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  • Writer's pictureHolly Glowaty


...and by unicorn I mean a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. Why is this so rare in our industry? Well, as we pointed out in a recent post, we are an industry steeped in consolidation; so we don't often get to watch the rise of a startup in our space all the way to this incredible status; often they are acquired or they IPO themselves out of this status.

So who is the unicorn in our midst?

It was announced on August 6, 2019 that Ibotta had earned its wings... and horn. Ibotta is now the ONLY unicorn in Colorado according to Crunchbase. Ibotta utilizes receipt and/or purchase verification to give their users cash back on in-store and mobile purchases via their mobile app.

What sets them apart?

Their scalability for one thing. Everyone from large grocery stores, to mom and pop shops can get in on the Ibotta fun because Ibotta works with not only store locations, but CPG companies to secure discounts, rewards and cash back for their over 35 million users. Users can cash out their earning to PayPal, Venmo or load the funds on to a gift card that becomes instantly redeemable.

Anything else?

YEP! They are not stopping the innovation there. Last year they launched Ibotta Pay. Which according to their website, "Allows user to pay straight from the Ibotta app and get instant cash back at over 30 new retailers and restaurants."

So Congrats to the Ibotta team! Way to earn that magical status!

Our industry is full of heavy hitters that have held Unicorn status at one time or another; the thing to note is that once a company goes public, they can no longer be a unicorn- the privately held business part is the distinction:

Of course we are always influenced by other companies who bolster the payment process and therefore push us all forward like:

  • Marqeta: If anyone remembers, Marqeta joined us at IMA Meetings back when they were starting out. This company has had an incredible rise to the their $2 Billion Unicorn-ness. They pivoted many times, but created an incredible card-issuing platform with an open API; allowing companies to build custom/ configurable prepaid and payment cards.

  • Toast Point of Sale: In our industry the one thing that I always find interesting is how much we need point of sale integrations and data sharing between gift card, loyalty, promotions and POS data, but somehow we still don't work together like we should. Some of that is just ingrained in the way things have been done- and some of that was due to old technology. But in the last few years we have seen the rise of some incredible POS technology; including Toast. Toast focuses on the restaurant vertical and has become a restaurant management tool- analyzing even customer data.

What is it about these companies?

They have totally done away with the old way of looking at their products and asked: what can it be? How are customers actually using these products, and what could make it better for not only for a front-end user (ie: a customer) but also for the back-end user? The word I am circling here is FRICTIONLESS. We are far too advanced with our technology to take the short cuts that make products hard to use, data cumbersome and the customer experience clunky.

THIS is what branded currency is all about! Creating a cohesive strategy and open lines of communication and data-sharing across the platforms our consumers touch to create a frictionless, efficient, positive brand experience.

For more on the latest innovation in our space follow our blog and find us on Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook.

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