VoPay CEO Hamed Arbabi sat down with the team at FintecBuzz and shared his story on entrepreneurship, how VoPay began, and where the company is headed into 2023.
It’s hard to explain how I got into entrepreneurship, but it has always felt like the natural path for me since I was a child. I have always been an inquirer, questioning how things worked and how I could improve them. I was not particularly good at taking directions in school, and my curiosity led to starting my first business at the age of 16 —building PCs for family and friends out of my parent’s house. I would buy odd parts and build computers from scratch, which was incredibly fulfilling. From there, I lived and worked in Dubai for many years in the IT sector before moving to Canada and starting my first Canadian venture over 20 years ago.
While entrepreneurship is often glamourized, the truth is that it can be a very difficult journey. It requires a lot of sacrifice and perseverance that sometimes fails. However, it’s a risk worth taking because it’s the only way I know to operate.
I founded two other successful ventures before VoPay. The most recent was a telecommunications company offering VOIP to legacy telcos. In less than five years, I grew that venture to over 2 billion dollars in sales and a team of 160 employees. Since then, I’ve been focused on my current venture, VoPay.
During the time spent at my previous venture, it became very apparent that there was a significant disconnect between how money was moved and the time it took to manage account payables and receivables. The long processing times and zero visibility were quite frustrating, but the knowledge that finances could make or break a business added another layer of urgency to the pain point.
Eventually, I became eager to dig into the financial landscape and understand how the cycle of money moved and how it could improve. Payments are highly complex, and the industry has many pain points; however, I knew I wanted to create a solution that improved on the existing procedures and create innovative products to help businesses overcome these issues.
Six years ago, I started VoPay as a money remittance business before pivoting into the B2B landscape, where we have been for the past 4-5 years. In a nutshell, we offer fintech-in-a-box to businesses. We provide secure, data-driven financial services and payment integration to enterprises across North America. By integrating a single API, businesses can instantly connect to all major payment rails securely and offer innovative financial solutions to their customers. For example, traditionally, software companies did not offer payments, and their customers would be redirected to another payment portal, causing a lot of friction. Using a payment technology component like VoPay, software companies can integrate payment into their existing offering for additional add-on services resulting in customer stickiness. Our goal is to enable businesses to be more efficient and streamline the movement of money. The pandemic has highlighted a strong need for innovation. Companies need to update legacy software and innovate their processes, or they will get left behind in this period of digital transformation.
When I worked in the global telecommunications industry, it was at a pivotal moment of transformation. Now in the financial industry, I am seeing a similar transformation that I am excited to be a part of. Fintech companies are revolutionizing the industry, and the relationship between fintech companies and banks is maturing, with a transition from competitors to collaborators and partners.
Additionally, as today’s consumers demand faster and easier access to services, we need to create solutions that work for today while also thinking ahead to the next 5-10 years and how the technology will evolve again.
Right now in Canada, there is also a lot of excitement around open banking and real-time payments, as both will be transformative for the payments industry and businesses over the next couple of years. Our goal at VoPay is to leverage evolving technology to help companies adapt alongside their consumers.
Artificial intelligence is already applied in various aspects of financial services, from AI-powered trading tools in the capital markets to AI-powered wealth management applications. Fraud and compliance are other areas that AI has a significant impact on. Two major barriers will be eliminated if successfully executed, further propelling and streamlining global payments.
Right now, regulation is one of the main challenges facing the financial industry, and fintechs need to take that into account before launching a product or service. As payment technology is expensive to build and complex to maintain, I would encourage any startup founder to do their due diligence before investing their time, money, or energy into a fintech product.
It’s also essential for fintech founders to surround themselves with a driven team with diverse skill sets to help them navigate the many nuisances and roadblocks to building a fintech solution for the financial services industry. This makes finding and retaining top talent critical to a company’s growth.
We have many exciting developments in our roadmap, including new partnership announcements, product developments and enhancements to our existing solutions. Later this month, we will announce our latest product, enabling real-time data portability between VoPay and various accounting software applications. We are aiming to further streamline financial operations by applying robotic process automation.
As a company, we want to ensure that our core values and mission are centred around innovation and building cutting-edge solutions to solve major problems. We want to transform how people transact and believe in digital finance for all. Our team is involved in every aspect of building our products from the ground up and bringing them to market. We have a collaborative and creative approach to what we do and encourage our team to collaborate and share ideas.
VoPay is growing at a significant pace, and we will continue to maintain our core values of building payment technology that empowers any person or business to transact with each other regardless of their technical capability, location, resources or how they transact. We have a very inclusive, fast-paced and passionate culture, and our team embodies it daily. We take pride in our retention rate and are proud to have a good portion of our “day one” team with us today.
Open banking technology will be the next wave of innovation in the banking and financial services industry. Open banking removes the friction and eliminates the need for multiple disparate systems to transact. Businesses will have complete visibility into the transactions and have access to data intelligence to help them improve their offerings and manage risk. Consumers will have a safer and faster experience with access to alternative payment methods, but most importantly, they will have control over their financial data. Open banking alongside real-time payments will propel the Canadian financial services industry into the future, and we look forward to being at the forefront of the transformation.
Many exciting things are happening at VoPay right now, as well as many developments in the works for the near future. Since launching in 2014, we’ve been hyper-focused Canadian market, and while we will continue on that path for the remainder of the calendar year, we have major expansion plans into the US market for 2023.
Our team is also rapidly growing, and we expect to continue growing our team and talent base by 200% in the next six months. We will also have exciting news about VoPay HQ2 in March 2023!
I live by and am constantly guided by the following quotes:
If you don’t love it, you’re going to failSteve Jobs
Measure twice, cut onceUnknown
We are consistently reinventing ourselves. While we consider ourselves futuristic and build cutting-edge financial services, we always listen to our customer’s voices and watch. That is the key to staying relevant in such a fast-paced industry, as customers are truly the ones disrupting industries and using VoPay as an underlying infrastructure for financial products and services. When they succeed and grow, we succeed and grow.
Want to know more about Hamed's journey and VoPay? You can find him here on LinkedIn.
This interview was originally published on September 28th, 2022, on FinTecBuzz.