Business development · 23 March 2017

Powering the Liverpool Pound An inside look at Britain’s latest local currency

The Liverpool Pound
Users pay for their currency through Colu’s mobile app, and participating business owners receive what they are owed each month
For the first in a new Business Advice series taking a closer look at the UK’s local currencies, we spoke to Amos Meiri, CEO of Colu, the Tel-Aviv-based tech firm powering the latest city-wide currency the Liverpool Pound.

Enthusiasm for local money in Britain has seen currencies pop up in towns such as Lewes, Kingston and Brixton, while the first city-wide currency launched in Bristol in 2012. A designated organisation The Independent Money Alliance (IMA) has even been founded, supporting the local currency movement through shared knowledge and technologies.

In 2015, circulation of the Bristol Pound reached 700, 000 in the city. Local business owners have been able to pay their business rates with the currency, and residents can use it to pay council tax. The Brixton Pound now has its own cash point in the area, the first of its kind in the world.

Local currencies began as non-profit initiatives to encourage shoppers to spend locally and invest money back into independent businesses. The same ethos remains for the Liverpool Pound, but Colu backed with $12m in VC investment could help local money be taken more seriously.

Amos MeirI was managing trading and hedging for a finance company in Cyprus in 2012 when he learnt how cryptocurrency? Bitcoin could be used alongside traditional currencies. At the same time, the country suffered a financial crash, and people were unable to withdraw more than 50 at a time.

The understanding that new technologies could allow more control and better distribution of money was Meiri’s inspiration for Colu. The startup was initially a developer’s platform for blockchain technology, and organic demand for local currencies in Tel-Aviv saw Colu issue its first two digital wallets.

Following domestic success, MeirI was approached by Independent Liverpool, an organisation championing local Merseyside businesses, to develop a currency that would help support the city’s network of small business owners.

the basis and foundations for promoting local businesses were already there in Liverpool, MeirI told Business Advice.

Launched in December 2016, the L? is pegged to pound sterling. Local business owners pay a monthly 20 fee to trade with the Liverpool Pound, and uptake on the programme has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Some 10, 000 people are currently using Liverpool’s digital wallet.

every day were recruiting three or four new businesses in Liverpool, MeirI said, and with a transaction made every five to ten minutes, the Liverpool Pound is undeniably growing in popularity. But for business owners yet to buy into the scheme, how would he sell its benefits?

we are helping to keep money in the local area, and taking people from putting money into large chains into small businesses. Were keeping small business owners from getting left behind with new technologies and how users want to pay in 2017, he explained.

there really is nothing to lose.

Business owners are even saving money on bank charges each time a customer pays with the Liverpool Pound.

Research has found that every 1 spent locally is worth almost four times more to the local area than money spent with corporate chains, through investment in local jobs and added tax revenue.

The support for local businesses goes deeper the whole package, according to Meiri. A business club? is being developed as part of the Liverpool Pound scheme, with events and workshops helping to develop the marketing and customer service skills of owners.

Amos Meiri
Amos Meiri, Colu CEO
For MeirI and Colu, it’s about using the local currency to support the community and create more business for its entrepreneurs. For the user, it’s helping people discover what’s near them, and where they can buy locally.

using the local currency through the Colu app means targeting the most important customers the people who live nearby. The app collects data that allows business owners to understand and communicate with consumers, and reducing the clearing fees from credit companies. The list goes on and on, MeirI said.

Through currencies like the Liverpool Pound, users are able to take advantage of exclusive promotions and forge closer ties with their local traders. it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that makes money go further and empowers the local economy.

A desire to ‘shop local? is an essential condition to allow local currencies to thrive. MeirI recalled a taxI journey from Liverpool Lime Street to a coffee shop that entered the initiative. After describing the Liverpool Pound, the driver put a sticker on his car and promised to spread the word to all his passengers.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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