What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?
Our biggest challenge is developing and strengthening partnerships that will allow us to scale efficiently. While our technology provides numerous benefits for both for-profit and non-profit organizations, assembling the right combinations of products, services and prices is always a challenge, and especially when negotiating with large multinational firms.
Moreover, the cost of hardware and data plans can also be prohibitive for many micro-entrepreneurs. To reduce the cost of the phone our clients sometimes subsidize the hardware so it is more accessible to our target customers; in exchange these clients receive free market research and/or other services for a defined period. With respect to the cost of data plans, fortunately the price is dropping rapidly in the countries where we operate and we are also negotiating special plans with mobile operators.
One note on the hardware: we are using smartphones because, while they were expensive, they allow us to combine power and ease-of-use. For example, with touch screens we can create big icons with little text to guide a user through the application, and with the processing speed and Internet connection we can provide all of the sophistication that a point of sale system needs.
Tell us about your partnerships
We have a number of important partnerships. In Colombia, we are working with the largest microfinance network in the country – Bancamia – to identity shopkeepers who may be interested in our point-of-sale solution. Also in Colombia, we are working with a poverty lab associated with Harvard University called Ideas42 to measure the impact of our technology on businesses.
In Mexico, we are working with a large NGO called Fundes to both reach new users as ell as develop new educational modules. Moreover, we will partner with industry leaders like Coca Cola and Movistar (a mobile operator) to reach shopkeepers quickly.
Explain your selections
We are a for-profit social enterprise which we run as a business -- we have raised money from private investors to launch the company and we are currently in the process from shifting from an investment-funded organization to a customer-funded organization. As we feel our main social impact is built into the software itself, and we also provide value to for-profit companies, we feel our scale model should be similar to other private sector product launches.
How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?
We will strengthen the company primarily through growth -- thousands of new shopkeeper users, new staff to support those users, and new clients and investors to help us scale and establish partnerships.