The Billion Dollar Fintech Company That You Probably Haven’t Heard Of
Revolut, Monzo, Transferwise – you will have undoubtedly heard of these successful FinTech start- ups, which have been making headlines for quite some time now. However, there’s one more player in this game. Just a few months ago, Checkout.com – a little-known UK FinTech company – broke European funding records, raising a $230 million funding round and giving the company a valuation of $2 billion. It was the largest Series A early-stage venture capital deal of its kind in Europe, and the third largest anywhere in the world. Commenting on the recent investment, Guillaume Pousaz, founder and CEO of the company, noted that, “Life has changed for the better – no question.
I think the way we look at it is that we know we worked super hard for this – probably a full decade from when we started in the beginning – and of course, the profile has raised a lot, but we’re the exact same people we were six months ago.” The payments processing company offers an online payment platform that focuses on accepting more transactions, currencies and payment methods through one integration, providing absolute transparency across the entire payment value chain. To be more specific, it offers a one-stop shop for processing 150 currencies, with transaction speeds of 200 milliseconds – compared to MasterCard’s 400 milliseconds – and despite the stiff competition, it already has some big-name clients to boast of, including Samsung, Transferwise, Adidas and Virgin.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard about Checkout.com before, the answer is simple: the company is a silent partner behind their merchants, and is happy to work this way. “We’re not like PayPal, which is consumer-facing. We’re truly B2B. Merchants have a love/hate relationship with PayPal because it owns the relationship with the customer rather than the merchant,” says the Swiss entrepreneur. Interestingly, Pousaz didn’t originally plan on working with payments. As he says, “I didn’t find payments, payments found me.” Born and raised in Switzerland, Pousaz studied mathematical engineering for a few years, before deciding that business was a better fit for him. During his third year of Economics studies at HEC
Lausanne, his father was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and Pousaz was forced to do some soul-searching.
He stopped his studies, failed his finals, and never returned to complete his degree.
Instead, he went to California, wanting to be close to the ocean and to indulge his passion for surfing. There, he got a job at a payments company called International Payment Consultants. It was not easy – he worked 70–80 hours per week and had to learn about the payments industry from scratch. However, it was during that time that Pousaz realised that there was more potential in the payments industry.
“I spent two years as an employee,” explained the entrepreneur, “left – with the Head of Sales – and started my first business.”And this is how, in 2007, NetMerchant – a company which specialised in selling European currencies to US merchants – was created.
“Obviously, we had nearly no capital and no technology and were ‘white label’ of another technology company. We didn’t own anything. We were purely contract sellers,” remembers Pousaz, “We were selling contracts to banks. Merchants were interested in payment processing, but at that time, I did not own the technology. I did not own anything.”Although at that time the fundamental business model of NetMerchant was truly unique – making complex cross-border transactions and international selling for US merchants as easy as possible – Pousaz and his partner ran the company for just two years, until 2009.Unable to agree on the same vision and direction regarding NetMerchant’s future, the colleagues decided to part ways.
Pousaz wanted to invest in the business and build his own payment getaway: “I saw that things were changing in the world around us and felt this was a business opportunity that I needed to double-down on. I felt this was an amazing opportunity for payments.”
That same year, in 2009, the entrepreneur discovered a small company in Mauritius. It was perfect – a team of ten people had built a payment getaway, had technology and PCI experience, but had no idea of how to improve its user experience.
Pousaz bought the company, telling them “You know how to code the payment gateway, but I know how to drive business. If you give me the code, I will guarantee to pay you three years’ salary. We’ll sign a contract and I will put the money in a bank account. I will fund the company, but I want everything for free.”
It worked, and in 2012, Checkout.com was founded. It started with a simple vision: to create a payments company that used all its own technology rather than working with any middlemen. That same year Checkout.com became licensed by the FCA, and shortly after, in 2013, MasterCard and Visa gave it a principal membership. However, there was one little problem. They had the payment getaway and the acquiring bank, but were missing the last piece of technology – the payment processor.
“Nobody wanted to work with us,” explains Pousaz, “I guess because we didn’t raise money or because we didn’t have enough money – and from there we decided to build the whole payment processing platform ourselves, which for most people was completely crazy.”
Fast-forward to 2016, after three years of nothing but hard work, and Pousaz decided to relaunch the company. Which he reflects as being the turning point: “We relaunch everything, and from there on its mostly exponential growth.”After setting up the company’s first headquarters in London, the entrepreneur decided to move with his family to Dubai, thinking that the Middle East might offer more business opportunities at that time. It turns out that his gut instincts were right – in Dubai, Pousaz made a deal and started to work with Deliveroo, a multinational food-delivery start-up, which was looking to expand in the area but didn’t have a local payments provider.
And this was just a beginning. Soon after this deal, other big clients were following suit: Transferwise, Virgin, Adidas, Samsung, EasyGroup, Getty Images Inc., to name just a few.Today, Checkout.com is “solving complex payment problems for some of the biggest merchants in the world”, and has already opened eight offices across Europe, the Middle East, the US and Asia Pacific.
Currently, the company has 380 employees, but its CEO noted that it would be tripling its headcount over the next three years, as it pushes into more product areas and new markets, outside of the US, Europe and the Middle East.
The entrepreneur says that the company managed to grow its business organically and steadily, and this was possible mainly because they had no investors and no particular pressure. “Other payments companies, especially in the US, have been forced to go for the land grab. But we’ve been able to focus on our product,” he says.
The strategy has paid off. Clients are consistently impressed by the speed and efficiency of Checkout.com’s platform, and the company can be proud of an impressive 99% client retention rate.And as for the future: Guillaume Pousaz has a clear vision, and wants to become a major player in global finance. “We plan to become the bank of the future. Today we’re trying to reinvent certain interactions in financial services,” he explains, adding that company’s most important launch will happen next year.
Right now, the company is building a new product that will enable marketplace customers to use its infrastructure to accept payments and comply with regulations – all in the blink of an eye.