Costly and time-consuming international payments can be a pain for companies of all sizes. But not for long if financial technology (fintech) startup B2B Pay has its way. From its new headquarters in Helsinki, the company believes its international transaction service has the entire global market in its sights.
Every year over 100,000 small non-European exporters sell their goods and services to customers in the Eurozone. But they also get hit by fees associated with making international payments in a foreign currency. This is the challenge B2B Pay has set out to solve.
“The market for money transfers is really big, hundreds of players are doing it. But although they are looking at different models, most of them still enable sending Euros to other countries,” says Neil Ambikar, Co-Founder of B2B Pay. “Instead what we are trying to do is to provide virtual local bank accounts for companies exporting to Europe so they can receive payments directly in Euros.”
In practice this means the export company can use the virtual bank account provided by B2B Pay to invoice their customers in Europe. The customers can pay the invoice in their local currency without any of the extra fees or hassle associated with international payments. B2B Pay then automatically transfers the money to the exporter’s account in their home country. According to Ambikar, this can cut transaction costs by up to 80%.
B2B Pay is now piloting the payment system from its headquarters in Helsinki, Finland. While the founders Ambikar and Kasper Souren originate from New Zealand and the Netherlands respectively, they came to Finland in late 2015 after being accepted to a fintech accelerator programme run by Nordic banking giant Nordea.
During the three-month long programme the founders worked closely with various experts at Nordea and were assigned a specific mentor who helped the startup develop their concept further and build networks in the financial industry.
“Nordea is a big bank, but we really enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot,” Ambikar says. “We launched a prototype of our service together with them and now we are in a pilot phase with a limited amount of customer accounts provided by Nordea.”
After the programme, the duo decided Helsinki is the ideal location to set up their company officially. It means B2B Pay has been able to continue its cooperation with Nordea and is currently waiting to receive a ‘Payment Service Provider’ license from the Finnish authorities. Ambikar has been surprised how little bureaucracy there has been to all the steps along the way.
“I have lived and worked in Europe, India and New Zealand. Helsinki is the easiest place to start a company, the tax system is simple and the whole process is more efficient than, for example, in Germany,” he says.
It has been a busy year for B2B Pay. Since the Nordea programme, the startup has passed Israel’s prestigious TechStars accelerator programme (supported by UK bank Barclays) and secured its first customers. Currently the company focuses on small and medium sized companies and transactions between Europe and India.
But while cost-efficient, easy transactions are at the core of B2B Pay, the startup is already working on expanding its services.
“Fintech is evolving fast and most companies, big or small, do not really understand payments and international transactions. So we are building an analytics tool for them,“ Ambikar explains. “We are developing an algorithm which, after you answer a few questions, automatically analyses your business and what would be the best payment solution for you.”
At the moment Ambikar and Souren split their time between Finland and Germany and employ an intern and a part time business developer in Helsinki. They are also looking to hire two to three people for IT and business development in the Finnish capital in the near future. The goal is to eventually grow B2B Pay into a one stop shop for business-to-business payments and financial advice.
“We want to be the first choice for exporters for payments, but we could also become a replacement to financial advisors. In the future you only need a few clicks to get all your finances automatically assessed. It is the future of payments,” Ambikar concludes.
Text: Eeva Haaramo