This article was written for Technology.ph, published in July 30, 2019.
For the first time since 2013 and for only the second time ever, the Philippines has produced a startup entering the world’s premier accelerator, Y Combinator. From Manila to Mountain View, PayMongo is a FinTech startup looking to help local entrepreneurs and merchants to better their payment infrastructure — modernizing payments for the Philippines in a rapidly transforming digital economy. Founded in March of 2019, the quickly growing start-up has no shortage of all-star founders: starting with MIT-educated, Leyte born-and-raised CEO Francis Plaza to co-founder and lawyer Edwin Lacierda, a former Presidential Spokesperson under President Benigno Aquino.
The Philippines has no shortage of company after company looking to revolutionize the payments sphere. FinTech is booming with its ability for rapid adoption amongst the growing digital economy that Filipinos from every social background are seeking to partake in. With mobile and internet penetration at over two-thirds of the population with no signs of stopping: virtually every Filipino is part of the market. However, financial access still remains a challenge for many — which is why many are turning to financial digitization to head towards a space for equitable access and inclusion.
According to the World Bank, the potential local output rise if the financial inclusion gap were closed nears to over 14 percent. Meanwhile, a majority of Filipino merchants — over 87 percent — prefer selling and running their businesses from social media platforms; a long-running driver of digital economies in several countries across the Asia-Pacific, no surprise with the seemingly never-ending social media boom. However, despite the massive amounts of digital populations — it remains undeniable that social media e-commerce is frustratingly difficult to scale. Nevertheless, the same survey conducted by PayPal reports that over 32% of Filipinos with internet access have already transacted through social media — and plan to continue to do so.
According to co-founder Lacierda, PayMongo has its eyes on enabling Filipino entrepreneurs. Like the e-commerce boom that was furthered by the rise of Stripe, PayMongo aims to unify payment systems to help “sellers accept payments in minutes.” The national landscape has no shortage of social sellers laying out their entire business and brand in Instagram accounts and shoddily-embedded Google Form and personal mobile numbers. The upcoming FinTech startup seeks to solve that by streamlining payment processing — aggregating various payment methods into a single platform, and doing away with buyers taking snaps of deposit slips.
“People who sell online or who plan to sell on FB or IG often find accepting payments a pain point,” Lacierda shared on his Twitter. There’s no doubt that along with the continuous rise of emerging digital technologies and economies, that it’s time to ease our social media culture into something more well-founded and viable — PayMongo plans to do that beginning with the social media seller to the big business; with no doubt that a financially inclusive Filipino society begins from the very Filipinos that make this digital boom possible.
By targeting the untapped yet massive ecosystem of social sellers — mostly small and medium businesses that are locally-owned and operated — PayMongo seeks to further edge the market out to the online, cashless economy. Merchants have the option to provide payment options by sharing links on Messenger, Viber, email, SMS, or any other form of communication they use with their customers — no integrations or difficulties needed. The API is easy to use, fast, and seamless; it’s scalable while also serving the regular Juan seller — and is easy enough to understand for the local consumer. At the moment, there are no fees to setup or begin exploring the platform, unlike existing providers.
YCombinator four months in
YC is known for several successes in the startup world — significantly more than other accelerators and incubators that have followed suit. It specializes in investments towards early-stage companies; offering $150,000 dollars as their standard deal. This $150k is delivered in the form of a “post-money safe” that converts to YC owning 7% of the company.
YC is known as the “world’s most powerful start-up incubator”, and they’re known for that for good reason.
The Silicon Valley accelerator’s support extends beyond the huge cash deal. These startups enter cohorts (PayMongo made it into the Summer 2019 batch, which you will see flaunted on the co-founders’ Twitter profiles as “YC S19” or “@ycombinator S19” and the like) that are run twice a year. Founders move to Silicon Valley for a three-month intensive alongside YC’s head and leaderships where their model, product, team, and pitch are closely refined and developed. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day: a thrilling end to the cohort where an invite-only audience of investors and industry leaders hear the startups’ pitches.
When the cohort ends, YC startups are followed by the constant prestige of their programs. Although not all YC-backed products succeed (they’re just as unstable as any other startup) — their founders can be considered as an investment just as big as the initial product idea. These people go on to found more successful companies — knowing when to fail and when to fail fast, leading to their success in building. Since 2005, YC boasts over 2,000 funded startups under their belt comprised of a community of over 4,000 founders — with a combined valuation of over $100B. The portfolio extends to companies such as Airbnb, Stripe (what many are labeling PayMongo as the Philippine version of), coinbase, Gitlab, and many other household names.
The Y Combinator program boasts of an acceptance rate of less than two percent. It’s harder to get into than Harvard or Stanford.
Although PayMongo’s founders are no stranger to the startup world; the backing of YC mentorship, connections, and general resources are surely nothing to scoff at. Following Kalibrr’s continuous growth since their acceptance to the same accelerator in 2013, we have hopes in PayMongo following similar — if not stronger — successes as the FinTech industry seems to have paved the way for their continued boom.
By Demo Day, PayMongo seeks to further capitalize on their successes by raising more funding in its seed round, building its product and engineering, as well as acquiring more partners and merchants to get on the platform’s private beta.
Looking at PayMongo’s future
Currently based in Manila, PayMongo is Francis Plaza (CEO), Luis Sia (COO), Jaime Hing (CTO), and Edwin Lacierda.
PayMongo raised $2.7 million in seed funding from Founders Fund, Peter Thiel, Stripe, Y Combinator, Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital, and more.