Like the 53% of French tech entrepreneurs who believe this period could become an option[*], The WeWard mobile app – which rewards people for walking – has successfully returned and turned around, just a year after its launch in April 2019. “Getting people to walk no longer made sense. We therefore reversed the mechanism and encouraged our users to continue physical activity at home, ”explains Yves Benchimol, co-founder of the start-up. WeWard now only rewards users who comply with government recommendations: the longer you stay at home, the more points you earn, converted into gift cards, euros or donations to associations. To continue its growth, the startup now rewards users who engage in physical activity at home.
An audience at the meeting
Suddenly, “users jump in ropes, a more toned house or home sport to earn points,” the co-founder rejoices. WeWard’s initiative, which was released on social networks on the day of the announcement of the incarceration, made it possible to multiply the number of downloads of the app by five. “We had 5,000 downloads the same day compared to 1,000 in normal times,” pleases the founder of the app, which has one million downloads by April 2020, including 500,000 active users (users who connect at least once a month).
“We had to redouble our efforts to turn and adapt as quickly as possible.”
“The number one value of a mobile app is its audience. Our first goal was therefore to maintain it by providing a value-added service.” In the end, the company experienced only a 20% drop in user numbers. To compensate for this fall, the founders a sponsorship system. “We take the time to communicate with our users, to understand what they want and what appeals to them. “We work even more intensely than before, and the company has not put any of its employees in sub-activity. “We had to redouble our efforts to turn and adapt as quickly as possible.”
The eight employees work both with technological development and in the marketing and sales part to develop new offers. The crisis is a real vector of innovation for start-ups. “We imagine a lot of new features that we test every week,” says Yves Benchimol.
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Increased turnover …
The application, which recommends nearby places and is paid by merchants for the traffic it brings them, has changed its economic model after the closure of businesses and public places. To preserve its cash, the company has developed new sources of revenue. “We launched in-app advertising related to physical activity and online questionnaires thanks to partnerships with polling institutes.”
“In times of crisis, it is important to resume its cost structure and renegotiate contracts with its service providers. We are all in the same boat and everyone needs to make concessions. »
Recent innovation, the company has developed a marketplace dedicated to merchants who want to offer products that are valid for delivery on the mobile application. Result: The company managed to increase its revenue by 25% in March and expects an increase of 35% in April. “Our users are ultra-active and spend a lot of time on the app. But we know, for example, that questionnaires are not a viable source of long-term income. »
On the cash side, the company pays special attention to its expenses. Yves Benchimol has renegotiated the tariffs with all its service providers. “In times of crisis, it is important to resume its cost structure and renegotiate contracts with its service providers. We are all in the same boat, and we all have to make concessions, ”he says. Despite this good financial capability, the start-up is exploring the possibility of releasing a loan. “We are in discussion with our bank and with bpi.”
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… But fundraising on stand-by
But all is not well. “All of this represents a lot of work and stress with a vision of tomorrow that remains uncertain,” the entrepreneur acknowledges. The company, which is now profitable with a stable financial model, has been self-financing since the beginning. She had been preparing a collection for a few months, which she had to postpone. “Investors are hesitant during this period, especially as our basic economic model is not adapted to the situation.”
The application, which had 500 partner sites before incarceration, has only one today, Carrefour City. The company hopes these partnerships will resume when dealers reopen. As for the current negotiations, they were all stopped at once. “We had a very good dynamic before the confinement. It’s going to take time to get it all back together. We risk losing some because the budgets are getting tighter.”
[*] Barometer produced by Chausson Finance.
Charlotte de Saintignon