Melbourne businesswoman Grace Wong has always been inspired by startups using new technology to solve old problems. She realised that tech has changed the way people order takeaway meals but she wanted to devise a way to liven up people’s lives by rewarding them for dining out.
Wong co-founded and launched the app Liven – which is already making waves in revolutionising the way we dine out. What makes it really unique is Liven makes dining out affordable as well as charitable.
Wong told SheHacksNews Liven was largely borne out of her frustration with similar products that were inconvenient or too ‘clunky.’
“Liven acts as a restaurant loyalty and rewards platform that actually pays people to eat! We give our users cashback, typically 25 per cent of their bill back as a reward when they pay through our application,” Wong said.
“Paying for you meal with Liven is convenient and reminiscent of the way you pay for a ride with Uber, you just request your bill and then swipe to confirm, and the payment is made cashlessly.”
You can use Liven to pay for a restaurant bill the same way you pay for an Uber ride; simply request the bill on your phone then swipe to pay and you’re instantly rewarded with cash credit.
The cash credit can either be used towards your next feed at partner restaurants. Or you can choose to donate part or all of your credit to charity.
What were the first steps in developing Liven?
“First, we created a detailed business plan that outlined our initial development roadmap, marketing strategy and partner acquisition strategy, which was impressive enough to enable us to raise some seed funding. This capital fuelled the development of our apps and database, allowing the creation of a minimum viable product (MVP) that we could take to restaurants and use to sell our service,” Wong said.
“It was during this phase we hit the pavement hard, talking to hundreds of restaurant owners and signing launch partners which allowed us to grow a user base of early adopters.”
An initial stumbling block was solving the ‘chicken and egg’ issue that affects many businesses tackling the two-sided marketplace.
“The restaurant owners wanted to know that we had a large user-base before they got on board. But users didn’t want to try the app until we had an extensive selection of restaurants for them to visit,” Wong said.
“We solved this problem by changing our sales tactics, redirecting our pitch from selling the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to instead focus on selling the ‘why.’ We convinced restaurant owners to share our dream, to see the potential that we had to create a great product for them and to take a chance on a young company with the promise that we will always look after those who gave us a shot when we were just beginning.”
What makes Liven unique is the combination of convenient mobile payments with an enticing reward. Wong believes other mobile payment platforms have failed because they didn’t provide users with a compelling reason to pay through their system.
“Liven rewards users every time they pay through the app, creating a centralised loyalty platform for restaurants. The ability to share some of the reward with a charity is also something we are very proud of, and represents an innovative new way for people to support charities that fits in seamlessly with their lifestyle.”
Wong wants to pass on some advice to other women starting tech businesses – firstly to take networking seriously.
“There’s a saying, ‘It isn’t what you know, but who you know that creates success’ and I believe this is really true. Looking back, I see everything from funding to corporate partnerships stemming from relationships with people, in ways that I could never have expected,” Wong said.
“I make a huge effort to stay in touch with everyone I meet. I believe relationships are the most valuable personal asset you can have, and you never know who might be able to help you out in the future. Having said that, relationships also take work to maintain and grow, and you have to make a conscious effort to keep them strong.”
When it comes to plans for the future, Wong said they finally have a mature product that is highly scalable and ready to take global.
“Our product is now polished, our technology is sound and our growth strategies are solid. With over 120,000 users and 500 restaurant partners onboard we have a solid foundation on which to grow,” Wong said.
“We’re looking to grow our Melbourne and Sydney markets as well as expanding to our third Australian city within 2017. We’re also in discussion with several overseas investors for the launch of our product in foreign markets, likely the USA and UK, by early next year. So it’s a really busy but exciting time for us.”