Interview with Honor Gunday (founder and director of Paymentwall)

In this video, we are talking with Honor Gunday, founder and director of Paymentwall, a payment platform that provides services to businesses in SaaS, travel and e-commerce.

Topics of dialogue:

  • How did the Paymentwall business start?
  • Legal look at the project
  • Plans for the near future
  • Development with partners
  • About business in China, India and Africa
  • About PayPal, AliPay, TenPay business
  • About the influence of Covid-19 
  • Opportunities for investment in FinTech today
  • How to find project ideas?
  • Vitamins and Antibiotics (in VC terminology)
  • The skyscrapers, as the branding of the cities
  • Traditional guest tips

Key insights:

  • One of Honor’s first projects was a social network in combination with the e-commerce platform. Unfortunately, it failed to compete with Facebook despite its popularity in some countries, especially in Turkey.  
  • After that, Honor was engaged in the advertising business. For watching the videos, users were rewarded with points that could be converted into credits outside the platform to, for example, subscribe to a magazine. 
  • Then it was decided to apply the same idea to Facebook games, as it would give more transactions. For example, for certain actions, such as subscribing to Netflix or another service, Honor’s company received payment, part of it was kept, and part was transferred to game developers through the in-game currency of this user. 
  • Unfortunately, this startup did not take off due to a lack of funding as well as the 2008-2009 financial crisis.Honor had to think about what to do next, and they made a pivot in which they were supported by the available transactions technology.  They connected about 20-30 payment operators from the South-East Asian market. Because there was a lot of traffic in the games at the time from that region, but there was no way to accept payments from those users. Since it went well, they started scaling to Russia, Europe, Latin America, etc.
  • Unfortunately, in 2011 Facebook disabled third-party payment systems, but however they managed to make another pivot to the current product – the payment services provider. 
  • Business is an organism that must constantly evolve. The changes plan of Paymentwall for the next 5 years is to add new products in areas adjacent to the current areas of expertise.
  • What differentiates Paymentwall from neobanks is the focus not on the end consumer (B2C), but on suppliers of goods and services, so they operate as B2B2C. This helps to grow not because of end customers onboarding, but thanks to the expansion of each of the partners.
  • Opening an office in Shenzhen (China), allowed to add a new vertical – payments in e-commerce, because this city is located in a region where many different goods are produced. This enabled access both to sellers of own manufactured goods and to intermediaries. 
  • However, many more people know better English in modern China than, for example, 10 years ago. That’s why doing business there has become easier.  
  • Because India has changed a lot over the past few years in terms of digital payments (things are much better and more advanced) and Chinese suppliers were looking for access to the region, Paymentwall decided to open offices there too.
  • Africa is also an interesting and quite developed region.  Honor and his colleagues spent about a month there exploring different cities. He came to the conclusion that people underestimate the potential and current progress of the region.
  • Corruption is very common in Africa, so it may be necessary to do business there with caution. For example, the CEO of the African Standart Bank in Uganda got a prison sentence for bribery. 
  • China has outperformed Western countries in technology very much. For example, applications like WeChat, where you can do a lot of things, including paying for goods and services (instead of cash), change people’s lives significantly.
  • AliPay, PayPal were created because of the necessity to solve the problem of making payments for their own trading platforms (Alibaba and eBay respectively).
  • The pandemic is changing consumers’ views and speed of technologies adopting. For example, Americans are now afraid of card payments when they need to enter a pin code. Honor saw that it is possible to make payments with QR codes like in WeChat. At the moment this technology is not widespread in the US market.
  • In particular, QR codes can be used (and Paymentwall has already developed such a solution) in restaurants. When the code is scanned, the menu items can be selected and then payment can be made. 
  • To develop the idea of a startup, it is necessary to find some problems, demands in users’ activities and understand the possible market for a potential solution. For example, just like when Honor saw the gamers’ need to increase their levels in the game for money, but there was no such opportunity. 
  • VCs classify solutions into vitamins or antibiotics. If your product solves an important pain that you can’t avoid, your chances of getting an investment are significantly greater. There are things that would be good to have, and there are things that are essential.  
  • Traditional guest tip: It is important to understand that there are different periods in each person’s life. If you hire employees from 20 to 30 years of age, they are at a stage in life where there are many attempts and mistakes. After 30 years, there is some consciousness and actions become more deliberated. From a cultural perspective, it can be difficult to bring both together in the same team. Also, if you work on different business verticals (games, FinTech, etc.) this can make it even more difficult. Always try to keep your company culture in focus and hire the right people for you.

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