Oatpay, founded in Oxford, is the startup responsible for the Cashew app. Launched in Oxford at the start of Michaelmas term 2016, the app has already had huge success.
Jamie Cox, a Classics student, works on-the-ground in Oxford, alongside the other two founders. David Hsu, who spoke to The OxStu, is a computer science graduate at St. Hugh’s who works on the project full-time and is the person most likely to speak to someone using the live-help facility.
Speaking in October, Jamie said the app “uses industry-leading security to make it easier to buy tickets online for a handful of events which we are helping to run.” The drive behind creating the app came from their opinion that the other means of paying; cash, card or other apps were ill-suited to student transactions, including buying club tickets, food after a night out and paying each other.
The investment to launch came from a combination of money from the trio’s previous projects and from external investors. The app does not charge a fee for use and registration is through Facebook.
“We are processing literally one third of Hassan’s purchases every night.”
In October, 6,500 undergraduates were already using the app and they were partnered with seven major Oxford University balls. Speaking to The OxStu David Hsu reported that they are growing 20% week on week; doubling every month – faster than dropbox and Airbnb grew at the beginning.
Six out of ten Oxford Students have Cashew on their phones and whilst their initial focus was on the Oxford branch, they are rapidly expanding their reach, with David reporting “we’re making inroads in other universities in the UK as well.”
They estimate there are roughly ten to twenty thousand users. David added: “Exponential growth is hard to reason about — if we maintain 20% week on week growth, we’ll be at 800k users in 6 months! That’d be pretty incredible.”
“We’re also moving into merchant growth, which is coming along very well. We account for around 1/4th of card transaction volume at Olives”, a popular French delicatessen and sandwich shop on High Street, “we are processing literally one third of Hassan’s purchases every night.”
They report that the use of Cashew in merchant transactions is going to increase dramatically when they release a new element to the app: rewards, essentially “a loyalty card on your phone.”
David said that this will mean “there’ll be a huge advantage to paying via Cashew (as opposed to cash or debit), since you’ll literally be earning 10% back when you pay via Cashew. That’s coming to most of our merchants in the next few weeks” he promised.
They are keen to hear from any students with feedback. They want advice on which merchants students would want to see accepting Cashew payments. The main issue they face in bringing more merchants on board David told us is “a.) who we should approach, and b.) making them care – students can help with both!”
He added: “Merchants are how we make money, so we have to scale that up.” There are also opportunities for students to get involved in the growth of Cashew, as CEO at their university, for example.
When asked how the founders felt about their success and speedy expansion David expressed his delight, saying “We’re doing really well — we’ve just joined Y Combinator, which is a startup accelerator out in Silicon Valley.”
“They’re incredibly selective: past startups include Airbnb, Dropbox, Twitch, Reddit, and others. I think their acceptance rate this batch is around 1%, so we’re pretty happy we’re in.”