INCREASE: TRANSFORMING THE ECONOMY BY EMPOWERING MERCHANTS
Matias was twenty years old and living in Argentina. One day he decided to sell his own car in order to build a bar on the beach. He knew the owner of an existing bar, so he made an agreement with him and started running the bar with the help of some friends. Sebastian was a little bit older. He was thirty and working at an American start-up in the USA after building his first company, which helped foreign students during their stay in Argentina. The entrepreneurs met during 2009 when Matias participated in a GSEA competition Sebastian was organising; however, they were living in different countries, so communication was sporadic. In early 2013 they again met briefly and spoke for the first time about a problem they had both seen and suffered from firsthand: it was a total nightmare for a business to check and control every sale or transaction made with a credit card, as the way these transactions were recorded depended largely on what bank the credit cards were affiliated with. In Latin America, every credit card company takes a different amount of time to pay merchants. For example, credit card A may pay you 18 days after the transaction was made, while credit card B will make that same payment in 28 days. To make it even more complex, transactions made in instalments are paid to the merchant in 48 or 72 hours depending on the card provider, and of course you also must take into account discounts and promotions as well as taxes and retentions. Lastly, it is not unusual to have rejected coupons that are automatically discounted, and merchants only have a 48-hour opportunity to claim that chargeback by presenting the data of that single transaction. When one of the main newspapers in Argentina published an article pointing out that merchants who did not control their payments lost up to 7% of their income, it was the final push Matias and Sebastian needed to narrow down the product they wanted to build – along with the fact that there were 500 000 POS terminals in the country. Knowing when and how much money is received each day is vital information for every merchant in order to make better decisions and therefore grow the business. With that in mind, in 2014 Matias and Sebastian decided to start INCREASE, a platform that gives merchants and businesses a simple way to understand their income using payment analytics.
In the first three years of the company, Sebastian and Matias went from 0 employees to 22 and from 0 clients to more than 6000. First, they recruited three employees: The Chief Technology Officer, a salesperson, and a marketing director. They then recruited nine more staff in 2016: three developers, one administrative assistant, four salespeople and one customer support person. Finally, another nine employees were hired in 2017: three positions in customer support, one Chief Marketing Officer, one Chief Culture Officer, and four developers. With the slogan ‘empowering businesses’, the team was able to provide their service to many different types of clients, from small businesses to big companies with more than 1000 POS terminals.
The company’s main targets are small and mid-size businesses who have 1–30 POS terminals, and are involved in B2C business with customers paying by credit or debit card (in-store or via e-commerce). INCREASE also offers their services to bigger companies that need or want to empower their local managers. Growth in client acquisition was progressive, going from 900 POS terminals in December 2015, to 5982 in December 2016, to 16 095 in December 2017. In the last three years, the company has identified three main types of clients: the Gustavo segment, the Pablo segment and the Julieta segment.
By the end of 2017, business was going well, and it was time to take it to the next level. Sebastian, as the CEO, started the investment round that would allow the team to grow and achieve the ambitious goal of becoming a multi-product, multi-country company. Within the first three months of 2018, eight bright new employees were recruited and went through a three-week induction program. In the first week, the focus was on INCREASE as a company: its mission, values, methodologies, team members, clients and everything regarding the products and their key value proposition. As an agile company, INCREASE works without a predefined structure. The company is organized in circles that have a purpose and might grow or disappear depending on the needs of every quarter. Each employee, each ‘Increaser’, contributes to at least two circles: a main circle, which usually represents 80% of their time, and a secondary circle for the other 20%.The second week of the induction program was focused on on-the-job training in both main and secondary circles, working side by side with other members of the team. Finally, the third week was meant to give the new members the opportunity to join in meetings with customers, partners and other meaningful stake holders of the fintech industry. Every employee at INCREASE has access to all company information, not only because everyone believes in transparency as a value, but because every single person needs to be able to share information in real time, 24-7. ‘Ideas might come from everywhere and we better be prepared to make them happen’, says Matias.
THE SPIRIT: ‘VELOCIDAD CON SERENIDAD’ (SPEEDINESS WITH SERENITY)
INCREASE was born to simplify merchants’ lives so that they can grow. As a SaaS (software as a service) company, their ability to understand client needs is crucial. In doing so, they must not only be on top of the speed and quality of their products, but they also need to be highly attuned to every aspect of their client’s business and market trends so that they continue adding value in a proactive way. Keeping the balance between solving today’s problems and being aware of and ready for the challenges of tomorrow is probably the one ability every entrepreneur should pay most attention to. Having one without the other means the start-up won’t make it. Being able to adapt equals being able to properly assess situations and make decisions accordingly. That is why at INCREASE they take their values and skills very seriously. They are not just nice to have; they are a way of being. The company believes that creating relevant and accessible fintech solutions that empower businessowners in terms of their financial management will bring financial stability, professionalization and transparency to how small and midsize businesses are run in Latin America. INCREASE has a strong work ethic and a collaborative culture centered around six core values that they follow in all their business endeavours:
INCREASE believe learning agility is the key to sustainable growth, not just as human beings but as a company – a company that knows that there is no learning without motivation, and there’s no motivation without a team that enjoys having a good time solving a huge challenge. By the end of this year INCREASE will have recruited another 10 employees, meaning it will have doubled its employees during 2018. It will also be operating in at least two more countries in Latin America and reaching 10 per cent of the market in Argentina. Apart from its main product, INCREASE will also be offering another three products that are currently being used by some clients.
TABLE 1 DISTRIBUTION OF TYPE OF CLIENTS BY JUNE 2017
|Client Type||POS per client||Perceived value||Number of clients||Percentage of clients||Total volume of POS||Percentage of POS|
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