The first challenge that the Catholic Church has is that of lacking engagement. In Europe, in many countries only 15-30% of Catholics are active. It also struggles to use digital communication to reach Catholics. For example, official Facebook diocese pages only reach a tiny proportion of dioceses (often less than 5% of the Catholics), whereas more Catholics use Google Maps church pages for finding churches on an ad-hoc basis which is always transactional. However, we estimate that 80%+ of Google Maps church pages have missing or incorrect information and only 5% of those pages are formally claimed by the churches. Only some churches have reliable websites, and there is no single universal platform for communicating to and engaging Catholics – often the most reliable way to be fully informed is to turn up physically in church.
This in particular affects the younger Catholics. When the Church tries to be digital, it has an overemphasis on websites and email communication, and is slowly learning to use social media, which is poorly adapted to religion. Secondly, because many sacraments and ceremonies are only valid if the participants attend in person, including attending Mass which is only “valid” if attended physically, there is overemphasis on proximity-based communication and using paper, e.g. distributing printed newsletters and selling prayer booklets. Only recently is the Church waking up to the reality of live-streaming Masses and they have increased in importance, while still being at mercy of constant technical problems.
Most donations are still given in cash or by card. The third problem is that these solutions are often old-fashioned and lack transparency and even the Vatican has realized this and made an emphasis on increasing transparency in 2020. The challenges are that donations end on anonymous accounts without the user being to track the impact or purpose, that the user experience of donating by web buttons or physical donation terminals is poor and most often discards the precious relationship between the donor and the recipient, so these solutions are very transactional rather than being relational.
The obvious solution would be to offer mobile apps to increase engagement, but our market research shows great market fragmentation and that 90% of mobile church apps, often local ad-hoc approaches, offer a poor user experience and do not offer state-of-the-art design, responsiveness and functionality. They also lack context, e.g. understanding if a Catholic is obliged to go to church a certain day or not, and the ability to only show relevant information, while catering for various geographical areas. Many of them are actually glorified websites, which do not offer the full mobile user experience.
The total global market size is approximately £80bn and we focus on an addressable market of £1bn with an yearly growth rate of 3%.
Our solution is the Catholic App Platform. This is a two-sided platform (see illustration on next page), offers a smart mobile app to Catholics and a web platform to the churches and dioceses. Here are main aspects of the solution that make it unique and provide value:
- A smart mobile app
It is a smart mobile app for Catholics, which delivers an excellent user experience. Its intelligence and customization provides more useful and contextually relevant information faster, compared with websites.
- A single universal platform
A single universal platform for engaging and communication with Catholics.
- A digital companion
It can both be used when the user takes initiative (e.g. “Find Mass near me now”) and sometimes it can itself take the initiative, e.g. for sending news and spiritual inspirations, and soon also donation prompts. Unlike other communication forms, it acts as a smart companion/assistant.
- Secure in-app donations
It has integrated mobile donations (see separate section)
- Added value for users
Unlike other solutions in this area, it is released and provides value to Catholics in a geographical area even before a church knows about it. This is the freemium bottom-up approach. Then we invite a church to claim its church page and understand the value the app provides.
- Enables geo-discovery
- A Software-as-a-Service
- An expandable platform
- Integrates with Google Maps (coming soon)
- Disrupts donation terminal market (coming soon)
The Catholic App project started as an idea and side-project in 2016: a mobile app focused on navigation to churches, Mass and Confession – bringing mobile transformation to religion. Already in 2016 the intention was that in the future donation collection might be added. That project expanded to a product, covering two dioceses in 2018. Then the transformation to an automated service started – and in August 2020 we plan to launch the MVP (minimum value product) of the integrated scalable system: both web app for self-service by churches and dioceses and mobile app (live now).
The company has revenue from the pre-automation phase (i.e. pre-SaaS) and we are looking to increase it hundredfold though the intelligent automated Software-as-a-Service.
Currently the Catholic App IP is 100% owned by Musemantik but we are currently exploring if to give it a new trading name.
Dr Maciej Zurawski, Founder & CEO
Maciej holds a Ph.D. in Informatics/Artificial Intelligence from the University of Edinburgh, having also studied physics, economics and literature. He is an entrepreneur and technologist, having been developing mobile app, which act as smart companions, since 2014. He has 20+ years of software development experience. Maciej believes that digital technology should be a force for good, and that mobile app innovations are the ideal way to harvest and unleash human goodness.
His deep understanding of technology, software development and the Catholic Church has enabled him to invent and build both the information system, navigation component, communication system and donation system of the Catholic App from first principles so that they fit religion well and make Christians happy, observing how existing solutions in all those area is poorly adapted to religious activity.
Diwakar Thakore, Co-founder and Business Operations Consultant
Diwakar holds an MBA from the University of Edinburgh. He has experience in project management, business development, marketing – traditional and digital, strategy, technology commercialization, finance, accounting, intellectual property, start-ups and scale-ups, and social entrepreneurship. He has shaped the commercial and legal frameworks of the Catholic App. He will also be in charge of regulatory compliance of the financial system.
Julio Jose, Head of Customer Development
Julio has six years experience as a project manager, having delivered £3m+ projects and is completing his MBA. He is APMP qualified with a course on Leadership and Management at IESE Business School. Julio is customer centric with a strategic mind, and he guides innovation processes and the product offering, understands different markets and helps to expand the app globally.
Inigo, Sales for Southern Europe
Inigo is responsible for sales and marketing in Spain and southern Europe. He has a PhD in architecture from the University of Edinburgh, and has worked in this field. Inigo is interested in technology and as a travelling Catholic he is not satisfied with existing ways to find Mass times online. He wants to help the Catholic App develop into something really attractive and useful for Catholics and to be part of its worldwide expansion.
Nicholas Bukenya, Sales for Africa
Nicholas Bukenya is an ex-seminarian and Java programmer from Uganda, East Africa. He is visionary with the App’s functionality which matches with the customers’ requirement, gives customer experience and after sales support to customers (subscribers). He is responsible for sales and marketing in Uganda, but eventually his responsibility will grow to cover other parts of Africa. He is also a sales and marketing specialist.
Advisers: Anne Johnson & Chris Wright