Wallettec, launched in November 2013, is a mobile payments platform that enables retailers to accept payments from digital wallets, allowing consumers to transact at the point-of-sale (PoS) using their mobile phones. The software is currently being used in South Africa, Namibia, Canada and Kenya, where it can process every digital currency, including M-Pesa, Bitcoin and Airtel Money. It also allows payments from bank accounts. No cards are required; consumers just need a mobile phone.
The business was founded by Johan Meyer, a Namibian-born entrepreneur who has experience in the financial services industry having previously worked for Merrill Lynch, Standard Bank, Bank of England and First National Bank. How we made it in Africa asks Meyer to share more on Wallettec’s business, his entrepreneurial journey and international expansion plans.
How did you finance Wallettec? Did you find funding?
It has not been funded at all. I believe the correct term is bootstrapped. When I started I made the decision to wait until the company was making a profit before I started looking for funding or investment.
How does it generate revenue?
Wallettec works on a fee per transaction.
Who are Wallettec’s clients?
It works with different partners in South Africa and other countries. In South Africa, Wallettec added Wallet One to their list of clients which made it part of Wallet One’s integration into the Shoprite Group of stores. In Kenya it works with companies like Eko Biashara, Bluelinx, Rash-infotech and M-Mali.
A big part of Wallettec’s solution lies in allowing consumers to make PoS payments from their bank account using their mobile phone. With the vast majority of Africans remaining unbanked, what role do you see Wallettec playing in these markets and how successful do you think it can be without improvements to banking infrastructure?
Wallettec provides multiple solutions to the industry. Digital wallet integration assists merchants/retailers to be able to accept and process any type of digital currency hassle-free and swiftly without using multiple software or additional hardware. This is critical because it allows merchants to expand that income stream and introduce new revenue streams.
For example, a merchant in Kenya who makes money selling fresh goods can now increase his revenue by becoming an M-Pesa agent, allowing him to make money out of taking deposits or allowing withdrawals at his store. Through this integration, merchants are able to offer more financial services to their customers, like selling prepaid services, cash deposits or withdrawals, bill payments and even remittance.
The second solution deals with active bank accounts and targeting those markets that are already enjoying a stable and established banking system, but see the need to use mobile money as an alternative.
You have plans to expand Wallettec to Asia. Which markets have caught your attention and why?
We are definitely looking at Singapore, which is seen as Asia’s financial hub and Wallettec is all about taking on the impossible. So by aiming at Singapore we know once we’ve broken into that market the rest will be easy. Singapore is also one of the first countries which implemented the banking infrastructure used by Wallettec.
What about your African expansion plans? Any other markets you have your eye on?
One of the countries we are really keen on is Zimbabwe, which is currently sitting with a huge cash problem. By implementing Wallettec’s solution in that country we can help people by giving them a way to trade without cash. It can enable each and every person to use the money in their bank account without the need to withdraw the cash, convert it into any other digital formats or use the traditional card networks. This makes transacting more affordable, a lot easier and keeps money in the country. We will also be exploring Botswana, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?
The first person I would hire is a CFO, someone with very strong financial and banking background. After that I would invest in growing Wallettec internationally.
What risks does your business face?
Wallettec’s biggest risks are the credit card companies. As a start-up we are competing with some of the biggest companies in the world – Visa and MasterCard. But although that’s one of our biggest risks it’s also one of our biggest advantages.
So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?
As a start-up we believe in keeping our costs low while at the same time making enough impact for potential clients to hear about us. We invest a lot in generating our own content by publishing articles in some of the biggest business newspapers. These create a lot of interest and we receive meeting invitations, newspaper and radio interviews and invites to speak at mobile money conferences. In 2016 we will invest a lot in content marketing from social media to videos.
Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.
One of the most exciting moments was being approached by the Wharton University of Pennsylvania to talk to their MBA graduates of 2014 about mobile money in Africa.
What has been the biggest mistake you have made in your start-up, and what have you learnt from it?
Trusting people too quickly. As an entrepreneur I believe that no one can do it all. Never try to be a jack of all trades. But the lesson I’ve learnt the hard way was never count on someone else to make your business a success. It’s your dream, your passion. If you want to succeed you have to make it happen. Don’t try and do it all yourself but be involved.