Editor’s Note: This article has been created in collaboration with Leaf.
As a company focussing on how brick & mortar stores can better engage with their customers, Leaf, a Berlin-based fintech startup, has been in close contact with retailers for the last couple of months. Thus, when closures were first discussed as a possible means to contain the coronavirus, the team was immediately aware of the potential financial consequences for a lot of businesses. This prompted founders Mitul Jain and Christopher Kane to think about how to enable stores, restaurants and the like to at least partially absorb their loss of income. As Leaf’s own plans to launch their digital receipts and rewards platform in-store at the beginning of April were also thwarted, the team then decided to focus all their efforts on building Stammi (www.stammi.de), a free platform that allows businesses to offer digital vouchers to their customers.
The launch of Stammi by Leaf
Using Stammi, a play on ‘Stammkunde’, which is German for ‘loyal customer’, patrons can thus support their favorite businesses even while they’re closed and redeem vouchers once stores open again. The entire process from offering the voucher to invalidating it takes place online, making it incredibly easy for businesses to use the service. In addition to being able to cover current costs, businesses also get the chance to engage with their customers and to give them something to look forward to once the closures are over. After the successful launch in Germany, Stammi is set to launch in the UK and Portugal in the coming week.
How Crises Push Innovation
A tool that gives small and medium-sized offline businesses the opportunity to offer digital vouchers had always been part of Leaf’s concept. The crisis pushed the idea to the top of the agenda and accelerated the implementation: It only took the Leaf team a little over a week to set up the platform, bring renowned online payment processor Stripe Inc. onboard and register the first businesses. In addition to presenting an easy and secure solution to the question of how to process payments, the cooperation with Stripe also made it possible for Leaf to offer the service completely free of charge.
Startups as Problem-Solvers
When looking at the time frame and process of launching Stammi, it’s also interesting to note that the urgency of the crisis led the Leaf team to skip some of the usual optimisation and testing. However, thanks to the quick feedback provided by the first registered businesses, bugs were promptly identified and removed, which resulted in the optimised product being available sooner than it would have been under normal circumstances. The story of Leaf shows that even though a lot of startups face similarly existential problems as other businesses, the opportunity to develop and to push innovation that this crisis presents should not be underestimated. After all, it is especially startups that are equipped to respond quickly and flexibly to new challenges. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that many other startups have similarly gone out of their way to create solutions for pressing problems. Some of them have facilitated the process of requesting tax deferrals, others are importing life-saving masks.
Considering how incisive of an event this crisis is for us as a society as well as for the economy, here’s hoping that the innovation, digitalisation and cooperation we are witnessing at the moment will outlive the crisis and bring about lasting change with regards to the role startups play as problem-solvers in our economy and society.
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