Raise your hand if you’ve ever left your wallet in a cab or not noticed when it randomly dropped out of your bag on your way home. Personally, I’ve only done it a couple of times but each time was so, so irritating that I vowed I would never do it again. Canceling all of my credit cards and waiting for them to come in the mail, all the while borrowing massive amounts of money from my friends is just not worth my time or the raised blood pressure.
Joaquin Ayuso de Paul wants to make my (and your) life easier with his product, Kuapay, the “mobile wallet” that lets you pay with your smartphone and “carry” all of your cards virtually. They’ve also added a social networking twist that allows you to play games with your friends and earn actual cash that you can then spend with one of their participating merchants.
How cool is a wallet that actually earns you money? I’m down. My money is usually flying out of my pocket, not back into it.
Joaquin also co-founded Tuenti.com, which went on to become the biggest social network in Spain and was sold to Telefonica in 2010, so clearly this guy has figured out how to be a rockin startup entrepreneur. Keep reading for our conversation about why he thinks Kuapay is going to be the next big thing in mobile payments and his awesome work environment.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
The Pa-Kua is the Asian symbol for the eight soul transitions steps you need to take in order to have a completed soul. Each step or “kua” is a new challenge you need to complete in order to get to the next level. Kuapay is that transition of the payments towards the completion of our mission: Make Electronic Payments be a Commodity on the World.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
See all my emails.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
I started originally the company and brought in the very same friends that helped me to start the first entrepreneurship we did in Spain, Tuenti.com. We are five and we are the founders of Kuapay.com now.
Nowadays we are 50 employees, 8 in Santiago’s office (Chile), 3 in NY office (US) and 3 in Madrid’s office (Spain).
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describes the struggle you went through?
When we started the company, right when we had the prototype and we started showcasing it to the merchants, two new players appeared in the market with the very same idea: QR code based payments. One was Starbucks, and the second one was LevelUp. Today we are competing with the latter one merchant by merchant.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
Reading and walking. Those are my two best hobbies. I use to walk everyday at least 15 minutes to settle my thoughts, since the speed of the company is blazing fast.
The last time we had to deal with frustration was back when we started the pilots with the large corporations of Chile. We realized that our applications wouldn’t work on the old connectivity of the country and we needed to optimize every byte of the applications to make them actually usable up to our standards in that country. Literally, their 2G is like 1/4 of the speed of the 2G in the US. EDGE here is NOT EDGE in Latin America, at ALL.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
It is the most unconventional office you would confront to. We are all inside this open space facing the pacific ocean in Santa Monica. Everybody talks to everybody and your only way of isolation is using your headphones with really loud music. There is absolutely no rooms for anybody and even the VPs are not excluded from this situation, each of them is spread among the rest of the coworkers. When a foreigner enters through the door, almost everybody stands up and salutes. The forty of us feel as owner of the product and project. It is unbelievable.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
Our motto is to convert electronic transactions into a commodity. This means we will be competing with the larger companies in the electronic payments and transactions market such as Visa and Master Card. Kuapay is definitely going to be one of the big players on the market of payments.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food? Give us the deets, dude!
Doing. Doing things is the most refreshing and rewarding thing. Been able to think of something and make it possible the very same minute you had the idea is the most inspiring thing. It allows you to keep thinking and evolving your thoughts. DOING, that is the basic rule for this company, we don’t have plan B, all our time is dedicated to plan A.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded? Where’d you get the money, man?
It is been funded by private investors. We had the chance of accepting Venture’s money in the very beginning, but we decided to do our long desert journey without them and supported through private investments. It went good and now we are in a better position -equity wise- than if we went with the Venture’s option.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Lean your expenses to the very basics. Don’t underuse your office space and resources. Don’t spend money in things you are not going to use everyday. We have been able to have a 50 people company with offices in 4 countries with no more than 400K expenses per month. This is not a conventional number for a startup with our numbers. You would see these Silicon Valley startups consuming 4 or 5 times what we spend doing the same as we do today.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
There is not a measure to define a successful entrepreneur. There are people that have succeeded on their first entrepreneurship and they are already considered successful. On the other side there are others that have failed several times on the way and they are not considered successful. Being a successful entrepreneur means more than just becoming rich.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Asana. I love task management. This place allows me to micro task myself in my day to day work.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Mint.com. Knowing is the first thing you need before taking a decision. And what is more important in your day to day than knowing how much you have and how you can use it?
Dogs or cats?
Dogs. I have lived with dogs all my life.
iOS or Android?
iOS, the UI is extremely more reliable and the user base more consistent.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
The consistency of the product overall the different places you can access it. What you see is what you get, and no complex situations towards any action. Just use it.
Where can our readers get ahold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog? Any other projects you’re working on that we should check out?
Twitter would be the ideal place. I read my twitter everyday and respond to most of the questions that pop out. Even the bad ones. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, I love to discuss!
Courtesy of the founder and Kuapay.com.