July 31, 2017
Robert A. Vergara Jr.
Cover art Samantha Gonzales
To succeed in the global market, a company has to open its services and products to international clients. But doing so involves a horrendous process of collecting payments.
For example, in the local real estate industry—which is foreseen to remain robust amid growing demands for properties, especially from overseas Filipino workers—clients abroad have to pay an attorney‑in‑fact who will represent them from the reservation process up to the payment stage, opening a checking account and signing payment checks on their behalf.
“If you’re a company that has a lot of collections from overseas or international payments, we can help you, rather than relying on traditional bank wiring or transfer,” said Ray Refundo, co‑founder and CEO of local fintech startup called Qwikwire, which provides a platform for collecting payments online for property management, dues, and utilities.
Using the platform, a company can oversee its invoices and payments from a central location, collect payments from customers, and keep track of the metrics in real‑time. The payment gateway is guarded with state‑of‑the‑art security 256 Bit SSL Encryption, which is what remittance companies, banks and online payment companies also use.
Qwikwire, which launched in October 2013, initially catered to freelancers by providing a platform that would enable them to receive international payments. But faced with several challenges, such as lack of publicity, the company failed to attract clients, who would then prefer using established payment systems like PayPal. The lack of traction forced the company to stop operating, leaving Mr. Refundo alone in his startup venture.
Art Samantha Gonzales
“The idea was already in my head even when I was already doing the initial project. When I realized that the project was not working out, I thought of using my new idea, then it materialized,” he recalled.
In 2015, Mr. Refundo relaunched the company with its current business model: providing its cross‑boarding payment solutions to Filipino‑owned banks, as well as real estate and business project outsourcing (BPO) companies. The company does this by connecting their platform to a client's invoicing or accounting system.
Mr. Refundo allotted $30,000 for the initial funding of the company in 2014. It also helped that the company was included in US‑based business accelerator 500 Startups in 2016, allowing it to raise $460,000 from investors.
“We are not a one‑size‑fits‑all platform. We customize our solutions specifically for the needs of these large enterprises particularly property developers, banks, and BPO’s,” he said.
It currently lists 10 companies, with plans to extend its operations to other industries that involve international payments like exporting and even to overseas Filipino workers paying bills here in the country. The company is also considering to bring the services to Thailand and Vietnam.
Qwikwire boasts of having a technology and an international banking network that are “all geared and focused on serving international payments.” This, Mr. Refundo said, allows the company to offer services that local banks in the country do not have like electronic checking.
To protect the crucial financial information that the company receives from its clients, all data in the platform are encrypted and “tokenized,” he said.
“With Qwikwire, all payments are tracked. There are no floating funds that we don’t know the origin,” he said.
According to him, the company has recorded an average of “more than 20% month‑over‑month growth” in terms of profitability since January last year.
“The growth of the company is contingent to the growth of the transactions. We don’t even need funding to survive. Weed funding to grow,” he said.
For Mr. Refundo, “revolutionizing business‑to‑business and business‑to‑consumer payments in the Philippines” is Qwikwire’s biggest contribution to the local business setting.
“We’re not just solving sales problems locally and internationally, we’re also solving an accounting problem,” he said.
More than providing an easy payment system, Mr. Refundo said Qwikwire’s foremost goal is to “globalize Filipino companies.”
“We’re gonna do it by doing what we do best, by making international payments a lot easier,” he said. “Because if you can’t collect payments from anywhere in the world you will not have the chance to become a global company.”
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