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With just over two months left in which to raise $5-million in funding, things at Johannesburg fintech i-Pay are picking up, says co-founder and CEO Thomas Pays.
“We haven’t (had) a quiet period in the past two months,” said Pays (pictured above in conversation with Sarah Strauss) at a French Tech event held yesterday at Workshop 17 in Cape Town.
“We can work 18-hours straight, there’s still so many requests and enquiries from clients that it does feel like a good scale-up now,” he said.
Pays describes the overall change in pace in running the business — dealing with client enquiries and holding meetings — akin to that of activating a nitrous oxide system (NOS) in a sports car.
He said the company, which he started in 2014 with Mitchan Adams and Lyle Eckstein, has moved from being a startup to that of a “scale-up”.
“When you watch a Fast and Furious movie, and you see them press that button that says NOS on it, this is what (a) scale-up feels like all of a sudden,” explained Pays.
i-Pay is in the process of opening an office in Amsterdam, and is currently raising a $5-million funding round
Last year the company secured a R10-million investment from venture capital fund Kalon Venture Partners and Pays and his two co-founders seeks to raise $5-million in a second round of funding.
“We’ve got exactly 77 days to close it, and interestingly enough there are a lot of institutions that are basically showing interest, some of which have already proposed,” he said.
Amsterdam office plans
He said the company is now aiming to expand to 100 countries in the next five to 10 years and is currently working on opening an office in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
“We basically spent 18 months researching which would be the best place for us to establish ourselves,” said Pays.
He said the company was in the process of considering many locations and taking into account different factors, having had places like Dublin suggested as possible bases.
“But for us it wasn’t about tax saving, for us it was establishing business in a location that will fit our culture and will allow us to blossom as a business,” he said, adding that Amsterdam was ideal because of a high concentration of English speakers as well as a big pool of European talent
“Amsterdam also has ambition as a city to become the next Silicon Valley of Europe, and this is already what you’re seeing. So many of our big partners are already basically in Amsterdam,” he explained.
I-Pay plans to also enter Kenya, Ghana, and Namibia. “As much as we have got ambition in scaling in Europe, it doesn’t mean that we are forgetting Africa. This is our continent, this is where we started,” he said.
Different approach to partnerships
Turning back to the subject of scale-ups, Pays said once your business becomes a scale-up, you start thinking differently about partnerships.
“We are at a stage where today what is most important for us is the strategic opportunity that we get through the partnership. It’s not about just getting money,” he said.
Said Pays: “It’s about making sure that whoever you bring into the business as part of your journey as an entrepreneur scaling i-Pay are going to be able to basically help you execute, making sure that you can make a success out of it”.
Featured image: CEO Thomas Pays in conversation at a French Tech event in Cape Town