The Story of Wisy, the First Unicorn Startup of Panama
Wisy has become the first startup in Panama to enter the select group of “unicorns“, technological companies with billion-dollar valuations.
The company founded by Min and Ricardo Chen and Orlando Reyes in 2016 has revolutionized the field of market research through a formula, dubbed “ludification”, which involves users in different campaigns and goals, in an active and entertaining way. One of the main objectives is to collect data and boost user behavior.
Want to know the new products and prices offered by the competition? Want to participate in a fun challenge that generates huge prizes? Want to be an active part of a socially-oriented noble cause? Wisy allows you to participate in various real challenges depending on your interests, social sensibilities or for the simple fact of achieving discounts in real life.
THE SECRET IS CALLED LUDIFICATION
The Wisy application has created the crowdsorucing mission participation model through an application that rewards users for participating or collaborating on these missions. Some are just for fun, others support a good cause and also allow users to make money. Unlike other similar applications, we are not talking here about a virtual world, but about interacting in real life.
Examples? Replying to trivias, taking pictures of an invoice, recording a product, researching about the competition of a clothing brand or scanning a QR code. Wisy is a free application that, when downloaded, asks users for their tastes and interests, which can range from football or independent films to recycling, reading or urbanism.
According to these preferences the application suggests a series of missions to be carried out in the user’s city and obtain points that, in turn, will become offers and prizes.
Min Chen explained it in a practical way in a recent interview with Agencia EFE: “For example, we have a mission regarding artisan beers. To be part of it, every time the user drinks a craft beer, he is invited to take a picture and post it in the application to get points. At the end of each month, the user who has achieved the most points will be compensated with 20 liters of craft beer provided by the manufacturer.
A PANAMANIAN STARTUP THAT GOES GLOBAL
The startup founded in Panama is opening offices in Silicon Valley and Buenos Aires with the goal of reaching the Southern Cone markets and diversifying its user base and customers. It currently has a team of 12 people in Panama.
The forecast for 2019 shows significant growth after it became, last December, the first Panamanian technological startup to have a one million dollar capital, coming mainly from Panamanian investors.
In its portfolio of clients, Wisy already has multinational companies, such as Cemex, Nestlé, Chevron and Texaco. Its business model is based on using new technologies to create games and activities linked to the product or service being offered by a particular brand and thus attract new customers or strengthen the links with the existing brands.
But it also has a social component that places it in an environment not always related specifically to business or commercial campaigns. For example, a mission related to the application in Buenos Aires, promoted by a social organization dedicated to homeless people in Argentina, asks users to alert Wisy of the location of people who are homeless on cold days.
Wisy has accumulated more than 3,000 downloads of its latest version, mainly in Panama, where most of its activity is concentrated for now, although its expansion plans include, besides the US, cities like Mexico and Bogota and expanding missions offered in Buenos Aires.
THE STORY OF A FAMILY OF CHINESE IMMIGRANTS
The story of Wisy is, above all, the story of the Chen siblings, children of a Chinese immigrant who was an electrical and electronic engineer. He arrived in Panama and settled in Amador Guerrero. The two siblings started going to school without knowing a word of Spanish.
These were hard times that they managed to overcome with much effort, as Min recalls. She ended up being part of one of the first promotions of computer engineers to graduate from the University of Panama.
After working in several companies and staying in Silicon Valley for a while, she returned to her home country in 2006 and founded Alcenit Corporation, a consulting firm for medium and large size organizations in technology and innovation management.
In 2016, Chen founded along with her brother Ricardo, RedOxigen, a technology solutions company that placed Panama on the map of Latin American startups, thanks to the creation of Interfase, Panama’s first augmented reality game, which connects businesses with players and functions as a digital positioning channel for large and medium-sized companies.
The natural evolution of that first product has been Wisy, which has entered the select group of startups valued at more than one billion dollars.
In other types of missions, participating companies in Wisy reward the user with cash for performing “mysterious customer” tasks, which involve going to a competitor’s shop and obtaining price information.