Colu, a blockchain based payments app is pioneering the concept of localising cryptocurrency for a better community. Colu offers peer-to-peer payment platforms facilitating digital financial transactions at local businesses, creating a closed-loop economy to bolster the economic well-being of the community. Earlier this week they launched the “Local Pound, East London”.
Founded in 2014 by Amos Meiri, who had also founded ColouredCoins.org before then, Colu use the blockchain for various types of financial transactions – both physical and digital. They initially created local currencies for some parts of Tel Aviv, and as the community and the customer base increased, they brought them together under an umbrella currency for Tel Aviv (Florentine Shekel). They now have local currencies for Jaffa (Pishpesh Shekel) and also have created the local currency for Barbados (Barbadian Digital Dollar).
“What we did is, we developed what we call an economy in a box. A solution to manage digital currencies on top of the Blockchain”
Many British towns and cities are already familiar with the concept of a local currency, usually supported by the local council. Bristol, Brixton, Exeter, Kingston, Glasgow, Birmingham all have their local currencies. Colu have added to this list by launching their first UK based local currency for Liverpool in 2016, and now for East London.
Research by Local Multiplier 3 shows that every £1 spent with a local supplier is worth £1.76 to the local economy, and only 36 pence if it is spent out of the local area. That makes £1 spent locally worth almost 400 % more to the local economy. That’s a much better proposition than paying multinationals for the same products and services.
Colu have chosen Liverpool and East London because they believed there was a strong sense of community pride and a booming tech landscape that would help build a local digital economy. The Liverpool Pound now has about 16000 users and about 30 businesses accepting the currency. Businesses pay a £20 monthly fee to Colu. Customers then pay via the app on their phone, and Colu pays the businesses what they’re owed on a monthly basis.
Local currencies have had challenges in sustaining the initial momentum, as its essential for local businesses and their suppliers to be using them consistently. Local currencies created in the UK so far have been supported by their councils, and when the currency loses steam, they can get behind it.
Not sure if Colu would receive such support if needed. However, they have reached 50,000 customers and $1 Million in transactions on their platform. Momentum is certainly there.
Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Fintech thought-leader and an investor.
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