COVID-19 has severely affected the livelihoods of the people around the globe. With people getting infected by COVID each passing day, Consumers have learned to stay home, preserve the money they have, and consume less. However, this affects the economy. Similarly, local businesses have experienced unprecedented losses. For those that have survived this period the possibilities for re-opening, recovery, and growth are limited and possibly bleak. SMBs don't have a sustainable solution through which they can grow their businesses again and recover their losses. Traditional ad-tech channels are broken and without significant investment, any business can't get RoI. But, with inbuilt game mechanics, we can motivate people to purchase and help SMBs advertise their product without any upfront investment. So, the perfect way to help both sides of the community SMBs and making it fun for people suffering to help the SMBs is gamification.
I’m a co-founder of a Blockchain gaming company. I (Arbob) have a lot of experience in implementing game mechanics inside consumer apps. So, I thought, why not apply the same gamification techniques I implement in blockchain into a consumer app to encourage people to do a task based on their location, spend more and help SMBs in economic recovery. So I started to scout for members in hackathon channels and got an amazing team to build this idea.
What it does
SoloCoin is an app that rewards users in virtual coins based on their location. Currently, to engage in social-distancing, based on their location to their home. It's basically an app that rewards users according to their proximity/location. (using the tech of GPS, Geofencing, and Accelerometer - to track whether the phone is put on idle or not - awards will be rewarded only when the user is using the phone). If their smartphone is within a certain radius (~20m) to a reward hotspot (Geofencing reward location), then the app will reward them with virtual coins that they can later redeem for "Partner Coupons". These partners can be SMBs, Local businesses, and any online B2C businesses from E-commerce, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Health, etc. Our app rewards, nudges, and drives beneficial consumer behavior. This will help post-COVID to accelerate economic recovery in local communities. They can also compete with nearby players for achievements and badges which they can later share with their friends.
The global ads market is $600B+ with digital advertising accounting for $220B+. But there is a niche in hyperlocal digital-ads where specifically no-one has targeted their solution. Just in India, $650B is the size of traditional retail shops. Simple and Engaging Advertising needs of such a big segment of the market will create an ad-tech boom in the hyperlocal sector in India. We can be at the forefront of this market in the next 5-7 years.
How we built it?
When Arbob had the idea, he started building it on Python's Beeware toolkit which ports python code to a native mobile app. Then, he started to scout for members across hackathons. Since the idea was innovative and exciting, many amazing people joined his team. then the team decided to make it on native android and iOS directly for better usability and support. We have a group of open-source collaborators from around the world including startup founders & CXOs, people from IITs, BITS, Stanford, Microsoft, Uber, Github, Neuro-Researchers and more among our community, with expertise in Frontend (android-studio, Java, Kotlin), Backend (rails+postgresql | RDS) mobile development, Marketing, Product and Design (Adobe xd), etc. AWS is the cloud service provider with authentication from Firebase and Maps from google. The product is built 100% remotely.
Challenges we ran into
- The first challenge was finding good team members with relevant expertise. But, we got through with it thanks to our hard work and to the volunteers joining because of the innovative nature of the product.
- Management of tasks. To tackle this issue, we created a Trello and GitHub task board for better collaboration.
*One thing I've noticed while building our product is the founder's vision for the product is very important. When I first pitched the idea of SoloCoin, I was alone. But the idea was innovative and has never been done before. The vision I put to gamify social-distancing resonated with people and that helped us in getting amazing people with great skills from all over the world to voluntarily work on my idea without any financial incentive. People were and still are excited every day they wake up to build and scale the product. And, that's how from an idea it became an MVP and then a working product. *
Accomplishments that we're proud of
- The clarity in our concept.
- Innovative approach towards social-cause using gamification.
- 1000+ sign-ups for the app launch.
- 5000+ user visits since the website launch.
- The prototype was done in 3 days. Beta Launched in Play Store.
- Positive feedback and support from across the community, both tech and non-tech. Influencers asking to promote our app for FREE. Many top-level government officials agreed to promote our product in their network.
- Partnerships for reward coupons.
- Partnerships with multiple influencers.
- An amazing team of 20+ open-source collaborators. 100% remote.
- Tackling a greater cause to eradicate COVID-19 from the face of the earth through gamified social-distancing.
- Won India’s largest COVID Hackathon - CODE19.
- Won World's largest COVID Hackathon - EUvsVirus.
- Incubated in European Innovation Council's business accelerator and Central European University's Innovation Lab.
What we learned
- Clear documentation from both product and development perspective for faster user onboarding.
- The idea of making a difference motivates a person more than money.
