Have you ever felt sorry for a homeless person or enjoyed a busker’s music enough to want to donate some change but found you’re without a penny in your pocket?
You’re not alone. With the use of contactless debit cards and digital wallets on the rise, it’s increasingly common to find you don’t have cash to donate.
According to the UK Payments Markets Summary, just 34 per cent of transactions were made in cash last year and this figure is set to decline even further.
Going cashless may be more convenient for many of us, but the move has left many who rely on cash donations worse off.
Vassiliadis wants to ‘twist technology to make everyone equal in a cashless society’
It’s this mismatch that Giving Streets founder Dimitris Vassiliadis wants to address.
This is Money met up with him in Amsterdam, where he participated as England’s representative in the global Chivas Venture competition, pitching his business to a panel of judges to try and win his share of $1million (£772,215).
What is Giving Streets?
Chivas Venture is an international competition where entrepreneurs making a social and environmental impact are pitted against each other to win a share of $1million (£772,215).
Prizes are awarded with ‘no strings attached’.
The competition, which was first launched in 2014, is staggered and the closer competitors get to the final, the bigger the cash prizes they stand to win become.
Last year British contestant Cemal Ezel won the competition for social start-up Change Please. The business was awarded $350,000 (£270,275.25) in prize money.
To find out more about next year’s competition and to keep abreast of all Chivas Venture news, sign up to the newsletter at chivasventure.com.
The business aims to foster solidarity in a cashless society by enabling spontaneous, instant cashless donations using a combination of smartphones and QR codes.
Vassiliadis says: ‘We’re twisting the technology to make everyone equal in this cashless space.’
The idea was born from his time working in London where he realised he was never able to give on-the-spot donations to rough sleepers, buskers and charity workers because he relies on Apple Pay or his bank cards to pay for things.
He was moved to do something to help when, after having no change at his disposal, he instead paid for some drinks and food with his card for a homeless person.
‘I realised how happy and relieved that person was and I also noticed the reaction of people around me and how excited and happy they were from me doing that,’ he says.
‘The next morning I spoke to a friend of mine to see if there was a way to make spontaneous donations using the exact technology that is resulting in the lack of cash donations. That’s how Giving Streets was launched.’
How does Giving Streets work?
Those wanting to make a digital donation must download the Giving Streets app.
Those living on the street, charity collectors and buskers can apply for a Giving Streets QR code, which they will be given in a non-digital format.
Vassiliadis says: ‘The QR Code can be printed as big signpost in front of them to get the attention of the donor and to facilitate very fast and effective scanning.’
Givers then approach the person they want to donate to, scan their QR code using their phone camera through the app, and a donation is made on the spot.
Individuals can then take their code to one of Giving Streets’ partner businesses – such as food stores and supermarkets – and redeem the digital donation in exchange for goods. No cash required.
If it is a charity the money collected via QR codes will go direct to their bank accounts.
The Giving Streets app enables the homeless to benefit from digital donations rather than relying on cash
The business makes its money through charging 3 per cent commission on the donations made through the platform.
For larger organisations and charities that want to deploy several charity workers using the code throughout major cities on a regular basis, Giving Streets will offer them a a subscription model.
While the aim is to be profitable, the profits won’t be kept or put back into the business: instead, they will be distributed to charities or directly to people in need of support and help.
Vassiliadis explains: ‘Our pledge is to cycle back all our profit to helping other communities.
‘We want to work on taking people off the streets, providing support – be that mental health, learning a new skill or providing an actual home to stay in – until they get back on their feet.
‘We have witnessed in the past few months how anybody can eventually become, for whatever reason, a rough sleeper or homeless.’
According to Vassiliadis, more than 8,000 households in London alone run a very high risk of not making rent.
‘The problem is really substantial. We want them to know that we are here for you, you are not invisible to us.
‘We are helping you out until the bigger intervention comes into place.’
According to the founder of Giving Streets more than 8,000 households in London run a very high risk of not making rent which could mean more people sleeping rough on the streets
What next for Giving Streets?
The app is not yet available, but Vassiliadis is currently piloting the technology and aims to launch the service fully in September this year.
He says: ‘Our goal is to have 530 homeless people and buskers using the QR codes towards end of year, with more than 20 brands enrolled as partners where people can redeem vouchers.’
Although the firm didn’t make the top five in Chivas Venture, by becoming one of the top 15 finalists he won $20,000 (£15,444.30) in prize money.
We’re twisting the technology to make everyone equal in this cashless space. – Dimitris Vassiliadis, Giving Streets
‘We will use [the money] to promote the cause and the application,’ explains Vassiliadis. ‘We’ll also go into developing partnerships and app further.’
He adds that approximately £50,000 of his own money has been put into the business, but admits that more funding will be needed.
‘We will be reaching out to raise capital of around $500,000 (£386,107.50) to fully launch the platform nationally in the UK and then internationally. Crowdfunding is an option but we’ll be talking to impact investors to help us out.’
While his business did not win the ultimate cash prize of $310,000 (£239,386.65) he says that simply being a part of the Chivas Venture experience has been invaluable.
‘It has accelerated us, made us focus and narrow down on activities and scope,’ he says.
‘It has raised our profile, meaning that following the win [to represent England] in London last December and being part of the Chivas Venture process in the past six months, we have been approached by a lot of people just for being a part of it all.
‘The biggest takeaway is that we got really inspired through the other 19 companies [that made the top 20] trying to solve all the other problems in the world in different ways to us, but which are also equally important.
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