Towards the end

The time of my FMS placement is creeping towards the end. The first day of classes and the new semester at MIIS is only a little over a week away. Classmates who have spent their summer breaks all over the world are starting to arrive back in Monterey. While I am a little jealous of all their stories and adventures, I also know that my work for both CloudPay and Village Capital don’t have to end here. One of the things that excited me about the opportunity to stay local was the prospect of being able to carry on my work and contributions after the summer was over.

While CloudPay went live with a soft launch in the past few weeks, there is now the chance to start building out the network of local and independent businesses from Santa Cruz into Monterey. This is a really exciting prospect and one that I am glad to be a part of. Monterey has both a strong non-profit community and core of independent merchants. The CloudPay business model has every chance of being successful here too. While I am going to have a busy and demanding class schedule this time around, I will appreciate the diversion from school work and the chance to contribute in a meaningful way to CloudPay and Village Capital.  Will post another a final update next week!

Building Something New

So I’ve already been working with CloudPay for over a month now. It is hard to believe how fast it has gone. Now being at about the half way stage of my placement, the venture is also at a turning point. For a long time, and certainly before I started contributing, the big challenge was getting local businesses to take the leap and sign up for the program. This is an obvious challenge given the fact that the concept is so new, and while it is so promising, and feedback has been nothing but positive, it is as yet unproven.

Now however, a critical mass of businesses have signed up to join us on the journey. And the more that sign up, they easier it becomes to sell to others. Whilst the process of introducing and selling the concept to business owners remains ongoing, my responsibilities are shifting to launching the customers so they can start running sales through the CloudPay network. This involves setting up the merchant accounts, ensuring the POS systems are ready to process payments and training staff on how to use the system and encourage their customers to become members. Like any startup company there will be a significant amount of learning from mistakes and from problems that arise, as well as by doing. But I think that’s all part of the fun and what keeps it interesting! It is really exciting to know that the first transactions, and thus the first donations to the local non-profit community are only days away!

The other part of my job this summer is working with Village Capital as a Frontier Market Scout. Northern California doesn’t necessarily meet the description of a ‘Frontier Market’, but it has been a great experience nonetheless. Of course, the San Francisco Bay Area already has an extremely developed market for social enterprises. It seems every next person is an entrepreneur, works for a startup, is a Silicon Valley tech superstar or even an investor. Because of this, the challenge is not so much to find budding enterprises and find out where they are working (as is the case for many of my colleagues overseas in emerging markets) but to really identify who is the best fit for VilCap’s programs, and who is making the greatest, or has the potential to make the greatest social impact. Who is out there that will benefit the most fromm the Village Capital model?

I have met and talked to some really exciting entrepreneurs. Given Village Capital’s previous programs in the Bay Area, many are already familiar and excited to learn more, and talk about their companies. Regardless of the incredible resources available in the Bay Area, the challenges to budding entrepreneurs with a great idea are the same as anywhere else … mentorship, support, access to capital, and realizing their dream on a shoestring budget.

It has also been great having the support of other scouts in the area, and made for some great Village Capital Mondays … our weekly happy hours hosted at various locations. This week we were in Palo Alto, with a great turnout of 10 – 15 people working in the social enterprise space, plus myself, Kate, Serenity and Anu.  Next week will be in San Francisco, and I am looking forward to meeting more entrepreneurs! Stay posted for another update soon!


It has been a couple of weeks now since I started my Frontier Market Scout summer placement. Unlike most of my fellow classmates and scouts in the program, I haven’t gone very far! In fact, I still find myself in Monterey. This is a little unusual and surprising given the program’s focus on emerging markets and developing countries, however I am lucky to be working with a very exciting company just across the Monterey Bay, in Santa Cruz.

This summer most of my energy will spent contributing to the work of CloudPay. The mission of the company is to fundamentally benefit the local economy and community, by creating a network and partnership amongst the independent businesses, nonprofits and consumers of the Monterey Bay area. CloudPay has created a mobile payment platform, which allows members (customers) to make purchases at participating merchants using their phone. Every time a transaction is made in this way, the usual 3% fee the business usually has to pay to Visa or Mastercard is redirected to a local nonprofit organization of the customers choice. This is such a unique approach to both a community rewards program and a marketing challenge for business owners. The vision is to change the dynamic of the local economy, keeping more money in the region, creating jobs, nonprofit support and increasing the city and county tax revenues.

Before I started, much of the foundational work had already been done. This included building the financial framework, developing the software and testing the concept in the community. Now that has all been done it is time to launch the program. It goes live this week, so it is a an extremely exciting time. In this early stage, the most important component is the merchant network; getting business owners to sign up to participate. What has started has a small handful of stores, is now starting to grow. A lot of my work over the next few weeks will be to get out and pitch the program, get people excited and share the vision. Through much time spent in meetings with business owners over the past couple of weeks, it is fantastic to see how enthusiastic so many people are, and how many support the vision. It is however more difficult to get them to be amongst the ‘first in’  of the CloudPay network, and actually sign up. But as the 2nd week in July begins, the venture is gaining traction, and before long, customers and retailers that care, will be starting to make valuable contributions to Santa Cruz community simply through their every day spending and purchases.

I am thrilled to be a part of this, and to be involved at the most critical stage. It will be an amazing experience to learn, and to contribute to a terrific enterprise. I look forward to sharing updates over the next few weeks!