women in STEM with a six-month residency.
“The valuable insight that I would probably share with people looking for a business idea, is to pay attention to your own struggles and those of others because necessity is the mother of all invention,” she says.
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