Like the 53% of French tech entrepreneurs who believe that this period can become an opportunity[*], the WeWard mobile app – which rewards people for walking – has successfully returned and pivoted, just a year after launching 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 the government’s 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 are jumping rope, a more toned house or home sports to earn points”, rejoices the co-founder. WeWard’s initiative, disseminated on social networks on the day of the announcement of the confinement, made it possible to multiply by five the number of downloads of the app. “We had 5,000 downloads on the same day compared to 1,000 in normal times”, rejoices the founder of the app, which has a million downloads in April 2020, including 500,000 active users (users who connect at least once a month).
“We had to redouble our efforts to pivot and adapt as quickly as possible. »
“The number one value of a mobile app is its audience. Our first goal was therefore to retain it by providing a service with added value”. In the end, the company experienced only a 20% drop in user numbers. To compensate for this drop, the founders envisioned say 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 partial activity. “We had to redouble our efforts to pivot and adapt as quickly as possible. »
The eight employees work both with technological development and on the marketing and sales side to develop new offers. The crisis is a real vector for innovation for start-ups. “We envision a lot of new features that we test every week,” says Yves Benchimol.
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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 advertising on the app related to physical activity and online questionnaires thanks to partnerships with polling institutes. »
“In times of crisis, it is important to resume your cost structure and renegotiate contracts with your service providers. We are all in the same boat and everyone has to make concessions. »
Latest 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 turnover 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 long-term source of income. »
On the cash side, the company pays particular attention to its expenses. Yves Benchimol has renegotiated the tariffs with all its service providers. “In times of crisis, it is important to resume your cost structure and renegotiate contracts with your service providers. We are all in the same boat and everyone has to make concessions,” he says. Despite this good financial standing, the start-up is investigating 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 this represents a lot of work and stress with a vision of tomorrow that remains uncertain”, acknowledges the entrepreneur. The company, now profitable with a stable financial model, has been self-financing since its inception. She had been preparing a fundraiser for a few months, which she had to postpone. “Investors are hesitant during this period, especially since our basic economic model is not adapted to the situation”.
The application, which had 500 partner locations before the incarceration, has only one today, Carrefour City. The company hopes these partnerships will resume when retailers reopen. As for the current negotiations, they were all stopped at once. “We had a very good dynamic before the lockdown. It will 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