We haven’t heard a lot from the Leetchi team since they raised a €$4Million round of funding nearly one year ago to date, allegedly intended for international expansion. The social payments site, which now boasts 500,000+ users on their service, launched a long-awaited iPhone application, and took the opportunity to optimize their web interface for mobile, blending the user experience between native app & browser. I took the opportunity to meet up with Celine Lazorthes, the fearless leader at Leetchi who has some pretty amazing news to share. But first, a video (in French, I know):
The application, is really quite interesting. With deep Facebook integration, it’s very easy to look at upcoming friend’s birthdays, and immediately begin pooling money together for a gift. Leetchi makes it easy to invite your Facebook friends, of course, but for work colleagues and members of a common association, you may not be friends on Facebook, so Leetchi also makes it easy to invite people by text message and other means. The mobile interface on the browser is super sleak, and Leetchi collects all the money from the members of the pool, and allows you to choose how you want to give the money: as a direct bank transfer, as a gift card or just by buying a gift through one of Leetchi’s partners (like Amazon).
Right there you get a taste of Leetchi’s secret business model – referral fees from partners. It’s pretty slick really – Amazon partners with Leetchi so that Leetchi proposes Amazon instead of their competitor, and in turn Amazon gives 8-12% commission on any sale (gift card or otherwise) on the site.
Lazorthes says that Leetchi is doing pretty well, with 20% of their audience coming from International. I asked about specific use cases that she’s seen people coming to Leetchi for, as well as the most expensive pool that has been created on Leetchi ($25000, give or take, for a wedding), she said she’s seen everything from the standard birthday pool, to non-profit associations accepting donations on Leetchi, to Wedding gifts. She says the company is particularly focused on the C2C (Collaborative Consumption) side of things, and says that in the coming weeks they will be announcing more ways that they plan to help collaborative consumption.
While there is still a lot of work to do on the international front – the most difficult part of a French startup’s lifecycle, in my opinion – Lazorthes says the company has already begun investing in international expansion, particularly in Germany, which they see as a great opportunity for Social Payments.
Leetchi – now a legit bank
Alongside the likes of eBay & PayPal, Leetchi is one of 5 companies authorities to manage online payments passed between two parties. The process, which took two years of paperwork, means that they are subject to the same regulation (and spontaneous check-ups) that any other bank is, and because of this, they’re in a very unique position. Many startups have taken to coming to Leetchi to ask about how the company navigated the difficult online payments world, and that got the company thinking about how they could help other startups deal with online payments.
While nothing is official just yet, keep an eye out on how Leetchi will be shaking up the online payments space in the next few months!
Go ahead, don’t be shy. Download the Leetchi Application today!