There are a lot of fintech conferences and events these days, and the same complaint about established banks crops up at every single one. The biggest challenge start-up founders face is that banks, citing know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money-laundering (AML) compliance, won’t open business bank accounts for them.
To the conspiracy theorists, it’s a case of the incumbents using a little passive aggression to scupper the disruptors.
True to the fintech entrepreneurial instinct, however, if the banks won’t handle your business’s money, find a way to do it yourself.
In 2009, Céline Lazorthes founded Leetchi, a platform for groups of friends, families or work colleagues to collect pots of money to save for wedding gifts, leaving presents, family holidays, stag and hen dos, trips to sports events and the like.
Lazorthes was surprised to find no commercially available, easy-to-use tools for handling third-party payments that were compliant with EU regulations.
Leetchi had to build its own solution from scratch, in the process obtaining an e-money issuer licence from Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier, the financial regulator in Luxembourg, that it then passported across Europe.
“I’m a problem solver,” Lazorthes tells Euromoney. “When I couldn’t find an effective payment solution for our money-pool platform, I built the solution.
“Having built the solution for Leetchi, 10 to 15 companies facing a similar problem subsequently approached me seeking to understand how I had solved what at the time seemed like a complex problem. That’s how I realized I could turn it into a viable business.”
She saw a chance to open up Leetchi’s payments infrastructure to others through a restful API that would allow them to white-label the service and present it in customized form on their own platforms’ dashboards.
Lazorthes separated MangoPay out of Leetchi in 2012. Early customers included Liftshare, a marketplace for drivers planning long car journeys to attract extra passengers to share the cost, and Depop, a social shopping app that allows self-styled trendsetters to sell vintage clothing and other fashion items via their mobile phones.
However, the big growth for MangoPay is now coming from the fintech crowd.
Its API is the underlying payment-handling infrastructure for an increasing number of crowdinvesting and crowdfunding platforms, including GoGetFunding, Property Moose and most recently SyndicateRoom, as well as ShareIn, a provider of crowdfunding software that lets businesses crowdfund directly off their own websites.
“Leetchi’s payment flow and product offering is very close to the crowdfunding model,” says Lazorthes. “As a result, our API provides the flexibility to easily manage payments with multiple users and beneficiaries, and can be perfectly adapted to the crowdinvesting and crowdfunding platforms’ needs.”
She sees a big opportunity, adding: “The number of platforms has skyrocketed in the last few years and doesn’t look like it is going to slow down anytime soon.”
MangoPay now supports more than 1,000 platform customers across 22 countries in Europe, offering multiple currencies as well as domestic and international payment methods.
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Headquartered in Paris, MangoPay now has offices in Berlin, London and Luxembourg. It manages connections on its customers’ behalf to many of the established international and local payments networks, including Visa, MasterCard, Sofort, Giropay, Payline and others.
Lazorthes says: “We run real-time anti-fraud checks and conduct KYC checks in accordance with our regulatory obligations, as well as supporting our clients to create their own AML protocols to mitigate risk wherever possible.
“As such, we remove one of the major pain points of the crowdfunding companies.”
MangoPay does not charge a set-up fee or any monthly admin fees, rather simply charging to process payments. The revenue model is based on the margin on payment processing which is heavily dictated by transaction volume, starting at 1.8% plus €0.18 per credit card transaction and decreasing thereafter.
In 2015 it processed €200 million-worth of payments and expects to double that in 2016.
Lazorthes says: “There are a lot of crowdfunding platforms now and more springing up every day. Before long we will see consolidation among them. That might be easier for cases where both partners already use MangoPay.”
For now, it turns out the fintech disruptors are themselves big and growing buyers of financial services that the incumbent banking industry has failed to serve. There seems to be an irony there.
“We do partner with some of the banks, such as Barclays, Commerzbank, Crédit Mutuel, Sabadell, but in general most of the incumbents lack agility, whereas the digital world is based on it,” says Lazorthes.
“For banks to truly flourish in a digital world, they need to be open to partnering with innovative players in fintech.”
MangoPay raised €7 million from venture capitalists to scale the company in 2014. In September, Lazorthes sold 86% of Leetchi to Crédit Mutuel Arkéa for an undisclosed sum. The French bank will now hope she continues to do a powerful job of deploying the €10 million of investment provided in the course of that sale to grow MangoPay further.