“My motivation to enter the Visa Innovation Program was that our industry is changing and moving towards the payments space, so we had no choice. For me, it was key to learn about this industry, which is quite complex and I didn’t know much about it before,” starts his story Stoytcho Vlaykov, the co-founder of Cashwave.
His company is a B2B provider of branded currencies, which were used to call gift cards and they provide them to employees of Fortune 500 companies across Europe and recently in the US. Four years ago, when Stoytcho and his co-founder started this endeavor, they had different expectations and ideas of how gift cards are sold. On the edge of failure, their first B2B client appeared so they decided to keep going and pivot their business. At one point, the co-founders realized that Cashwave was actually operating in the payment space and they needed to gain knowledge about it and understand the ecosystem better. So they applied for the Visa Innovation Program, which in Bulgaria is facilitated by Eleven Ventures.
Refining the strategy
“We wanted to use the opportunity to leverage the know-how and the experience of the mentors from the Eleven Network to redefine where our strategy is heading, what products we need to launch, and just dream big,” tells us Stoytcho. Moreover, for a small startup in Bulgaria, which wants to build a payment product, working with Visa would validate the proposition in the eyes of the existing and potential customers, adds the co-founder.
The months spent in the program with a curriculum, tailored to their needs, was an eyeopener that helped them grow – the mentors not only guided them but challenged them to think bigger. “During a strategy sprint, we did with our mentors, for the first time we mapped out our ecosystem. We’ve been in this industry for four years, but we’ve never done that in this way.
It was a great moment for us to see what we want to change and which are the parts that we want to own and address with new products,” he shares.
And not least, the whole journey equipped them with the right contacts, mentors, and insights into the industry that they will need to develop their newborn product during the Visa Innovation Program. “Visa gives you a great network of contacts and learnings which you have to take,” concludes Stoytcho Vlaykov.