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Grace Wong, Founder of Liven

This blog post comes from Grace Wong, the Founder of Liven, Australia’s biggest loyalty-based payment network and the first platform to “gamify” payments in the offline world. LivenPay won Sir Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge for Digital Payments and Blockchain in 2019. Grace presented at Cisco’s Women Rock-IT event on February 18. Click here to watch the recording on demand.

My parents grew up in an environment where opportunity simply didn’t exist for poor and marginalized people. But their stories have always inspired me to help find ways to level the playing field. Access to capital, banking, and other financial services would be considered by many to be an essential ingredient for the success of businesses and individuals alike. And yet, for generations, entry into the world of finance has been off-limits to many, instead remaining a guarded prize, accessible to a select few individuals and exclusive institutions.

The greatest disruption

Technology has proven to be a great disrupter. The internet, the cloud, blockchain, edge computing – all these technologies carry the ability to improve the quality of life for the world’s most disadvantaged people. One critical way technology can help is through the democratization of finance – giving everyday people access to tools beyond their reach, allowing everyone to participate and reap the benefits. True financial inclusion. For the first time in history, we see technology disruptions for good.

Businesses, like restaurant (many of which are family-owned and operated) were previously completely non-tech savvy, but now have access to powerful fintech tools that are intuitive enough for them to leverage.

That future is here and now

What if we lived in a world where restaurant owners can frictionlessly turn your future ramen into renminbi or pints of beers into pounds? Or better yet, what if the world we lived in allowed small business owners to circulate their own utility-token currency inside their own closed-loop economy forever without wastage? And what if, as a foodie, you could move your underutilized savings into your local favorite Mexican joint and score some bonus burritos for your troubles?

That world is already here.

Through Liven, we’ve been building and evangelizing that future. And what gets me excited is what’s next for the role of universal currencies in the global ecosystem. We introduced the Liven Care Package as a form of prepayment for a restaurant’s own flavor of closed loop currency. It’s underwritten by our network currency (LVN) and interoperable with it, in the event something happens to the restaurant, which provides the trust consumers need to change behavior.

Community-based currency

Through Liven Care, restaurants provide a various set of rewards or bonuses for each level of financial commitment by the customers. And the Liven application provides a series of parameters they can use to program their own currency, so that it can adapt to and be configured by the user to help it work for their own unique circumstances (things like time of day, day of week, frequency, average order value, streaks, and combo modifiers). In this way Liven becomes a sort of ‘federal reserve’ for brands issuing their own community-driven currencies – something they could never realistically achieve on their own.

We issue programmable, community-based currencies that users, corporate partners, and suppliers can all buy upfront, to support their favorite restaurants. Our journey towards mass market decentralized finance has led us to empower Mom-and-Pop restaurants instead of investment banks, to essentially allow their users to create and buy futures contracts against their upcoming dining plans. This helps operators to lock in future revenue and contribution margin while locking in their customers too. It works to decrease their reliance on banking and government support and instead empowering their community to step into that role.

Liven realizes the unused value and latent demand otherwise being left on the table. Tokenizing that ramen that a restaurant owner plans to cook in six months’ time and selling that to the right buyer isn’t something that was previously possible. As it’s a community-owned and traded instrument, a peer-to-peer distributed food bank emerges and is universally accessible and embedded in people’s social dining lives.

Liven after COVID-19

During the darkest days of “COVID Lockdown,” when many of our venues were forced to shut their doors, Liven’s Care Packages were sold by restaurants to their communities of supporters and loyal diners, allowing them to maintain some cashflow at a time when they were not able to serve food. This made the difference between survival and permanent closure for some. They were essentially exchanging their own currency for dollars, bringing future cash flow forward to the present.

These Mom-and-Pop shops didn’t otherwise have the ability (nor decentralized trust) to solve for the creation of their own currency themselves. Independent restaurants tried with gift cards and vouchers and failed – it could only come close to working if they are big enough, like Starbucks.

Now with this new model of risk sharing, return, and staking benefits, small businesses can crowdsource the tokenization of their own goodwill and brand love, and basically turn every pure transactional relationship into a much more meaningful one.

Rather than bringing computation and storage to edge devices, we’re bringing value tokenization and storage and letting them reassemble it optimally for their unique circumstances. Instead of ruggedized devices, our edge nodes are the foodies, their friends, influencers, and small businesses.

We’ve empowered our hospitality nodes to tokenize food into their own currency, to create and redistribute that value from their future food margins, to where it’s most efficiently used. Rather than information processing, we’ve developed edge native applications for value redistribution wherever edge nodes previously produced and consumed value in the hospitality world. Like a chunk of stored future economic activity, but the workload (printing/creation, sharing, storage, use) is a closed loop, without needing to off-ramp back into the traditional banking world, making its restrictions obsolete.

The value of new currency

This value exchange is more than just money, it is a community function. The paradigm shifts to creating value at the edge of a food network.  Not only does it let us bypass hard structural problems, as any restaurant can participate in what was exclusive to banking services, but it lets us build entirely new kinds of companies and services.

This is only one example of technology providing a pathway to financial inclusion. But there remain so many important use cases for helping disadvantaged people, businesses, and organizations who lack access to financial services around the world. And with a tech career, you could be the one to develop them!