Mobile Tipping App Enables Payment on the Go, Garners ‘Shark Tank’ Investment
Here’s a Tip: There’s an App for that…
Scrounging for pocket change to tip a trusted valet, excellent server or even a talented street musician is a thing of the past. In the age of plastic and mobile payments, nobody carries cash anymore, and this is precisely the ailment the new mobile payment app Bravo aims to remedy.
Still in the nascent stages but seeing amazing growth, Bravo is a location-based payment app that enables strangers to connect without exchanging any personal information. Other platforms in this space, such as PayPal and Venmo, require some sort of personal information in order to exchange funds. With Bravo, a customer can tip a service vendor or pay a micro-merchant, like a farmer’s market booth or street vendor, for example, with the click of a button and peace of mind that no personal details have been shared. It is always free to receive money on Bravo, and customers pay a flat rate of 2 percent to pay a merchant.
Maria Luna, Bravo co-founder and CEO, recalls the “a-ha” moment where she and co-founder and husband, Hector, realized the need for an application like Bravo. They were hiking in Utah with a fantastic tour guide; and when Luna went to tip the guide, she realized she had forgotten to go to the ATM and the closest one was more than an hour away.
“I felt awful that I had no cash to tip her,” explains Luna. “My mother worked in the service industry, and I know how important tips are to these vendors and their families.” It is clear that technological advancement in the mobile payments industry was causing businesses that relied on cash tips and payments to suffer.
Luna ended up sending the tour guide a money order after the fact, and also began work on the Bravo platform to serve others in situations like these. As they developed their product, opportunities started appearing everywhere. Luna says for positioning purposes, they decided to launch with a focus on tipping, into a space that wasn’t crowded; but the gratuity market, in excess of $60 billion in the United States, provided a remarkable launch pad. “We explored other verticals, but we have stayed focused and disciplined in our approach, and it has paid off,” explains Luna. “If we had tried to be everything to everybody, we wouldn’t have claimed our space in the market.”
In 2016, Bravo won the Audience Choice Award at Tech Crunch Disrupt in San Francisco. This garnered the attention of many, including a junior producer for “Shark Tank” on ABC, and Bravo was invited to apply for the show. After a few months of interviews, they were invited to appear, and the episode aired in November 2017.“Preparing for the show was intense, but the experience was very positive,” says Luna. “I was a little starstruck by the sharks. Each is there on their own merit, and all have built amazing businesses and fortunes. And they all are very nice too!”
After presenting the product to the sharks, the Lunas went through a bit of negotiating and received an offer from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner. The offer was $150,000 for a 10 percent stake in the company plus 2 percent advisory shares for each, Lori and Mark.
Aside from the benefit of the investment, the appearance on “Shark Tank” has brought a lot of attention Bravo’s way. Before the show, the application was adding roughly 150 users per day; and in the few weeks after the episode aired, Bravo was adding an average of 10,000 users per day.
The product continues to see growth by word-of- mouth. Bravo has started to see transactions in more than a thousand cities in the United States, and they anticipate that will grow greatly as they embark on an intentional strategic marketing plan and begin to provide point-of- sale material to their users.
The team also plans to continue to push the feedback-gathering facet of the app that enables merchants to seek ratings and comments from customers privately – not to mention the benefit merchants receive from the app’s machine-learning ability or artificial intelligence (A.I.), which helps predict information about a merchant’s frequent customers or VIPs.
Bravo is now exploring blockchain technology, and that functionality is in beta and in limited test usage. Bravo plans to launch the blockchain platform using crypto-currency in 2018.
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