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This Philippine Start-up Offers Payment Solutions for the Big Boys

Qwikwire specializes in cross-border transactions for real estate and BPOs

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BY Melissa G. Bagamasbad - 13 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Many may be familiar with payment platforms that allow individuals to send money to relatives or employees overseas. But a three-year-old start-up is catering to the bigger players in the market, specializing in cross-border payments for real estate companies and BPOs.

Qwikwire is a B2B payments solution that helps enterprises in the Philippines to collect payments coming from outside the country.  “We currently serve property developers as well as a handful of BPOs,” says Ray Refundo, CEO and founder of Qwikwire.

IGNITE, the innovation conference staged by TechShake in partnership with dentsu X Philippines and IGPI Singapore awarded Qwikwire as “Start-up Company of the Year” last July 1 in Manila. Qwikwire won the pitch competition, which was the highlight of the one-day event, with the group bringing home $5,000.

Qwikwire topped the list of 10 finalists from over 100 pitchers, and was selected by a panel of eight prominent judges from the digital community including founders and CEOs from organizations like 500 Startups, Spiral Ventures, and Kickstart Ventures.

Catering to the big boys

Qwikwire may remind people of services like Paypal and the like. So what’s the difference between them and the other payment platforms? “Paypal is a peer-to-peer system. You can use it to collect and accept payments,” says Refundo. “It’s for individuals who want to collect. The solution [Qwikwire] provides is specifically for real estate and BPOs. We have specialized tools for real estate.”

Refundo says that unlike other similar services, Qwikwire can connect their clients to any bank in the world. “Because we specialize in cross-border payments. We’re the only one specializing in that,” he says. He adds that their enterprise doesn’t do e-commerce or local transactions. “Unfortunately, our platform is designed for companies in Southeast Asia but not necessarily for the everyday citizen. We are an enterprise focused platform,” he says.

“Our specialty is cross-border payments,” he continues. “That’s all we do and we do it well. Our network of global banks, remittance companies, and the technologies we create are all focused on providing international payments for businesses. We provide highly customizable payment portals and invoicing or billing systems to our clients.”

Refundo says that they have a staff of 18 people and have already currently raised $460,000. Based in Makati, their operations have been ongoing and they’ve been making revenue. “We need more money for marketing so we will put [part of the money] for that,” he says.

A necessary innovation

Kentaro Hashimoto, co-founder and CEO of GNB Acceleration, who judged at the TechShake competition, says Qwikwire took home the prize money because more people are in need of advanced payment platforms. In Southeast Asia, there are quite a number of people who don’t even have a bank account, he says. “That’s why [enterprises like Qwikwire] are necessary.” He also says that Qwikwire has more demand as compared to the other start-up contestants at the competition.

Age is an advantage

“I think we won simply because we have time on our side,” says Refundo. “At a little bit over three years old, we are probably the oldest start-up in that competition. We have made more progress because we’ve been doing this longer. And we have a great team.”

“All of our bank relationships are based in the US,” he adds as to why they had an edge over their competitors. “We have partnerships with banks in Boston and New York. So it’s like a network of financial institutions. So it’s very big.”

Refundo says they will also add their winnings to more marketing related materials and for promotional campaigns to increase customer usage of their platform. “We do plan to put resources in enterprise sales to increase our pipeline,” he says. “In the Philippines, we plan to expand to other verticals beyond real estate, to BPOs and exporters. We have plans to go to Vietnam and Thailand after we have captured all the verticals we’re targeting in the Philippines.”

Refundo says that they will also be using the prize money to fund their trip to Hong Kong and for some publicity such as in events like Geeks on a Beach, an international start-up conference held at a beach. “We’re using it for publicity because we’re raising money right now,” he says. “[We’re targeting] more exposures and more investors. So we’re going around.”