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The future of money

Welcome to this week’s handbook for managing through the COVID-19 crisis. 

From e-commerce to the property market, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated shifts in our economy at lightning speed. And the use of cash is no exception. Already in decline, cash may very well never recover from this shock to our economic system. 

So, what will fill that gap? As part of a special series produced with our sister publications Crikey and The Mandarin, today we look at the rise of Afterpay and the buy-now-pay-later vanguard. Is it a good thing, asks Jason Murphy. The answer to that question is complicated

Stay tuned for more articles in our series on the future of money throughout the week. 

Here are five other things to check off your list this week:

Keep reading below for all the latest tech news, analysis on what the future of retail will look like, and insights into how other entrepreneurs are managing through the crisis.

Please get in touch If there are specific questions you’d like answered, or experiences you’d like to share with the SmartCompany community.

Stay safe,

Eloise Keating
SmartCompany editor

A cashless society

In 2007, cash accounted for 69% of transactions in Australia, cards 26%. In 2019, cash had fallen to 27% (down 10% from the 2016 survey), and cards were at 63%.

That’s a stark difference, and with the COVID-19 pandemic generating a wave of cashless payments, this trend is likely to accelerate in 2020.

But will cash disappear altogether in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak? 

It’s tough to say.


As cash declines, new payment methods are ascending and few are growing quicker than those in the buy-now-pay-later space, which is displacing credit cards, particularly among younger consumers.

Australian companies such as Afterpay and Zip are at the forefront of the change, but it’s also not that simple.

Cash is never coming back — we know that. But what precisely will replace it remains a fiercely fought battle.

Read more


Speaking of Zip, the company is raising capital and buying other payments companies in its latest bid to capture a sizeable portion of the North American market, where rival Afterpay already has a firm footing.

Zip is looking to increase its customer base by 70% and its annual revenue by just under 40% via its latest deal, which will be subject to shareholder approval. 

Whatever the outcome, it’s clear there’s still plenty of capital around for companies running towards the future of money.

Keep reading

JobKeeper, continued

A disagreement between the Young Workers Centre and a Dymocks franchisee has raised new questions about the eligibility for casual workers for the JobKeeper program. 

While existing eligibility rules enable long-term casuals and stood down workers to participate in the $70 billion wage subsidy program, workers at this Chadstone store stood themselves down, and did not work any shifts during April.

Should they have been eligible for April payments?


Swedish retailer H&M has defended a Fair Work Commission (FWC) case over annual leave provisions created by the JobKeeper program, after one worker refused its request that she use her leave entitlements while receiving the wage subsidy.

In its second such ruling in recent weeks, the FWC provided new clarity about what constitutes an “unreasonable” excuse for denying employer leave requests.

Find out what happened


JobKeeper red tape is preventing many sole traders, particularly those in the arts industry, from enrolling and declaring for the wage subsidy program.

These insights have been drawn from the NSW tax academy, which helps small businesses with their tax affairs free of charge. The academics say people who seek help with their BAS statements are, on average, seven years behind.

Read more

Spotlight on tech

The COVID-19 crisis has seen women losing work at a disproportionate rate, and Sarah Liu, co-founder and chief of The Dream Collective, is actively inviting those women to start a new career in tech.

Liu’s ShePivots program offers a free upskilling platform, designed to help women make “an unexpected career transition”.

Rather than focusing on the ‘techy’ skills associated with the sector, it’s designed to help women show their resilience and willingness to pivot, give them the tools to frame their story in the best way, and offer tips on networking.

And, heavyweights like Canva, Amazon Web Services and Google are on board as ‘career partners’, opening job applications to participants.

Learn more here.


When it comes to preventing the spread of the coronavirus, the co-founders of 3D printing business SPEE3D think they may have stumbled onto something.

Copper has been known to repel viruses and bacteria for years, co-founder Bryon Kennedy told SmartCompany. So the business is now using its 3D printing tech to coat door handles and railings with the magical metal.

“There’s been tremendous interest from sectors [including the] commercial sector who are looking at ways to protect workers, all the way through to cruise liners, aerospace industries and household appliances as well,” Kennedy said.

“We’re the only ones printing parts using this process.”

Read more here.


Aussie ‘larrikin unicorn’ Culture Amp is among the many businesses feeling the pinch of COVID-19, and has ultimately cut 8% of its global workforce — about 36 employees.

While a $120 million funding round last year means the startup still has enough runway to keep its head above water, and chief Didier Elzinga insists the business is still growing, that growth has slowed considerably.

The cuts are about making sure the startup will survive in the long-term, Elzinga told SmartCompany.

“For us, it was about what’s the right thing to do to set us up no matter which way the market goes, no matter which way the economy goes,” he said.

Read more.


But, elsewhere, tech giants have been making a killing during the pandemic. The likes of Atlassian, Amazon, Xero, Salesforce, Alphabet and — of course — Netflix have only been increasing customer engagement and market valuations.

Investors are falling over themselves to grab shares in these businesses, which promise resilience, and appear well-positioned to grow post-COVID-19.

So, what do they have in common? And what can we learn?

Find out.


Another tech company that’s only on the up is TikTok. Its parent company ByteDance reportedly raked in more than US$17 billion ($25 billion) in revenue in 2019, and US$3 billion ($4.4 billion) in net profit.

If correct, that puts it squarely ahead of OG video platform YouTube, which reportedly made US$15.1 billion ($22.2 billion) in ad sales last year.

All of these figures are for 2019 only, and don’t include the spike in usage during the COVID-19 lockdown periods all over the world.

The stats bode well for ByteDance, and its rumoured 2020 IPO.

But everything may not be quite as it seems.

