Few people understand embedded finance’s immense appeal better than Alex Mifsud.
Prior to building Weavr, he founded both Entropay, the world’s first open-loop, virtual, prepaid-card business launched in 2003, and Ixaris in 2012, a commercial-payments platform processing several billion dollars for large businesses globally.
Following this, in 2018, he co-founded and developed Weavr into an open cloud-based platform, which enables payment flows to be created, deployed, and consumed by businesses looking to digitize operations.
Alex is tackling the current banking-as-a-service (BaaS) model on the grounds that it can only serve a limited audience because of the heavy costs, compliance, technical burdens, and long implementation times that normally accompany it. By contrast, Weavr’s solution can be onboarded and activated in a matter of weeks, rather than months.
Here’s what he had to say:
Alex Mifsud (Full Q&A Interview)
Q: What inspired you to get into fintech?
A: I got into fintech through serendipity: my first foray into business was about making the internet safer for people, which led me to safer online consumer payments (which was the focus of my first business – the world’s first virtual prepaid card called Entropay in 2002). As an engineer, once I realised that the digitisation of financial services is qualitatively different from the digitisation of many other industries, I was fascinated: fintech, of course, is in essence the reimagining and transformation of financial services for a digitally-enabled world.
Q: If there is one piece of wisdom you could share with other fintech executives about being a successful founder, what would it be?
A: My advice would be to obsessively focus on understanding customer needs. Nothing matters more than understanding both why they buy your products, and how they get value from them. When founding a business, it can be easy to become consumed by your great idea and focus your energy and capital on building the business in the way you feel it benefits your customers. However, customers often find value in seemingly trivial aspects that you may have overlooked, so it is important to continuously assess their needs and ensure you are responding quickly and effectively to that data. I recently discovered a framework called Jobs To Be Done which was developed by Tony Ulwick and I would recommend it for gaining a deeper understanding of this topic.
Q: What’s the story behind Weavr?
A: Weavr, in many ways, was created as a response to the challenges I experienced at the second fintech I founded, Ixaris. We were delivering B2B payment solutions to multinationals and we picked up on the idea that our customers would be better equipped than a payment provider to create their perfect solution. However, this opportunity could only be realised if we could provide them with easy enough tools to build and run it. These roots continue to drive Weavr’s proposition today, as we remain focused on enabling any digital application to integrate financial services that can create value for customers.
Q: Why is it so important to focus on B2B payments now more than ever?
A: B2B payments have been important for a while, but its digital transformation has been slower than for B2C. E-commerce started largely as a retail – i.e. B2C – phenomenon in the late 1990s, while the use of the internet in B2B payments lagged behind, not least because adoption requires businesses to become more digital themselves before they can get full value from B2B payments. This lag has created an enticing opportunity for fintech: the volumes are huge, many more businesses are now digitally capable, and many innovations developed over many years in B2C payments – like anti-fraud systems in the cards industry – can easily be adapted to serve B2B. Barriers remain, however, because legacy business systems and practices are still based on legacy banking and payments so adoption of B2B payments is often limited and partial.
Q: What are some of the most effective ways fintech companies can accelerate their growth?
A: Once a company has identified the need that incumbent financial institutions – be they banks, insurers, payment companies, etc – are not meeting, their growth and success will be determined by their approach to a sequence of imperative components. They are: delivering a better experience, keeping on top of risk and compliance, monetising the service to make it financially viable, and finding ways of distribution that scale cost-effectively. In order to grow effectively, each component in this chain must be managed throughout the company’s development and weak links must be quickly identified and addressed.
Q: What are your thoughts on the crypto market?
A: At Weavr we are currently creating embedded finance tools for the exchange of fiat currency, however, we are open to exploring cryptocurrency payments further in the future. Ultimately, we’re helping customers collect money, split money, insure it and save it – today, we use card base rails and bank base rails – tomorrow we’ll use a combination of all three.
Q: Please summarise your business life in three words.
A: Simplification transforms adoption.
Q: What is next for Weavr in the coming five years?
A: Weavr’s mission is to enable any financial service to be integrated into any non-financial application where it can serve customers better. It’s easy to describe but hard to do in practice but we’re constantly chipping away at it, making it easier for innovators to seamlessly integrate an increasing range of solutions for collecting, borrowing, sending and spending money within many diverse applications. Looking to the next five years, we are building a global business and that means we’ll take Plug-and-Play Finance to the US, Asia and seek to raise a Series B to continue our expansion. Ultimately, our vision is to power the global digital economy with Financial Plug-ins.
Q: Lastly, what is the one thing you want everyone to know about Alex Mifsud?
A: I care much more for impact than for recognition.