Chilean journalist Miguel Paz left everything behind to start his new venture, Reveniu. On July 31, 2019, he flew out of New York and returned home after resigning from his job as professor at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York (CUNY).
The Reveniu payment platform, which Paz devised to facilitate donations and monetary contributions to start-ups and independent media, has been operating publicly for one year this May. For now, it only works in Chile, although they plan to cross borders in the coming months.
Paz began to study the market of subscriptions, memberships and recurring payments to find a solution for the cumbersome bureaucracy of banking transactions after he was asked how donations could be made more easily to Poderopedia – a collaborative journalism platform he created in 2014 to map powerful business and political actors in Chile, which opened subsequent chapters in other countries of the region.
A call from the Google News Initiative was the “vital” boost the Reveniu project needed, according to the journalist.
In the case of La Pública, the Reveniu platform has helped it to manage audience contributions in an administrative and friendly way, without having a team dedicated to it. Currently, about 50 percent of its income comes through Reveniu, director and cofounder Paulette Desormeaux told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).
“With Reveniu, what we did was implement their services and forget about the issue of collections. Sharing the link of La Pública in Reveniu on social networks when our reports come out has made it easier for people to contribute monthly without us having to do anything more than share that link,” Desormeaux said.
Paz spoke with LJR about the creation and development of his project, giving details about the platform's objectives and plans.
LatAm Journalism Review (LJR): When did the project begin to formally develop and who is on the team now?
Miguel Paz (MP): It was clear to me that for the idea to become something concrete, I needed a co-founder with experience in technology and business and I found it in Leo Soto and his partners Ricardo Jara and Liliana Reyes from ContinuumHQ, a Chilean company that invests in early-stage startups. I resigned from my job at CUNY and arrived in Chile on July 31, 2019. The next day we were working with Leo, designer Cata Gilbert, business developer Josefa Villanueva, who now has her own startup, and Kenny Vivas, our head of product and technology, from Venezuela. Currently, the team is made up of Kenny, Javier Durán, Valeria Tapia, and me. In the coming months, we will be hiring between two and four more people for technology development, growth and content, hopefully from different Latin American countries.
LJR: What makes Reveniu easier to use compared to other payment platforms?
MP: If you are a creator and offer benefits for contribution installments in a closed community, Patreon or Buy me a coffee are for you. But, if what you need is to set up your own subscription, membership, donation or recurring payment management system in five minutes, then Reveniu is for you. Plus, you don't need to implement anything or spend anything beforehand and we only earn when you win, by charging you a small commission for each successful payment. That is, it pays for itself and helps you generate constant and more predictable income over time to map out your income stream. As your income increases, the commissions decrease. And, if at any time you need to do more sophisticated things that require development, you can use our API to offer a "private label" collection experience with all the information managed within your own platform, as well as take advantage of the integrations that we are developing with CRM [customer relationship management], email marketing systems and others.
If you lead a small or medium-sized media outlet and you don't have in-house expertise in technology development or you don't have the resources to put together your own system, Reveniu is a "no brainer.”
LJR: What was Google's role in the project development of the platform?
MP: The financial support from the Google News Initiative was vital. Literally. My partners and I have had previous ventures and failures, so we were very specific when we started. In our first meeting for planning and defining expectations: we agreed that we would put in money from our own pockets for six months and if after six months we had no product-market fit (something super ambitious, looking back) or investment, we would close. We were going on four months, if I remember correctly, when the GNI [Latin America Innovation Challenge] contest was announced, we applied and we were lucky that they trusted our vision, team and product. The $100,000 "equity free" that we received along with a lot of advice and support, especially from Fiore Domínguez, Google's Strategic Partner Manager for Chile and Peru, were invaluable.
LJR: In what types of formats can Reveniu be used? On institutional websites and social networks?
MP: It can be done in all the cases you mention. The base product for your audience is the payment link, a landing page for data entry and payment processing. So, on your site you can create one or more call-to-action buttons; example: contribute X amount monthly, annually, etc. And you can share them on social networks or send a payment request by email. In the case of clients who want to provide a private label experience, they use the API, and for their clients Reveniu does not exist, something that does not seem bad to us because our objective is not to see the brand, but for us to solve the great headache of managing collections and information from clients, subscribers, members or donors, so that your team can focus on the heart of your business.
LJR: What types of organizations have turned to or are already using Reveniu as their payment platform?
MP: There are many customer segments that use Reveniu, a nice challenge in product development, because the headache of collecting monthly and yearly payments is not exclusive to the media. It is difficult, expensive and high reputational risk. It is time to integrate payment gateways, write code and maintain it, collect without mistakes, know who paid, who did not and when, recover declined payments, avoid subscription cancellations, pause them, reactivate them, offer discounts, plan changes, generate receipts and notifications, calculate metrics and projections, and avoid "churn" or abandonments .
LJR: What is the most common type of user/organization for Reveniu so far?
MP: We started out super focused on small and medium-sized organizations, media and foundations that needed a "no-code" platform. As time went by (we celebrated our first year in public mode this month), these clients became more sophisticated in their needs because their businesses were also evolving. We now have many new clients from the startup world who need to accelerate their validation for the market and B2C and D2C businesses, as well as online education and monthly services operations. We will continue working with media – because we believe that it is essential for our societies that we have robust and quality press and because although it sounds corny, it fills my heart to support media from this place – and improve serving companies from other industries.
LJR: How would Reveniu help small news outlets during the pandemic?
MP: To increase their monthly incomes. The platform helps to generate constant and more predictable income over time to project income streams. For example, we have clients that, thanks to the use of Reveniu, already cover more than 60 percent of their costs, and in other cases of smaller organizations, almost 100 percent.
LJR: Has there been interest in using Reveniu among independent media outlets in other Latin American countries, apart from Chile?
MP: There is a lot of interest for us to offer Reveniu in other Latin American countries and other continents in multiple languages. For now, we remain focused only on Chile this semester and are working to launch in other countries on a date to be determined. Doing what we do, unfortunately, is much more difficult in Latin America than in the United States because although we are the "Great Homeland" and we can work remotely and easily establish relationships with people and organizations from multiple countries in an easy way, when it comes to implementing payment management systems, each country is a different world at the level of regulations, payment gateways, banks, etc. Then it is necessary to evaluate whether it is necessary to create local subsidiaries with local bank accounts with local payment systems or to use payment orchestration systems, which are more expensive, and other variables that must be analyzed. It is a problem, but it is a very nice one and we love to solve problems.