For those that haven’t heard yet, our CEO, Cristina, took the stage at Paris Fintech Forum to announce the launch of Cledara Rewards, Europe's first card rewards program built for startups. The launch is the culmination of several months of work by the whole team and a pretty intense two week sprint at the end to get it over the line.
We shipped Cledara Rewards just a few days ago on 28 January, so it’s still early days, but the results are looking really exciting. For starters, our existing customers have already earned thousands of points. We were almost over run at Paris Fintech Forum and actually managed to run out of the promo materials well before the end of the day and we’ve added a truck load of new signups (our KYC still has a couple of manual steps, so we’re a little slower than we’d like to be activating accounts, but we have new team members joining us on Monday to help get through our backlog - please be patient!!) and it’s helped us discover new channels with some VC funds offering to help distribute Cledara to their portfolio.
Cledara was born out of the challenges we saw when scaling companies. Scaling SaaSOps and managing IT Risk and spend is all very important, but no matter how important those things are, the biggest challenge is always going to be hitting milestones and driving growth.
We’re in a special position at Cledara where we have the opportunity to make that a little easier. Reward programs are commonplace in the US. Most credit cards come with a points program that rewards people and businesses for their use. We couldn’t understand why something similar wasn’t available in the UK or Europe? After all with companies like Monzo, Revolut and Railsbank showing that Europe was leading the world in fintech, this seemed like a big gap where Europe was behind and a way that Cledara could do its part to give back to the European tech ecosystem.
Cledara Rewards is the result of over 100 conversations with startups around the world about what they spend their money on, what their dream rewards program looks like and what frustrates them most about the way they manage subscriptions.
So, first and foremost, thanks to each and everyone of you for making time for us. We’ve been blown away by the generosity of the community and we hope that you can all see your contribution in what we’ve built.
Two things quickly became clear to us during the process. First, the most impactful reward for startups is money. Startups are all about finding new ways to grow in creative ways and so the easiest way for Cledara to contribute to that was to empower founders to decide how the reward points they earn should be applied to the business. We could have given airline points like most card schemes do, or the ability to purchase things with points, but we found that limited the impact we could have.
The second thing is that startups don’t spend like regular companies. A great example of this is a recent thread on Twitter by James Billingham, one of the founders of Cuvva, where he said Intercom is the largest expense at the company, after salaries, marketing and office space.
This meant we had to build an awards program that actually reflected how startups operated. One of the key things we figured out early on was that James wasn’t alone. SaaS providers often give a lot of discounts and extended trial period for early stage startups (especially those in accelerators like Techstars), but as soon as you come out of the offer period the charges grow quickly and the step change from paying relatively little to a lot could often be quite a shock, or even put strain on a company that was just starting to hit its stride.
One of our key design principles is simplicity. We don’t like complicated non-transparent rewards programs. The British Airways Amex is a great example of this. I understand that I earn rewards for what I spend and I’m aware that those points convert to Avios and I can convert those Avios in to flights, but I’ve got no idea how many points I need before I can get a free flight and benefit. On top of that, every time I try to use it, there seems to be no availability and even if there is, the taxes seem to amount to more than a full fare on a different airline. In the end, I feel cheated and like I’ve wasted my time.
With that, the way Cledara Rewards works almost designed itself - 1 point per pound or euro for things startups buy, double points for spend on software subscription and each point converts directly to money so that founders can spend on whatever it is that is most helpful to them at the time, whether that’s fuelling more online advertising, or paying for the team offsite.
I’ve been a Techstars mentor since the very first time it had a cohort outside the US. We make time every week to help other founders wherever we can. Giving back to the startup community and helping startups scale is in our blood at Cledara and Cledara Rewards is definitely part of that.
We’re looking forward to seeing how Cledara Rewards grows. Since our launch a few days ago, we've had even more amazing input from so many startups we really admire, so we’d definitely not done yet. Watch this space!
If you’d like to find out more about Cledara Rewards, visit www.cledara.com/rewards.