Quick links
Victorian employers must keep workers at home, or risk $10,000 fines
COVID-19 stimulus: Fourth package to offer targeted support to tradies
Aussie agtech could be a “cornerstone” of the post-COVID-19 economy… but only if we invest in it
JobKeeper declarations: Businesses have 14 days to declare for May or risk missing payments
Healthy Mind, Healthy Business

It’s becoming clear that the COVID-19 crisis is hitting women harder than men — women are losing jobs at a faster rate, and and industries where women over-index are among the hardest hit.

As whole families switch to working and learning from home, those working for themselves are seeing the pressure mount as well.

Somehow, family duties are still falling to women, Courtney Bowie, founder of Her Lawyer says in this piece. And that includes the mental load, on top of the trials of entrepreneurship.

If we don’t make a change soon, we could be stunting the growth of women-led businesses, and that’s not good for anyone.

Read more here.


We spoke to Smiling Mind founder Jane Martino and MYOB chief employee experience officer Helen Lea about mental health advice for small business owners in this sponsored article.

Get their mindfulness advice here.


Working at a startup sounds intriguing, challenging, and exciting. But there’s much more to it than that.

In this frank and honest piece from an anonymous startup employee, we hear about what it’s really like on the inside, and the toll it can take on people’s mental health.

Read the full piece here.


In this sponsored article, small business consultant Angela Henderson shares four actionable tips to protect and reinforce your mental health during this period of uncertainty.

Read on for tips you can apply today.


Find out how cutting back from seven staff to sole trader improved Studio Marché founder Alisha Dunsford’s mental health, revenue and customer relationships in this sponsored article.

Here’s why it was the best decision she ever made.

Future of retail

Clothing retailer PAS group collapsed into voluntary administration last Friday in a bid to restructure in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The news highlights the challenges retailers are now facing when re-opening their stores as restrictions ease across the country.

Rent relief and wage subsidy measures expire in September, and with promotional activity likely to intensify in the lead up to the fourth quarter, there are fears many retailers will be forced to the wall.

Learn more


Picture this: everyone in the shopping centre has their shops open again, including you, but there’s a veritable tumbleweed blowing through the corridors.

Consumers are skint right now, and getting back moving again won’t be easy for retailers.

Ofer Mintz has considered how businesses can stand out in a difficult trading environment.


Woolworths, Vinomofo and others are already doing it, so why aren’t you?

Graham Jackson explores why taking the best bits from retail stores and fulfilment centres and putting them together could be the answer in the wake of COVID-19.

Learn more about the rise of dark stores


In what could be a sign of things to come, Woolworths Group has offered 100,000 staff members a bonus as reward for working at the company through the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and the Hong Kong protests. 

While the retailer has yet to finish back-paying previously underpaid workers, it will nevertheless hand out $750 in shares to all full and part-time workers, alongside $250 gift cards. Casuals will receive $100 gift cards.

Read more

In case you missed it
Interview with an angel: Why early-stage startup funding is still up for grabs, and how to get your hands on it
How Renew Australia is turning abandoned shops into rent-free workspaces for local creatives
IR reform battleground: Morrison’s call for handshake between unions and business will not come easily
Pack your bags: It’s time for the travel industry to map out its road to recovery
What other entrepreneurs are doing

In some perhaps surprising news this week, Singapore scooter-sharing startup Beam raised US$26 million ($38.6 million) in Series A funding, as it prepares to expand in the Asia-Pacific region.

The round comes at a time when the future of ride-sharing is under question, as concerns about hygiene have caused many operators to put business on pause.

Keep reading.


In another somewhat unexpected success story, Kaddy, a startup helping connect booze producers with pubs, bars and bottle shops, has raised $3.5 million, even as COVID-19 threw the hospitality space into turmoil.

In fact, the startup has actually seen revenues double, month-on-month, since the start of the crisis.

While hospitality came to a standstill, bottle shops have been performing better than ever, the founders told SmartCompany

And, now pubs and bars are starting to re-open, there’s innovation in the air. Could tech provide an opportunity to streamline processes and do business better?

Read more here.


Former reality TV contestant Sam Wood grew his online fitness and nutrition business by almost 40% in the six weeks to May as Australians tuned in to see him work out on social media.

It pays to have a profile when you’ve been forced to close your gym, and to invest in technology. 

Keep reading


An Adelaide business owner has pushed his foot-operated door handles to the market in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, proving there’s a small business for everything.

Valley Precise Global is already producing several hundred hands-free door opening devices every week as demand builds up.

Learn more

What we're predicting and watching

As we watch the troubling scenes unfold in the US, and consider the parallels closer to home, there’s a growing sense that, at this stage, being apolitical is a statement in itself — both for businesses and individuals. 

If you’re a business leader, do you have a duty to show where you stand on political and social issues? And can any business separate itself from the views of its founder?

These are questions we’ve considered before. But, in times when the global crises seem to just keep coming, they feel more relevant than ever.


Australian GDP fell 0.3% in the March quarter, which is bang on consensus market estimates.

The data, which sets Australia up to potentially fall into a recession later this year, represents the slowest through-the-year growth since the global financial crisis, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

We’re watching how the government responds to this data. There’s no shortage of stimulus decisions to be made before the third quarter, given a collapse in private demand helped drive the March GDP decline.


The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is being inundated by applications from employees disputing their JobKeeper eligibility with their bosses.

We’re continuing to watch as dozens of papers filed with the FWC get knocked back week after week, and there appears to be widespread confusion about where the buck stops on JobKeeper eligibility, and who makes the final decision.

We’re looking into this further and will keep you all updated with what we find, but for now, at least, it’s clear the FWC wants nothing to do with eligibility disputes.

Additional resources
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
My Business Health
Business.gov.au
Department of Health
 
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