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!