Berlin startup Changers just soft-launched its much-anticipated marketplace for credits earned with its solar charging devices. This comes at the end of a tough first year – first a shock insolvency due to investor woes followed by a bold management buyout.
The young company, a founding team of four, makes hardware (a thin, light solar panel and a very cute battery) and software to charge devices such as iPhones, with users earning credits along the way.
The new marketplace – the final piece of the business model – soft-launched Tuesday ahead of an official launch at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna next week. Perks so far include offers from DriveNow, Nextbike, DHL, Avocado Store, Lilli Green Shop, Kochzauber, Coffee Circle, Kinderfee and Ahoy co-working space in Berlin. The headline deal is a week at a Swiss ski and eco resort for a cool 2000 credits.
The Changers web app already includes a feed through to users’ social networks and a ranking system to see who’s generating the most power/credits.
“What we’re really interested in is the credits”
The original concept, the first of its kind worldwide, has so far enticed users to purchase several thousand devices, with the team expecting a big boost now credits can actually be redeemed. The normal price of the devices, sold together, is €149 in Europe and $179 in the US (currently cheaper).
“We want to get the hardware as cheap as possible into the market, because what we’re really interested in is the credits,” Changers co-founder Daniela Schiffer explained.
She expects that is what will drive the company forward in future. “At the beginning, our grass revenue will come from the sale of the devices because that’s what’s already going, that’s what will grow in a faster manner, but my bet lies with the credits.”
The company will run the marketplace for free for the first six months but will eventually take a fee in exchange for generating customer leads (similar to Groupon).
“Unlike Groupon, I don’t want to starve my customers to death,” Schiffer said, referring to the coupon giant’s reputation for aggressive deals. “I want to bring valuable leads to people. At the end, the community we’re growing is people who are really willing to do something. They have proven that they also do spend money, because every single one of them has already bought at least one device.”
Changers has faced more challenges in its first year than most startups and the next few months will be crucial. But as Schiffer put it, clearly excited, “it feels like the rockets have caught fire and it’s really getting on… We’ll see.”