Antonio Cantalapiedra, Founder & CEO of Woonivers tells us how the fintech is reinventing tax-free shopping for travellers.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Antonio Cantalapiedra: All safe to the date. We still have health, serenity, and faith. So, we’re happy enough.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Woonivers.
Antonio Cantalapiedra: A great company is a great founding story. Woonivers is the technological alternative to the enormous bureaucracy that is devastating the world and stifling innovation, especially in Europe-. Spain is the second country in which the bureaucracy robs us most of our time, only behind France, which holds the record with four hours and 36 minutes, one minute more than in our country. In the Netherlands, they spend two hours and 40 minutes; in the UK, two hours and 35 minutes; in the United States, two hours and 43 minutes.
We’re facilitating all kinds of cashbacks and especially the reimbursement of tax-free (cashback paid by certain countries). Before the arrival of Woonivers, the sector was expensive and inefficient – the traditional players want it that way – they don’t want the sector to improve – they want it that way just for themselves. Woonivers purpose and its story it’s great story.
How does Woonivers innovate?
Antonio Cantalapiedra: The perfect combination of “only mobile” solutions for retailers along with e-commerce preparedness is the key to surviving today’s global crisis for a wide variety of players.
E-commerce is exploding in Europe and surpassed the €621BN revenue mark in 2019.
Top retailing consultancy firms are predicting that 71% of UK marketers will have a tremendous increase in the usage of e-commerce.
The solely way to turn regular retailers into “prophylactic ones” is using “mobile-only” and “cloud-first” solutions. Woonivers is coming out with awesome innovative features for users and retailers around the world. Woonivers is offering tangible added value, which means no paper-based solutions; No hardware integrations, 100% digital mobile payments for credit notes, anti-money laundering technology. Our Cloud data systems use solid-state drives in our data centers, removing redundant data and encrypting the transmission of data.
One of the core values of Woonivers is a biometric technology that enables better identification of unique customers making it hard to fake. This is most useful at the point of enrolment, whereas Woonivers biometric technologies can be used to support a quicker, more accurate, and in some cases even entirely remote identification process for new customers.
Current B2B Tax-Free decisions are non-linear. Sales processes within retailers are outdated. B2B buying decisions have also become non-linear. Non- linear processes are a huge challenge for machine learning and technological companies to cope with (outliers and non- easy reducible decisions). Hardware and manual triggers generate stoppers, redundancy, much more non-linear processes, and then bureaucracy. 21st-century companies will be software fully cloud-based companies. Bureaucracy destroys innovation on purpose. The Mathematization of societies throughout data comes in handy against bureaucracy. Woonivers is obsessively focused on delivery solutions. Users only care about “delivery.” Do whatever you want as a company if you deliver excellence.
Nowadays, avant-garde societies are witnessing unprecedented digitization throughout big fiscal areas. 60% of the working class is making digital tools and online platforms a crucial part of their daily lifestyles. At this juncture, a notorious shift in shopping behaviour is also natural. Visiting offline stores were days of the past, and most of the shoppers now are turning online even for grocery shopping. There’s a long journey ahead, but there’s no turning back.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Antonio Cantalapiedra: SARS- COV- 2 stopped all our operations, and mobility restrictions destroyed our P&L, but we took advantage of the period to be technology-intensive. We also locked down many crucial alliances to be visible during the coming recovery. We’re actually having cross-border transactions, and we’re expecting half a million transactions coming from the Brits. As you know, tons of million Brits drop by Southern Europe on vacation. Because of the Brexit, now Brits are eligible for tax-free within the EU.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Antonio Cantalapiedra: Sure. We kept the team united during the pandemic. We barely fired people. Anyway, the lesson coming from employees and partners is always the same: Hire slowly and Fire quickly. Startups cannot bear long-lasting inefficiencies or people who don’t really love the project.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Antonio Cantalapiedra: We’re a software company. We’re every day using machine learning and deep learning to improve our delivery response. Now we’re working on crypto payments and refunds for our users. Adding a wide variety of top methods of payments really take care of customer relationship. We do care for travel shoppers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Antonio Cantalapiedra: Yep. A few public grants from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology (CDTI) and guaranteed loans from the Kingdom of Spain.
Your final thoughts?
Antonio Cantalapiedra: The people who use technology must be considered to be part of the systems they use. Although “users” are diverse, they also have many characteristics in common. Woonivers was designed by understanding the characteristics of users, creating safer, more usable, and more user-centric systems.
We really know that an app is no longer what companies tell the users it is; it is what users tell each other it is.