Meet the 2023 Dare to Scale Cohort – ViaBank

24 founders from 12 companies are joining this year’s edition of Dare to Scale.

Meet ViaBank, they provide the physical retail sector with infrastructure to take payments in-house, using open banking technology and direct bank transfers. 

Let’s rewind the clock to the beginning. How did your company come to life? Was it a eureka moment, a late-night brainstorming session, or a happy accident?

Both Oggy and Martin, as founders of ViaBank, have a decade-long background working for the retail industry, mostly helping retailers with their marketing strategy and execution. While having multiple meetings and conversations with retail executives, we became aware of the challenges they face on a daily basis, such as pressure on margins, rising costs, competition and more recently recession fears. 

While working in our previous companies, we came across news about the most recent European directive regarding payments in the EU zone: the so-called PSD2 (Payment Services Directive 2), which immediately caught our attention due to its implications on the future of payments for retail. Basically, the EU wants to enable competition in the payments sector because of the high concentration of power within a handful of companies who process card payments for merchants and retailers and each take a cut of every sale. 

PSD2 opens the doors for third parties to be able to initiate payments on behalf of customers and being able to launch the payment process from within embedded interfaces, but most importantly, without the need of card payment fees (basically, a direct debit bank transfer between two accounts, instead of a card payment send to a bank account, which is much more expensive). 

For us, it was definitely an eureka moment because it meant that it could potentially enable us to help our customers from the retail industry to improve their margins, the customer experience and also to get more visibility about their customers. 

So, we started working on various ideas based on the payment initiation opportunity. At first, we were restrained by the fact that not all banks in Bulgaria and the region have working interfaces which we could connect to, to initiate payments, but, things are improving at a fast pace in the last few months and we are now able to offer our customers, the retail industry, a cardless payment solution which works with a few major banks in Bulgaria. 

Tell us about the accomplishment that makes you do a happy dance or fist pump in the air. What is your proudest moment to date?

Today, retailers are forced to pay significant fees on their revenue in order to be able to process card payments at the checkout in stores. On top of this significant lock-in created by card payment companies, retailers have no visibility about their customers, their purchasing habits and patterns, and are left aside from the opportunity to improve customer experience. 

Our proudest moment is the decision we took to abolish card payment fees altogether. We believe that payments should be free for all because the cost of payments, the actual moving of one number from one bank account to another bank account is, in fact, zero or very close to zero. Within our product proposition, we offer merchants free payments. Their customers would tap their phone at checkout, their bank app will launch and they would simply confirm the payment from within their bank app in an instant. And if merchants would like to pass to their customers some or all of the savings, they would make from skipping card payments, that would be yet another incentive for customers to pay with their bank app instead of their card. 

While it might sound absurd to give away our technology for free to retailers, it is certain that in the future, payment fees will be under pressure and it creates a race to the bottom based on pricing. ViaBank avoids the price war altogether: our clients would save hundreds of thousands from card fees and get access to our app marketplace, where they can sign up for various apps built on top of their payment data. Those apps would range from marketing, to data insights and customer communication / experience tools, all available for merchants out of the box at a monthly subscription fee. We are extremely proud that we are able to offer retailers such a comprehensive suite of tools to improve their business and are already integrating with brick-and-mortar clients across various retail verticals with our beta product. 

Dare to Scale is here to help with your entrepreneurial journey, but we’re curious about your wildest dreams and aspirations! Do you envision scaling your company to new galaxies, conquering untapped markets, or revolutionizing your industry? Share your boldest dreams and let your imagination soar!

Having already exited a previous marketing software company to a German competitor, which was focused on retail marketing, our team is certain that dreaming big pays off, and so does hard work! We are well aware that there will be many, many challenges ahead of us, but from previous experience we know that it is for those who dare to dream big and chase their vision on a daily basis, those who persist and keep an open mind, being flexible and listening to customers, to eventually succeed. The retail industry only in Bulgaria is worth north of 10b EUR and hundreds of billions in Europe. Physical retail is here to stay, it needs new products to serve their growing needs and we plan to work hard to fulfil them. We chose our focus to be on the brick-and-mortar retailers and not on the online stores, because of the huge untapped potential within the offline world. While everyone competes for online customers, our mission is to conquer the physical retail with an innovative product which helps them save big on fees while improving their customer experience significantly. We are confident that there is a market need and are ready to take on the challenge!