School is in the spotlight these days and the fintech world is also working hard to help it with an effective solution that is having a great success: ScuolaPay. Claudio Cubito, CEO of Growish, tells us about it: who created it and put it on the market.
You’ve just launched ScuolaPay. What’s this all about?
ScuolaPay is an innovative, completely free APP payment that facilitates both the collection of money between parents and class representatives (common funds, collections, educational outings, gifts, etc.) as well as school payments (contributions, educational activities, purchase of textbooks, distance learning programmes, etc.), directly from the smartphone in a simple and safe way, with no commission and above all, without the need physically exchanging money. A not insignificant advantage in times of social distancing.
It has been developed via an Open Banking Innovation agreement with SisalPay, which manages via API Strong Customer Authentication of users, payments and accounts, and provides the Bill Business merchant acceptance network where you can also pay using ScuolaPay and soon also top up your wallet in cash at authorized retailers.
Who is it aimed at and what advantages does it provide?
It is aimed at parents, class representatives, schools and providers of school services and products. It allows parents and class representatives to collect money in a simple and remote way, solving problems typical of the school environment, which often take time or create complexity (according to one of our surveys, 79% of Italian parents find it difficult to manage their children’s school payments accurately and sometimes to even remember them).
ScuolaPay solves many of these “difficulties” by means of tools such as the class group section, collections for school activities with the possibility of setting deadlines, the clear amount of fees, the possibility of making participants visible or not, the management of common tills with the possibility of photographing receipts of expenses and having a constantly updated statement of account, etc..
It also allows you to pay another user (P2P), e-commerce and school supplies or service shops close to the school thanks to Bill’s SisalPay acceptance network.
There is also an internal store that currently allows you to search for textbooks for each class and purchase them directly from the app with a 15% discount and delivery at home, as well as school materials offered by the Italian leader in the sector, Borgione.it, and solutions for distance learning, such as Redooc. Soon new products and services will be added. For all these activities – as for a referral campaign “invite friends” – users receive award points that they can use to buy school materials or donate them to the school. Compared to other payment APPs, much attention has been paid to developing of a strong integration with merchants, thanks to the ScuolaPay Business module.
For public schools, ScuolaPay Business allows to send payment notifications directly into the APP of parents, interconnecting with the school’s accounting systems, receiving payments without any fees and activation costs, reducing transaction costs. Upon receipt of payment, we update the collection on the school’s schedule via API, thus completely automating the flow thus drastically reducing administrative activities, reminders, manual reconciliations and outstanding payments. Public Schools will also soon be able to receive payments through PagoInRete / PagoPA with the same automation of collection and payment flows.
Suppliers will be able to send payment requests, even recurring ones, to parents, as well as to facilitate group payments for products and services that are often organised by class representatives for initiatives that the school cannot cope with, such as special purchases or educational activities (acting workshops, online teaching software licences, etc.). There is also a welcome bonus for parents and schools of up to €200 in school materials or services.
Can you already give us some numbers of its diffusion or success?
The official launch of the APP took place in mid-September with the start of the school year and has already been downloaded over 40,000 times. Both parents and schools like APA very much. In addition, we are already integrating the payment systems of more than 30 public schools, through interfacing via API with the most popular school accounting and fee management software. On the request of the MIUR, we have applied to join the working group for interoperability of payment data to public schools via PagoInRete.
Has your business strategy changed since lockdown? How has it changed?
ScuolaPay was born within GrowishPay, which offers social payments services under its own and third party brands, especially in the gift list and wedding lists sector. The closure of the schools prevented us from launching ScuolaPay as planned in the spring and we had to postpone it until September. This allowed us to move forward with the business side and refine the APP for users.
The gift and wedding lists sector has suffered a drastic stop. Now, at last, we are finally returning to 2018 levels, but still far from the growth of 2019, and the +250% we were doing in January and February 2020, before closing.
As startups we are used to dealing with ups and downs, so with the lockdown we immediately reacted by reducing costs to the limit, compacting the team by asking them to make sacrifices, and working on planting for the future. For example, we are now launching a new birth list service for small shops with the support of another startup, Yoagent.
We have asked for support from our investors, who once again believed in us and supported us through funding, in which CDP also participated. From the point of view of managing your team, how did you organize yourselves to ensure business continuity (if you feel like telling us how you worked remotely with some virtuous examples)
From an operational point of view, we were not impacted.
We are a fintech company working in open banking with electronic money institutions such as SisalPay or MangoPay. We had internal procedures already tested for business continuity and we simply put them in place, not least because we already have a full remote developer and even before that we were doing smart working on a rotating basis.
Of course, now we’re back in the office 3 days a week and I have to say that – even if we have to go back to work again – the work is more pleasant and convivial, it’s easier to solve problems immediately, launch ideas and develop them in a short time and have a coffee together. In the companies I have managed, the team has always been a strong point and – needless to deny it – the fact of dating creates more teamwork and empathy.
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