Filipino-founded financial technology (fintech) startup VMoney Inc plans deals in the Philippines and overseas for its financial transaction platform, said its founder and CEO Ralph Santos, as the 17-month-old company increased clients and users of its payment processing solutions.
VMoney’s clients, partners, and affiliates now include listed Philippine banks, major interbank networks, popular retail brands, tech startups, including the Department of Tourism, Santos said, even as he discussed its business strategy and the company’s startup journey during an interaction with DEALSTREETASIA.
What does your company do and how did the idea came to life?
VMoney is a financial platform that allows individuals and businesses to move money efficiently, securely, and at the lowest cost possible. We have a multitude of integrated business solutions that considerably advance fund disbursement and payment acceptance capabilities ranging from online or mobile to point-of-sale.
VMoney was actually born out of the idea to equip Filipinos all over the world with the capability to send money to their hometown without all the expensive, hidden fees and lengthy processing time that are typically experienced with traditional money transfer services. My wife and I felt it was imperative to deliver solutions that simplify the experience and enrich people’s lives by giving them the ability to perform transactions anytime, anywhere, thus the birth of VMoney. Today, VMoney offers a range of products and services that answer basic and advanced payment needs of individuals and businesses.
Could you share your company’s journey?
We provided advanced banking solutions internationally through a predecessor company until we decided to extend these facilities to the Philippine market. Using this underlying technology, we launched VMoney in 2013 but not without challenges. We underwent tremendous amounts of research and development, worked day and night in order to develop a technology so robust it can be future-proof and adapt to the needs of businesses and individuals. We closely studied what more technologically advanced countries have to get insight as to what needs to be addressed in the local industry.
Apart from dealing with regulatory and bank requirements, VMoney met a lot of skepticism when it first entered the local industry. Many groups were doubtful about our claim of what our system can do and that we can revolutionize the payment landscape. Others tried to replicate our technology, but our years of professional experience dealt us well in development. Our team continued to work hard, businesses saw our solutions, and within a short span, acceptance of our products came organically.
How many clients and users do you now have?
Our user base has aggressively grown in number since our launch on October 2013. On a business level, traction has been incredible. We have several projects in line for completion and there are multiple local and international groups looking at our operations. As for membership, we have a good number so far and we are mandated to enable two and a half million customers by end of the year through existing contracts from the various groups of companies onboard.
I believe that when we start to market more widely, consumers are going to see the value we are offering and thus convert to membership.
Who are mostly your investors and how do you intend to use the funds?
We currently operate without investors and have been funded directly by a small group of partners. Funds are primarily used for research and development of innovative technology, as well as operational funding. Added investments would be directed towards company expansion – business, market, technical, and operations. As we onboard more clients, we’ll need to acquire more that share our vision of redefining the payment landscape.
How much do you spend on research and development?
Since I’m the primary head of research, I ensure that all aspects of product and technology development undergo a thorough end-to-end study encompassing every layer and level of any and all transaction types prior to prototype build out. I not only ensure the solution must be cost effective to subscribers but the entire process must be seamless and efficient for the customers, merchants and all back offices impacted. As technology and innovation drives our business, I allocate a significant amount of time to ensure that we are continuously evolving to match and even anticipate trends and developments in fintech market. Because of this, I take R&D very seriously to maintain our competitive edge: by being at the forefront of the digital shift and developing solutions ahead of time. Having said all that, the cost is purely absorbed by passion.
What are your plans for business expansion?
In the short-term, we envision bridging the emerging markets with the advanced markets and accelerate the journey to a cashless future, founded on the ideals of transparency, affordability, security, and ease for everyone. Our long-term goal is to be a contributing platform to enable a cardless, cashless and paperless society. Today, VMoney continues to build its user base through partnerships with large Philippine enterprises. In terms of expansion, VMoney will focus on regions with inaccessible and underserviced monetary transfer capabilities. In the coming years, we will be growing our partnerships with licensed remittance companies and online payment facilities locally, regionally, and internationally. Key target markets in the next three to five years include the European and American markets, Australia, key parts of Asia, and the Middle East.
What do you think is your company’s edge over its competitors?
What sets us apart is that we truly have one of the most robust, agnostic, borderless, ubiquitous and cost effective ecommerce/financial platform for any industry. Our one-stop shop answers the needs of individuals and companies wishing for an end-to-end solution for that seamless financial transaction experience. Whereas businesses today have to subscribe to different and disparate services and providers, we offer interoperability, interconnectedness, and ubiquity through our holistic model with discrete, integratable, and customizable modules. We also offer these services at highly competitive rates much lower than traditional providers, making us an attractive choice for business owners. However, we understand that the only way to compete is to evolve, and as new platforms and tools emerge at increasingly faster intervals, we develop solutions that are future-proof and radically redefine the landscape. Our solutions give rise to a one of a kind Cloud Banking experience — banking that creates a sustainable system and economic future for everyone, everywhere.
What do you expect of the startup space in the Philippines?
The startup space in the Philippines, although still in its nascent stage, holds a lot of promise. There’s a lot of incredible talent here, opportunities waiting to be explored, and ideas ready to be made into reality. I believe it will continue to grow aggressively and offer something investors won’t be able to resist.
Is it really important for entrepreneurs to have angel investors and venture capitalists?
Angel investors and venture capitalists play a pivotal role in supporting a high potential start-up’s long-term vision. They are considered key drivers behind the start-up scene and growth of new businesses, as their support extends beyond the financial. They also give the motivation necessary for entrepreneurs to sustain their innovation mindset. Angel investors and venture capitalists, being fairly well connected, also use their network to provide collaboration opportunities to the startup. The value they bring to the startup is substantial. I believe that association with a reputable angel investor and venture capitalist bides well for the startup’s strategic plans and spurs innovation.
What’s the effective pitching strategy for you?
Everyone wants a simpler, more efficient and cost-effective way to move money. People want to feel empowered especially when dealing with finances. Our platform presents a one-stop shop solution that makes managing money instant, cheap, and secure, removing reliance on banks and traditional money transfer services. We present ourselves as a true enabler as we break down the barriers to entry for the underserved and unbanked as we afford them the same privileges enjoyed by the banked minority. For businesses, we present ourselves as a solution for companies seeking an end-to-end solution for that seamless, financial transaction experience. Our tag line to the investment community is “Simplifying the payments and funds management experience”.
What type of mindset do you think every startup founder should have?
I believe any business with a vision to help the society has great potential. Strive to make a positive impact to society at large. Make a difference. Offer a solution to a real problem. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box and have a bigger vision in mind. More importantly, you must accept that not all ventures succeed, but each one prepares you for success, so don’t give up too easily.