Podcast - Interview with Arik Shtilman, CEO of Rapyd
The fourth in our special series of csuite podcast episodes that we're recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto was with Arik Shtilman, CEO of Rapyd, a company that has built the world's largest local payments network to power, as they describe, frictionless global commerce.
The fourth interview in the special series of csuite podcast episodes, being recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto was with Arik Shtilman, CEO of Rapyd, a company that has built the world's largest local payments network to power, as they describe, frictionless global commerce.
Brendon Craigie (top left) and Russell Goldsmith (top Right) chat with Arik Shtilman
Rapyd has four product lines from their cloud platform;
- Rapyd Collect - the ability to collect payments in more than 1000 different payment methods.
- Rapyd Disburse - the ability to disburse money in any way that somebody might want to get paid.
- Rapyd Wallet – A type of white-label version of PayPal, allowing other companies to issue wallets for consumers or businesses.
- Rapyd Issuing - card issuing for Visa and MasterCard on top of their wallet.
ITNavigator and learning from mistakes
Arik founded ITNavigator, a cloud computing company, in 2003 with no external founding and then sold it in 2013. He and his co-founders were sure that they then wanted to set up another company because they wanted to take all the mistakes made in the previous company and fix them. He said that recognising these past mistakes is a big strength and highlighted two in particular:
- Not taking any external funding - Sometimes investors might be a good thing; the right match of investor and the right money.
- Not hiring people that are smarter than you - A typical mistake, because you're trying to hire people that just do what you say. However, later on, you understand that sometimes you make mistakes as there was nobody confronting or telling you, you're wrong here you're wrong there, let's do it differently.
Pivoting Rapyd to Fintech as a service platform
Arik said that in 2015, everyone wanted to be like Uber; consumer facing was very appealing. They decided to build a consumer facing wallet, even though they had no background in financial services and no background in consumer. Whilst it was a good idea, they found that 90 percent of their time, effort and money was being spent doing things that are not related to the core idea, just building infrastructure. They pivoted because they understood that they could build infrastructure, giving other companies the ability to build in one month what it could have taken them two or three years to build.
Arik said that it's important to understand that the world of payments outside of the UK, US and Israel, is not really card orientated. He added that brands are trying to become the payment methods. There are almost two thousand different ways to pay and Rapyd supports more than 1086 of them. People are less likely to have plastic and therefore, companies such as Visa or MasterCard, will need to switch to infrastructure, such as an SDK that can run on a mobile phone, and they only provide the infrastructure behind the scenes.
Rapyd launches as full stack company in UK
Rapyd defined a set of 20 countries that they call ‘strategic countries’, that they want to have full stack capabilities of Rapyd’s four products, which means that in the UK, for example, they want to be able to support card acquiring, cash collection at cash points, bank transfers, BACS with fast payments as bank transfers and being able to push money to cards, etc. and to issue cards or Visa and MasterCard. Therefore, Arik said that when somebody in the UK wants to build something, they have everything at Rapyd and there is no reason to go to a different provider. He added that they are becoming the truly single API and the single provider for other Fintechs to build on top of.
Journey to becoming a Unicorn
In 2019, Rapyd had a number of funding rounds - $40m Series B, $100m Series C, and then in December a further $20m, which valued the business at the time at around $1.2bn
Arik said that they always knew that Rapyd was going to be a big company because they knew what they’re doing from past experience. However, he added that valuations, at this stage of the company, are more important to the press and to recruitment of employees. There is some element of pressure because the investors that are putting money into a unicorn company are expecting the business to continue and go in the same pace.
The Rapyd philosophy is;
- Global play and coverage - Rapyd understands the local markets and provides the local experience.
- They are not only a card acquirer.
Providing such a broad range of services has really become appealing to a lot of businesses.
However, Arik said that being a global company can lead to a lot of challenges:
- Internally – communication, with many different cultures within the business, things can get lost in translation.
- Externally - difficult to get one message across all markets.
Challenge of Covid-19
Due to Covid-19, Rapyd had to completely change their marketing and consumer acquisition strategy, from 70% traditional B2B, mostly face to face, sales process, to 90-100% digital, including adding more capabilities to the product.
Arik explained that Covid itself only did good to Rapyd as a company, it made them more mature and more focused. They’re not going to use it as an excuse, it is an opportunity. They communicated every two weeks, they had a session with employees, a face to face (on a video) and they also had weekly updates that were running between the different offices. They also ran an employee wide survey just a week ago in which they scored 4.8 out of 5 in communication.
External Communication around Covid-19
Rapyd have all the respect to the fact that there are health issues, and stress issues, but from a leadership perspective, they need to get the most out of it for the company itself and for the shareholders.
The inability to travel has meant that Arik is able to have more influence over what is going on day to day. However, he said that it can be very complicated to do business without a face to face meeting as you lose the human touch, which he said has been the biggest communication challenge by far.
Arik’s Communications Advice
- Deal only with things that you actually understand.
- Be aware of the cultural difference in the way that people communicate.
- Listen to older people - when you're young, you are a very fast thinker, but you don't think about all the consequences.
- Respect everybody - before you talk, think who you are talking to.