“Technology is developed in layers. You have the personal computer and a whole range of things come up. You have the internet and all these companies come up. Visa is one of the biggest players so there will be a lot of companies built on top of Visa, on top of the new financial infrastructures like open banking, PSD II, etc. We see that this will enable a whole new range of financial products and experiences, even something we cannot imagine,” says Ivo Vasilev, founder of Reloyalty, who recently went through the corporate accelerator Visa Innovation Program facilitated by the local VC Eleven Ventures.
Reloyalty is a new type of consumer marketplace built on top of the bank cards that allows retailers and businesses in the physical world to build better relationships with their customers by understanding the card payment data. In a nutshell, consumers connect their cards to the mobile app of Reloyalty and shop as usual in the city and get rewards for their loyalty. Businesses on the other hand get a dashboard where they can understand their most valuable customers, customer segments, lifetime value, and all the things that only online businesses can understand. Thus they can run more efficiently. The Bulgarian company is currently operating in the UK market and raised a €530K seed round to expand its vision of loyalty there.
Ivo understands the importance of the infrastructure startups need to leverage on building products. Indeed, in 2018, he re-launched the core product of Reloyalty with a new concept based exactly on the new open banking and standards in Europe – the new “layer” that helped him create a new product.
Leveraging existing infrastructure and expertise
Ivo thinks that financial services will become like cloud services back in the days – an open platform to build on top. Therefore, he decided to make a smart move timely and get closer to the source of the know-how and the infrastructure. “Visa is one of the biggest companies in that space. We wanted to explore how we can integrate Reloyalty even deeper into the transactions, we are obviously connected with cards. We wanted to be closer to the APIs,” explains the fintech founder.
His biggest gain from the Visa Innovation Program was the network, the feedback he managed to collect, and the validation that Reloyalty is on the right path. And this is also what he thinks is important for other founders to prepare for.
“My biggest advice is: know what you want. Get as much feedback and challenge your product as much as possible. You cannot reinvent the wheel in financial services because it is a complex environment so you need to understand from the people who are in these companies – banks, big players in the financial world like Visa – what is possible, what is not possible, what is inefficient in a certain way. Thus you can maneuver better in this space and know that you are building a product that can scale,” he says.
Indeed, equipped with know-how and learned lessons, Ivo and his team recently launched a new product in the fintech space as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. Reloyalty’s new product is a crowdfunding platform, aiming to help customers and merchants stay in touch, and it is currently making its first steps in the market.