The value of bitcoin may have slumped, but one US start-up is betting on the digital currency after developing an app for Hong Kong’s coffee drinkers that will allow them to pay at Starbucks with it.
The app, called Fold, is offering a 20 per cent discount to customers paying in bitcoin at the coffee chain. Starbucks is the first major global retailer where bitcoin can be used in-store.
The app works through stored-value payment cards such as Octopus, which can be synced with the user’s account on the app.
Matt Luongo, founder and chief executive of the firm that built the app, said he hoped it would provide a turning point after bitcoin’s troubled past.
“I hope [Starbucks use] helps raise awareness. Bitcoin needs to erase its past," Luongo said. “People see it as a scam and speculation, but I’m looking forward to showing them how to get cheaper groceries."
Luongo said the Starbucks discount was a bid to “drive more usage" because “bitcoin is difficult to use" without an incentive.
Michael Chau Chiu-lung, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s faculty of business and economics, said any move to allow bitcoin to be spent was “helpful".
“This app is more of a help for the merchants in my view, but giving a discount is certainly a good way to attract more people to use bitcoin," he said. “Such incentives may encourage customers to overcome the hurdle of using bitcoin."
He said the jury was out on “whether consumers are willing to adopt it".
Hundreds of delegates are expected to attend Hong Kong’s second bitcoin conference today and tomorrow in Wan Chai, despite the value of the currency slumping to US$242 a piece, down from US$1,242 at its height.
Since bitcoin emerged, it has allegedly been used for illegal drug purchases and money laundering.
In Hong Kong, some 150 people reported they had been defrauded by local trading platform MyCoin, saying they had lost of total of HK$100 million.
Fold is able to offer the Starbucks discount by buying US dollars from unwanted Starbuck Cards – the coffee chain’s own stored-value payment card – at a low price and passing on the savings to bitcoin users.
Leonhard Weese, president of the Bitcoin Association Hong Kong, said: “The Fold app is a great demonstration of how smooth it is to pay with bitcoin. I’m sure other retailers are watching closely, and we will see more of this soon."
“Starbucks has always been a leader in mobile payments and will continue to drive innovations that will enhance customers’ digital experience,” a Starbucks spokesman said.
Correction: A quote was corrected to clarify that Starbucks is not currently working with Fold.
Source from SCMP
Standing under the stage lights with a confident smile, 18-year-old Zhou Bangwei tried to persuade a full-house audience that the new mobile app he designed would rejuvenate his father’s declining business.
Metersbonwe, a major home-grown fast fashion brand whose profits have shrunk in the past few years as Western brands and e-commerce platforms flooded the market, is now pinning its hopes on the mobile internet. It’s new shopping app allows users to start their own shops where they share “dress collocations” – or how people match clothes to improve their appearance – and get commission from the company if the outfits are picked and purchased by others.
Targeting young consumers born in the 1990s, the app avoids “stiff” business procedures and allows them to “create beauty, share and spread it, and make profits while benefiting others,” said the son of Wenzhou billionaire Zhou Chengjian at the company’s 20th anniversary celebration in Shanghai last week.
Many contemporaries of the junior Zhou, the so-called post-90s generation known for their tech savviness and individuality, are playing a increasingly important role in the transformation of traditional industries by utilising the internet, a strategy that Premier Li Keqiang raised in his work report last month.
Called “internet plus”, the strategy focuses on internet-powered start-ups and how new technology can be applied to traditional sectors as the world’s second biggest economy looks for an effective way to restructure itself.
“I’m combining the resources of a post-60s and the mindset of a post-90s, who has the internet gene flowing in his blood,” said Zhou Chengjian, who was forced to close some 800 stores last year in an effort to restructure the company, once one of the most popular brands among young mainlanders.
“If we don’t know how to use the internet to refresh our experience and knowledge, there will be absolutely colder winter, and if we do, then the spring is approaching,” he said.
Others may not have a billionaire father, but they are also adding renewed vigour to old industries.
Daxiang, a condom manufacturer co-founded by post-90s college classmates Liu Kenan and Zhao Chuan in Beijing just over a year ago, became popular among young internet users overnight and won investment from several venture capital firms for its novel business model.
