Traditional anything is so 2019. The shadow of a looming recession coupled with consumers’ rolling interest in a circular economy where next to nothing goes to waste – 62% of people globally now say it’s very important companies they buy from adopt circular sustainability practices – is paving the way for concepts (retail, fitness and fintech) that help people keep tabs on the stuff they own or things they do, and move it on/change it up if it no longer serves them. Accountability and flexibility, personal and brand-based, will define a chunky slice of 2021’s brand success stories.
Addressing this rapidly coagulating mindset, last week marked the launch of an ambitious new fintech concept: DIEM, a.k.a. ‘The Bank of Things’ conceived by serial techpreneur, Geri Cupi. A fully-functioning banking app, users get an account and a debit card that works as any ‘regular’ payment tool would. But, at the crux of the concept, there’s also a digital dashboard that instantly visualizes the real-time, resales market value of a users’ goods and then allows them to liquidate those ‘assets’ just as quickly – by selling them directly to DIEM.
Think of it as a kind of digital pawnbroker for the eBay EBAY era (without the capacity to buy stuff back) and with a blockchain-based infrastructure that means you need never second guess what your things are worth, nor get hung-up on the haggle. This is ‘flipping’ (reselling to anyone over 20) for a generation in flux.
But is this a masterstroke for sustainability where we finally learn to appreciate the value of what we have, not to mention a game-changing gift to Covid-era cash-crunched, commitment-terrified consumers? Or an initiative that gives dangerous license (albeit inadvertently) to think less about our spending?
Here’s the full lowdown:
More on How it Works: Checking Up + Cashing In
DIEM (full name: Carté DIEM, geddit?) invites users to input the details of their goods by uploading a photo and filling in the key details (more on authentication later) to receive a real-time visualization of the value of their ‘assets’ in milliseconds.
Like a digital gift voucher that just keeps on (self) giving, users can ‘cash out’ an item at any time simply by swiping up. DIEM is the group buying it (users send all items to the company HQ) and deploys the same evaluation tech to establish the marketplace where it’ll resell it for a profit, hence the near-frictionless decision. While fashion is likely to dominate the trial, Cupi states it’s ultimately aiming to incorporate any lifestyle goods, from electronics to sports to toys.
Especially appealing is a function that makes it possible to also group items as collections – making it far easier to assess just how much stuff it would be necessary to flog to get, say, a pair of Bottegas, or fund a month in Ibiza. According to Cupi, “with our sustainability focus we have to assume this isn’t just about selling to buy more things, but selling to empower a lifestyle change.”
It’s currently beta-testing with around 100 users (UK-only), with the aim to onboard 5000 by the end of 2020, depending on how voraciously they cash in items. There’s already a waiting list for future users.
The Algorithmic Secret Sauce
The most important differentiating tech is the proprietary algorithm which Cupi says is able to provide an accurate market price for any item by monitoring and synthesizing real-time reselling prices across every platform in the world, from eBay to Depop, to name just two. This is in contrast to a business like StockX (the ultra-successful American online mecca for sneakerhead resales) which only scrapes data from within its own sector.
The message? If you want total accuracy/transparency (a huge lure for the stereotypically risk-averse Gen Z) and aren’t interested in the ebb and flow of the traditional resales game, then DIEM is for you.
The Blockchain Entrepreneur’s Brainchild
How can it be so good? The promise comes from its creator – Albanian Cupi, who is also the cofounder and CEO of Monochain, a blockchain-based start-up focused on developing provenance and tracking for the luxury resales sector via an advanced tagging system. As a related aside, Cupi also founded Jook, a social media ecommerce company, and (non-tech centric but usefully illustrative of his passion for regenerative commerce) SocialDNA, a premium denim recycling business acquired by Levi’s Albania.
According to Cupi, the beauty of the blockchain backbone is that when further verification tech comes into play it’ll slot right into the existing mainframe.
What About the Miscreants? Verification Tech Incoming
An obvious potential floor is that users currently provide the details of their products themselves, allowing serious room for error either deliberate or accidental. Not to mention the possibility of it becoming a trading post for stolen goods and counterfeit crap. DIEM’s currently tackling that with expert manual checkers who confirm if the items sent in are legit, with a 7-day interim period set for disputes. Clearly a barrier to scaling the business, Cupi acknowledges the next phase will need to include authentication tech:
“For now, we’ll be monitoring users’ behaviors. We’ll be checking how often and exactly what people are selling, and we will set daily limits. If we see suspicious behavior we can cut people off immediately.”
Virtual Wardrobes & Self-Awareness Tech
In the wider techiverse it’s important to note that DIEM is neatly cohabiting with a new world of self-monitoring ‘citizen-centric’ technologies (beyond the fitness realm) in which a greater visibility over many aspects of our lives, from our hormones to our fuel consumption to our wardrobes, will potentially prompt us to do and be better.
Other notable fashion concepts harnessing the prompt factor or, more specifically, nudge theory (positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to influence decisions) include the excellent Save Your Wardrobe – a wardrobe-logging app also with a dashboard interface. Users can shop but also access services such as repair, recycling, donation or reselling and includes metrics on each item’s eco-ethical ‘score. Also, Little Black Door – another in-beta digital closet concept that emphasizes social exchanges, enabling easy borrowing of garments.
An Incitement to More or Less Conscious Consumption?
But, behaviorally speaking, the flipside to a business where absolutely everything can be sold on immediately, without even having to pause to guess it’s worth or how to beef up your sales patter, is that it could inadvertently become an incitement to spend more mindlessly than ever before. Why bother to consider if you need ‘the thing’ if you can cash it in immediately with no hassle?
The potential irony for a concept that’s strapped itself onto sustainability’s masthead isn’t lost on Cupi, who believes that in an echo of the virtual wardrobing concepts’ nudgenomics, the greater outcome will be a heightened sense of awareness of what we have and our usually imperceptible behaviors. For instance, how often are we really faced with the full force of our consumption in black and white?
“What is key to DIEM is how it encourages people to re-evaluate their relationship with items, with consumption and with what it means to utilize and own what you have,” says Cupi. “Users can give life back to the unused items. DIEM brings freedom. In a sense of releasing cash for users to allocate as their wish. Perhaps some want to fund a new business, travel or spend on an experience, education, or leave it to their kids, donate to charity? The system allows an abundance of choices. Hopefully it will lead people into becoming more conscious of their consumption, not less.”