‘Micro-multinationals’ develop e-commerce models for global creative work and international payments

8th Nov 2013
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One of the hottest segments of innovation in digital media has been e-commerce/e-business. Five winners of the prestigious World Summit Awards 2013 showed that innovators are pushing the frontiers of digital markets in emerging economies as well.

From payment and analytics to crowdsourcing and marketplaces, the diverse range of winners from around the world showcased their initiatives at the recent WSA conference in Sri Lanka, and also shed light on best practices for succeeding in the e-business space.

WSA
Courtesy - Philipp Benedikt/Alexander Mattersberger

Springleap is a crowdsourced creative platform based in South Africa but with clients in the US and Europe as well. Global brands are using Springleap’s creative social media marketing campaigns to empower creatives and engage brand fans. The startup rewarded creatives with over $300,000 in the last year and placed them on magazines, sites and TV spots across the world.

Infoline from Ghana is a mobile and web service which connects consumers and businesses in emerging markets. Users of smartphones as well as basic phones can access and send messages to businesses; the data is mined for extraction of useful analytics for companies, which helps them understand and respond to their market segments more effectively.

Ponoko from New Zealand is a Web based marketplace for designers to make and sell products online. The ‘Personal Factory’ model helps them instantly verify, price and order prototypes and custom products. To date, Ponoko designers have produced over 300,000 custom products.

Conekta is a platform that allows businesses in Mexico to process online payments using both online and offline methods. Offline channels are generally disregarded by dominant payment solutions such as Paypal. Conekta is used for a range of transactions: selling physical products, taking donations, ecommerce offers, or enabling marketplaces for third parties.

TransferWise from Estonia is a smarter solution for international money transfers using P2P methods. Banks charge a lot for international money transfers but TransferWise brings the fee down to mid-market exchange rate. Customers pay a smaller, fully transparent service charge to access this facility.

The winners from these companies shared insights on the evolution and impacts of their business models, and offered useful tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in this space.

  1. Keep an eye on regulatory changes. Mobile payment and international remittances are still subject to national jurisdictions, and changes in these regulations can alter the fortunes of digital payment providers.
  2. Play in both spaces: smartphones and basic phones, especially in emerging economies. Basic SMS and voice services still have a useful shelf-life, but as smartphone penetration increases it will be possible to offer rich media apps and content as well.
  3. Think micro-multinational. It is possible for startups, especially in tech and creative spaces, to operate simultaneously in multiple countries, leveraging various skillsets, pricepoints and timezones for effective project management and product delivery.
  4. Tap the crowd but protect your brand. Leverage the power of creative crowds to offer speed and diversity in service to your clients, but ensure you have strict quality control and IPR compliance.
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