Unlike other condoms that are typically sold in supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores, the company sells its products only online without a bricks-and-mortar distributor.
Its condoms are also designed to improve the sexual experience for women, instead of the industry’s stereotyped focus on men.
“We vowed to ‘overthrow tradition’ because we’re the youngest in this sector and have a better sense of entertainment,” said Zhao, who leads a team of fewer than 30 members who are mostly in their twenties.
Liu Yongjie, a senior student in Guangzhou’s South China University of Technology, has also seen business burgeoning at his Western-style restaurants that were started with online crowd-sourced funding.
He opened his first Bepotato restaurant near the Wushan campus with an investment of 850,000 yuan (HK$1 million) a year ago, of which 350,000 yuan was funded from Liu’s school mates via WeChat, the mainlands’ most popular social media platform.
With two other outlets opened recently and two more being fitted out, each of the restaurants has more than 160 shareholders with an aggregate investment of 1 million yuan, said Liu.
He said what also made the restaurants different was that they allowed students to participate, whether in terms of decoration, participating in offline weekly events or even waiting on tables.
“We serve for college student start-ups. Our shareholders are at the same time our most important customers,” he said, adding that three restaurants now operating have all started to make a profit.
Zhou Meihua, head of Shanghai Yingzhi Investment Consulting that advises young entrepreneurs, believes more students will launch businesses by embracing new technology, thereby changing traditional industries.
“I’m confident that the cultivation of youth’s creativity and entrepreneurship will make a group of outstanding business people in the future,” she said.
Young people today have characters that encourage entrepreneurship, she explained, adding that the growing number of organisations providing support for start-ups would also help.
Hong Kong, like most global cities, is in a race to keep its competitive advantage as the rapid advance of technologies and the Internet put the emphasis on innovation and fostering new companies over traditional business strengths.
The Hong Kong government has made efforts to transform the economy into a more innovation-driven one, including setting up start-up facilitators such as the government-backed Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks, while private initiatives include Nest.vc, a venture capital firm working as an accelerator for start-ups.
But to move to the next level, the city may want to pay heed to the plans of New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who has unveiled a series of proposals drawing in academia and business to build New York into a rival to Silicon Valley.
Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY event on Monday, de Blasio explained how three pillars, which he identified as professional development, access and innovation, will help New York secure its place as a tech hub.
“I like to brag about the glories of my city; sometimes it’s tempting to feel a little competitive with other cities,” de Blasio said. “This year, New York City has surpassed [San Francisco’s Bay Area] in startup funding requests.”
As part of his plans, de Blasio announced funding of US$29 million to support science, technology, engineering and maths teaching in the city’s public university, City University of New York.
Another US$70 million will improve access to affordable high-speed internet, with most of the money, some US$60 million, to go on building wireless corridors to provide free or low-cost internet access to up to 50,000 low-income residents.
The initiatives follow the city’s Tech Talent Pipeline, which de Blasio launched in May 2014 with US$10 million funding to train New Yorkers to become the hires of choice for tech firms.
De Blasio said the tech ecosystem in New York provides 300,000 jobs and US$30 billion in wages each year.
The plans are similar to suggestions that Google chairman Eric Schmidt made in an interview with the South China Morning Post in late 2013, when he expressed a hope that the Hong Kong government would open more technical universities, attracting more software engineers rather than more investment bankers.
Political squabbling in Hong Kong over electoral reform could make it difficult for the government to win approval from the legislature for funding for new projects, meaning that the private sector may have to take up the running.
One area where Hong Kong has a competitive advantage is in global finance, and Nest.vc recently joined Singaporean bank DBS to launch a new dedicated start-up accelerator programme to help new and small firms get into the financial technology business, a growing field that encompasses such areas as mobile payment systems, analytics and risk management.
Consulting firm Accenture has estimated that global investments in financial technology ventures tripled to US$12.2 billion last year, from US$4.05 billion in 2013. Investments in Asia-Pacific financial technology ventures have grown to US$767 million last year, from US$245 million in 2013.
source from SCMP