[Interview] Carl Wazen, Co-founder, Yoco, South Africa
Carl Wazen is the Co-founder and Chief Business Officer at Yoco, a point of sale payments company for small businesses in South Africa.
Could you introduce your company to us?
Yoco is a Point of Sale payments provider that builds tools and services to help small businesses get paid, run their business better, and grow. We provide an affordable mobile card reader that enables businesses to accept debit and credit card paymens; it connects directly to the merchant's smartphone/tablet via Bluetooth so that they can use the Point of Sale app, which can be used as a cash register.
Our customers are small businesses that need to accept in-person payments, primarily in the retail, food & drink and health & beauty segments.
Where is Yoco located?
We are based in South Africa with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg. We also have a Yoco retail store in Johannesburg, where potential customers can come and visit and speak to our team and learn more about our products and services.
When was Yoco founded and by who?
We launched our first product in late 2015. Yoco was founded by myself, along with Katlego Maphai (CEO), Bradley Wattrus (CFO) and Lungisa Matshoba (CTO). The four of us go way back and started this business together because of our shared passion for smart technology and a desire to help small businesses.
How is the company funded?
We just closed on a $16m Series B funding round led by Partech, with participation from Orange Digital Ventures,FMO. Existing Yoco investors also include Velocity Capital, Quona Capital and CRE. This brings our total investment to US$23M.
Why was Yoco a necessary addition to the payments market in South Africa?
75% of South Africa’s adult population own a bank card, but only 7% of businesses are able to accept card payments, meaning that millions of businesses in South Africa struggle to accept money. We found that it was unnecessarily restrictive to get a card machine in South Africa, as a small business, in terms of access and affordability. There was an opportunity to unlock growth for small businesses to help them thrive, so we founded Yoco to bridge the gap in order to help them make more sales. We built the company on the notion that running a business is challenging enough and accepting money should be easy.
As a company, what are Yoco’s Unique Selling Points?
As I mentioned previously, before we entered the market, only 7% of businesses in South Africa were able to accept card payments. In South Africa, getting a card machine for a small business is expensive, restrictive and a very time-consuming activity.
Yoco offers small businesses access and trust. Breaking down all the barriers to entry for SMBs to accept card payments. We are able to approve 98% of merchant applications because we have heavily invested into our fraud management system and today boast one of the lowest fraud rates in the markets. Acquiring a Yoco card machine is easy - as easy as purchasing any consumer product online - and the machines arrive in two days or less. They can also be bought off the shelf at a number of retailers. We don’t tie our merchants into long-term contracts, which means they have flexibility and ultimate control. We have also made onboarding easy - merchants can be up and running and taking payments within a few minutes. And finally, we offer many value added services such as software tools for point of sale management and business intelligence, and our support is proactive to ensure merchants never miss a sale.
How has the South African market responded to your services?
The response has been phenomenal, which shows that we are serving a large and still relatively untapped market. Since launching, we have onboarded 27,000 merchants, 75% of whom had never accepted card payments before using Yoco. We are also attracting around 1,500 new merchants every month - so we are building a large community around our products and services. The most transactions we’ve ever processed in a day is 41,400, and 20% of our customers transact over ZAR 50,000 [$4,000] per month.
What are the ambitions of the company?
We are an African company with long-term ambitions to be operate across multiple markets in the long term. We are currently focused on South Africa, being the largest market for digital payments on the continent. In parallel we’re exploring other markets in on the continent and have conducted pilots in 2 markets so far this year.
What does Yoco need to thrive?
We have a phenomenal community of customers, a large market, a strong team, and now the capital. It’s up to us to now execute!
What is the latest news from the company?
We recently announced that we closed on a $16m Series B funding round. This capital will be used to grow our network of small business merchants and give them the best payment experience. We’ll be investing in growth, product development, operational scalability and attracting top-tier fintech talent.
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