- Distribute department leads early on to avoid clashes among members. We were lucky that we did it early on.
- Single design philosophy to avoid misalignment of colors, content that is being pushed on the internet for promotion and visibility.
- Don't let negative people come anywhere near your extremely positive and passionate team. Take care of your team.
- Regular motivation and clear communication are very important when managing a remote team.
- Just like you can’t expect 9 women to give birth to a baby in 1 month, you shouldn’t expect 10 developers to build a product of a global scale in a day.
- Ideas are the most valuable asset to any startup. That's why we have a dedicated #ideas channel our discord for people to post ideas that can help improve our product. Till now we have received 20+ ideas since the project's inception.
Planned Revenue Model
- Brands pay us for promoting their deals via Rewards. Sponsors will pay us to get their rewards listed on our app. Like if a new e-commerce startup wants better visibility of their product, they can pay us some fee and get their brand coupon listed on our app, which users can redeem for coins and purchase stuff from their website.
- Sponsored badges and goals. For e.g.When someone redeems the coins for Amazon Coupons they’ll get an “Amazon Badge of Honor” which they can share in their social media.
- Sponsored Daily/Weekly/Monthly Rewards via Challenges
- Location-based targeted ads for grocery, medicine, and other necessities. Later we can open it for a broader audience and sponsors.
- Subscription model for faster coin generation.
Impact of SoloCoin
SoloCoin will have a massive impact on the reduction of COVID-19 transmission and on society as a whole. Some of them are:
- Impact on the society - It is a “simple way” for citizens to do their part, practices social distancing, and get real economic rewards and esteem awards to show they stood up to the challenge! They can be proud of themselves.
- Impact on Public Health Officials: Public Health Agencies can get access to anonymized data insights from our app to help form better messaging to inform/educate the public. ‘
- Impact on Partners-Sponsors: Coins can be exchanged for exciting "Partner coupons". These partners can be SMBs, Local businesses, and any online B2C businesses. Our app rewards, nudges, and drives beneficial consumer behavior. This will help post-COVID to accelerate economic recovery in local communities and help get their businesses on track.
- Impact on People-driven Health and Wellness: having an all-access platform for behavioral change with people from all around the world will help support post-COVID measures, promoting healthier physical, mental, and social behaviors.
What's next for SoloCoin?
- Making this a global app with partner support.
- Rewarding for good habits like washing hands, timely self-isolation, Yoga, etc.
- Determining efficient/less crowded routes for commuting and avoiding people.
- Give users the possibility to chat with nearby quarantined people.
- Map list of nearby available essential stores for groceries, medicines, etc.
- Adding an anonymous user authentication system.
- Give users the possibility to add a mask to their profile picture to tell people they are practicing social-distancing.
What after COVID ends?
We have identified many ideas on what we can do with our tech post-COVID. Some of them are:
- Our app can be used for concerts/stores, basically to gather people. The more they stay the more they earn. That way sponsors will get better revenue as well.
- Chat with friends, hang out, and earn rewards as you have a good time! Real-time location tracking automatically detects when you and friends are out and about, so you can passively earn points all day.
- Use group messaging and location sharing to stay in touch with your friends at any time. Emergency contact features let you get in touch with your circle whenever you need a helping hand because friends watch out for each other!
At the current stage, the app is used as a Social-distancing app with "Home geo-fence". After COVID, we can increase the geo-fence to multiple locations like "rewarding concerts, malls, local stores, etc." Our app can be used for concerts/stores, basically to gather people. The more they stay the more they earn. That way sponsors will get better revenue as well. Our app rewards, nudges, and drives beneficial consumer behavior. This will help post-COVID to accelerate economic recovery in local communities. Now if you think about it we're venturing into not a consumer app space but rather "Ad-tech" space. Our app can now be at the forefront of "Hyperlocal based targeted ads", basically directly competing with Google's and Facebook's Pay Per Click.
Shopping is fun in real life. You can go with friends, treasure hunt for bargains, discover new products, better understand a brand’s vibe, ask store reps questions, and also touch and feel items so you have more confidence you’re going to love it. The shopping revolution we bring will COMBINE ecommerce and entertainment, where both are equal in importance. Toss in gamification and boom. We may see waves of new brands and more pricing transparency for everything... products and services, alike.
We can gamify people’s entire lives, everything they do, with the tech and 20+ sensors present in smartphones.
Our vision is for a healthier, happier, COVID-19-free world and we can't wait to launch this app in the global market and help make the world a better place.
You can also look at our Product Roadmap for the present and the future to get an idea of where we are headed.