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In the last year or so in Tel Aviv, a small turquoise sticker with the word ‘Colu’ on it has made its way onto the windows of countless restaurants, cafes, bars, gift shops, clothing stores and other locally-owned enterprises. Many tourists might be mystified by this seemingly ubiquitous sign, but for Tel Avivians, it is an incentive to buy local.
Colu is a digital wallet app with a bold vision: driving a global change in the economy and the meaning of money. Using blockchain technology to create a local currency, it is empowering local enterprises and strengthening the community.
By using community currencies – a form of money that is based on an economic model meant to strengthen local economies – Colu hopes to solve social and financial challenges in the local community.
“Independent businesses are the backbone of our economy”, states Colu’s website. “We bring local businesses back to the centre by featuring them on the Colu app where locals can easily discover them and use the digital wallet to pay with a click”.
According to them, locals currencies will encourage people to shop, eat and buy local, hence strengthening the local economy and ‘keeping the control of money in everyone’s hands’.
From the user’s perspective, it’s extremely simple. You download the app onto your phone, enter your credit/debit card details and that’s it. From then on, you can add money to your Colu wallet with a tap of your finger and begin shopping local.
It is no wonder why Tel Avivians are warming so quickly to this concept. Aside from its convenience, Colu gives users an onboarding gift – free money (25 NIS) to go and experience using the app, in addition to a referral bonus.
What does its popularity say about the Tel Aviv mentality? “We think Colu’s popularity in Tel Aviv is an indication that the city and its residents are open-minded and innovative”, Colu’s CEO, Amos Meiri, tells Culture Trip. “They understand that urban resilience begins by sharing the responsibility to make the city a better place for everyone and with the participation of all”.
Colu’s presence is felt all over Tel Aviv-Yafo. Some of the best cafes where you can pay using the app include Loveat, a lovely spot tucked away in the gardens behind Habima Square, Citizen Cafe, known for its excellent vegetarian food, fruit shakes and tranquil garden and Edmund, a hipster spot on Allenby Street with a good vibe and good food. Aside from these, fruit shake stands and outdoor coffee kiosks throughout the city accept the currency, as do a growing number of arts and crafts stores, boutique fashion shops and bars.
With over 150K users and 1500 merchants globally, Colu now supports more than $2M in monthly transactions and is active in four communities, Tel Aviv, Haifa, East London and Liverpool. “We received incredible feedback in the UK”, Meiri adds. “The quick adoption could be due to the fact that England has seen many community currencies before so it wasn’t a new concept. With their strong sense of loyalty to their city and its local businesses, the residents of Liverpool and East London were happy to get on board Colu’s vision”.