Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Grace Wong, co-founder of Liven.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
Liven is a mobile payment technology built around a universal loyalty network of restaurant, lifestyle and travel businesses. Users find curated partner venues through the the app, pay with a single swipe, and earn Liven Cash — our dollar-for-dollar value network currency (usually earning around 20% of total spend). Liven Cash can be saved up, spent at any venue in our network, or passed on to a nominated charity. It’s a loyalty system that rewards memorable experiences; allowing users to do more of what they love.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your business?
We successfully closed a $10 million Series A funding round earlier in the year from a private equity firm, and currently, have a larger Series B round open to fuel our international expansion.
The growth of our customer base has been phenomenal. We’ve leveraged several corporate partnerships successfully (Uber, Secure Parking) to acquire users as well as working with charities through our Liven Love feature, where users can donate their Liven cash with a charity of their choice
The bulk of our new users are sourced from our highly optimised digital campaigns.We also focus on engaging in-venue branding and signage with our restaurant partners and activation plays.
Our referral program is pretty sweet too; we love rewarding our users a cool 10 bucks for inviting their fellow foodie friends to use Liven.
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
Our service is the first payment technology that is ‘consumer-first’. We built our platform with the goal of benefitting consumers and businesses, not banks or intermediary services.
Digital payments have evolved rapidly and are now generally bulletproof across the board security-wise, so that is no longer a major concern for consumers. We asked ourselves, “Why does payment technology have to be so cold?“. Why can’t it be a little fun? Especially if the things you are paying for are giant milkshakes or lasagne burgers!
With this in mind, we built Liven as a payment platform that is all about enjoying yourself, and being rewarded for it.
What's the biggest challenge facing your business?
As we are scaling rapidly, it has become crucial that we introduce streamlined processes and systems of operation that allow the founders of the business to step away from hands-on roles and focus more on the bigger picture.
In the same way that a McDonald’s franchisee has a large operations manual explaining how everything should work, we have been investing time into developing systems that can be easily passed on to our team as we launch into new territories; concentrating on increasing efficiency and allowing us to move faster.
What’s one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live with?
Snapchat! I probably get a little too distracted by it, but I actually have heaps of business contacts and clients on there! It sounds silly, but building strong, candid business relationships does so much more for your business than just impersonally emailing people when you need something.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
I had a good chat with Marc Randolph, founder of Netflix — he told me that the startup world is forever chaotic and that it is normal to always feel under-resourced and under pressure. There are so many competing priorities everywhere, but what sets successful founders apart is the ability to recognise which fires can be left burning and which ones need putting out, and to do this you must develop the ability to make quick decisions and rely on your gut feeling - it's a never-ending battle.
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