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Quipu

Quipu is a digital marketplace like eBay or Alibaba, but for informal, unbanked micro-businesses at the bottom of the pyramid.

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Two out of every three people in the world live in slums and work in the informal economy. They’re street vendors and domestic workers, plumbers and chefs. $10 trillion dollars are transacted every year in these communities but they still remain trapped in poverty. They struggle to generate wealth in their communities and have no social protections. Their economies are characterized by survival. They live hand to mouth.

Covid-19 has paralyzed the world leading the global economy to enter a state of emergency. Informal workers are especially vulnerable. Quarantine mandates prohibit street vendors from setting up shop in urban centers, prevents domestic workers from doing their jobs, and evaporates demand for informal taxi services. The communities that Quipu was designed with and for are struggling more than ever today. Imagine places where people were already living on dollars a day when COVID-19 freezes the already lacking money supply. People cannot afford their basic necessities, businesses fail, people become unemployed, and we suffer - not because they didn’t have entrepreneurial skills or because they had nothing to offer - but because there is simply not enough money to go around. 

It’s clear, current global economic systems fail to address the dire needs of a world suffering from Coronavirus. In the words of the latest UN report, “The recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must guide us towards a different economy.” We need to radically re-imagine our economy. We designed Quipu as a solution to enable communities to redesign their communities to provide resilience as well as stabilize and stimulate economic growth in places where the formal economy has failed.

Quipu is a digital marketplace for the informal economy. With the Quipu app, users can buy and sell goods and services without cash using local tokens called quipus. We’re connecting anyone who has anything to sell on an online marketplace with a digital payments system where none else exists. And, we’re leveraging transaction data to prove creditworthiness and unlock access to financial services. 

In a world dealing with Coronavirus, limits on mobility and supply change are emphasizing a transition to an e-commerce but most importantly local and accessible consumption and production. Quipu meets that demand - we’ve built a digital marketplace to facilitate business activity and retain wealth within local economies. The marketplace enables users to advertise their business and reach new customers even if they’re unable to be visible on streets. The local token system allows users to manage their own money supply to value their local economies. Because the currency circulates internally and is issued by those who use it, there will always be enough quipus in a local economy to meet the needs of the community so users can save their cash as well as continue to trade even in times in which there is simply not enough liquid cash to facilitate transactions.

With Quipu, informal workers can make their offerings accessible, increase purchasing power, and enable people the money liquidity needed to afford their everyday necessities. Solutions like Quipu that address community-led economic development can help mitigate the disastrous effects of Coronavirus and future pandemics.

Beyond our current product, we are considering implementing the following features to respond to the COVID-19 crisis:


- Automatic notifications for public health (access to nearby services, affordable medical and survival supplies)

- Identification of opportunities to build local production chains

- Mechanisms of distributing aid and subsidies and for evaluating those programs

- Creation of community funds / crowdfunding to support families most vulnerable to the crisis


Right now, we’re piloting Quipu in an informal settlement in Barranquilla, Colombia. We are implementing alongside a micro-finance institution that is providing micro-loans to Quipu’s first users. Now more than ever in this time of crisis, we need to radically invest in solutions like Quipu designed for the bottom of the pyramid. We want to lay the foundations for a new, more just and resilient economy for the future, starting with addressing this emergency. Join us!

What is the need are you focusing on?

We’re directly addressing a shortage of money. In economic downturns like we’re seeing with COVID-19, poor communities are hit the hardest. Quarantine mandates prohibit street vendors from setting up shop in urban centers, prevents domestic workers from doing their jobs, and evaporates demand for informal taxi services. Commerce is halted and people lack the cash flow on hand to afford even their most basic needs and businesses fail with crippled demand. We tackle this problem with our local token trading system that increases savings and purchasing power. All Quipu users are initially given and earn in quipus, interest-free community tokens/credits. Quipus spent on the marketplace are spent instead of pesos. The Quipu local token system provides users the ability to buy and sell amongst each other without using cash allowing users to save money and transact even in times when cash flow is limited or non-existent, like with COVID-19.

What is the best example of business adaption you’ve seen in response to COVID-19?

A colleague of our team who graduated with us from the 2019 Fast Forward Accelerator has an impressive solution. CG Chen founded AmpleLabs, a non-profit empowering homeless populations by connecting them to free and critical social services like free meals or shelters through an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot named Chalmers. People facing homelessness have two times the risk of infection. In response, AmpleLabs set out with a goal of building products and value within their product to help their end-users. Now, they’re building a COVID-Bot that will give people accurate information on COVID-29 and provide community resources like testing centers, tips + FAQs. .For those facing homelessness social isolation is a big problem. AmpleLabs is launching #FriendPool so anyone can reach out to us and chat with our Community Leads.

What is your profession?

Entrepreneur & City Planner

Where are you located (country)?

Colombia & US

Where are you located (region)?

  • Latin America and the Caribbean

Which industry do you work in?

  • Entrepreneur/Investor
  • Technology

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your submission? Are you participating in these efforts?

N/A

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