Local startup Curenci is spending with a social twist


CurenciCause marketing is gaining momentum as a powerful tool for building relationships between brands and customers. One Minnesota startup is looking to take advantage with an intuitive system that simultaneously rewards merchants, consumers and charitable causes.

“It’s about reducing friction in financial transactions, while providing loyalty and impact,” says Curenci CTO Dale Schumacher.

The system is built on the back of a proprietary payment platform acquired from Alliance Card Incorporated (ACI) that has previously processed 800,000 and $20m of transactions, according to co founder and COO Mike Brooks

“Our technology is better than PayPal,” Schumacher declares.

The basic premise is built around a “Curenci card,” which is conceptually similar to a loyalty card or membership card provided by a merchant or nonprofit. A percentage of cardholders purchase is promoted as a rebate and is then divided three ways, with a portion going to Curenci as a transaction fee, a portion being donated to a cause of the buyer’s choice and a portion going back to the buyer directly. None of the three parties must pay anything to enter the program.

The ability of the customer to choose their own cause is an important distinction of this service, as it allows merchants to donate to various charities (all of which have their own adherents and detractors) without necessarily aligning themselves with any particular one.

The primary way the company’s service is currently being positioned is as a system to streamline fundraising. For example, a school looking to raise money can hand out Curenci cards to students, partner with businesses around town and then encourage folks to shop at those participating merchants.

The benefits yielded by this setup are threefold. Customers go about their usual routines, patronizing local businesses but with money spent going toward their school and back into their own pockets (actually, money rebates accrue on the Currenci card). The merchants that are involved draw extra business and can pride themselves in giving back to the community.

And, of course, the school is able to raise funds without doing a whole lot of work. In one example, a small nonprofit in the northeast metro raised $14,000 over the span of a couple years by simply encouraging patrons to visit a particular restaurant in the area.

“The unique thing about the model,” Brooks says, “is that all three groups ­– the customers, the merchants and the causes – are all working to help the others succeed.”

There are currently only a handful of merchants participating, but Curenci is hoping to build out that roster by year’s end while also broadening its overall scope. Their system offers more expansive capabilities, including an ecommerce solution with less overhead – and thus, lower transaction fees – than similar services such as PayPal.

“We can be many things to many people,” says Brooks.