Business Achievers: Ollie Walsh and PiP iT

Ollie-Walsh-Pipit-payments

Our latest Business Achiever is Ollie Walsh and PiP iT. We asked Ollie to tell us a little bit about his payment-focussed business and about his business journey to date. Read on to find out more in Business Achievers: Ollie Walsh and PiP iT.


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Give us the background to your business

PiP iT is a cash transaction platform that helps migrants to support their families at home. The original idea was my co-founder’s – Julian Callaghan – he was in the queue in Galway post office one day to pay a bill. He was paying it in person as he had concerns about using his card online. It occurred to him that there should be a way to pay for ecommerce orders in the post office too.

At the time, I was running a market research/strategy consultancy called Micromarketing and Julian asked me about researching the idea. I thought it sounded like a good idea, but once that research was done, we realised just how good an idea it was! I then approached a friend of mine – Rory Ryan – who was a ‘techie’ and the three of us formed the company. That was November 2013.

We ‘bootstrapped’ the business to start with the three of us continuing in our day jobs as we worked on building the platform, building the go to market plan, looking for funding. The initial model was purely ecommerce. The consumer ordered from a website, picked ‘PiP iT’ as the payment method and was emailed a bar code for the order. This bar code could be scanned at a collection partners e.g. Post Office, and paid for in cash. Once payment was made, the website shipped the goods.

We got initial seed funding (€125,000) from angel investors in Ireland and were offered matched funding by a Social Impact fund in Sheffield, called the Key Fund. PiP iT is a Financial Inclusion company as most of the people who would use the service are un/under banked. Accepting the funding meant participating in a Social Impact Accelerator in Sheffield called Dot Forge Impact. I received the offer email on a Friday afternoon. The following Tuesday I moved to Sheffield. My wife and then one-year old son moved the following week.

The process of moving country, even a seemingly easy move from Ireland to England, made us realise how difficult migrating is. Renting a house was a problem as I had no credit history in UK and no agency would accept my Irish bank records. They also wouldn’t accept a direct debit from an Irish account, so I had to pay six months rent in advance to get somewhere to live. This difficulty in getting an address made it difficult to get a bank account.

It took one day to get a business bank account, but it took seven months to get a personal account open. To open the account I needed a bill in my name, which took two months after moving in. For most economic migrants, these are problems that they can’t overcome and they live in shared accommodation and don’t have any acceptable bills in their names for proof of address.

This experience, combined with being in an accelerator, got us to focus in on how we could use the platform we built for ecommerce, for other cash payments, specifically for migrants. €60B a year is remitted out of the UK and around 15% of that is cash. Remitting cash costs up to 9.5% of the transaction value, which is a huge fee. As a Financial Inclusion company, we saw this fee as a tax on the poor.

We found that 30% of the cash being remitted was for paying bills. We started contacting billing platform in west Africa about integrating with them so migrants in the UK could use PiP iT to pay bills for their families at home, using cash in the UK Post Office. Our first transaction was in April 2017 and was a bill payment from UK to Ghana.

From there we built out additional models of loading cash to e-wallets and cross border cash lodgements to bank accounts (for migrants who have an account in their home country, but can’t get one in their host country)

What's on the cards for 2019? 

In April this year, we closed a €1.25m post seed round led by Chicago FinTech VC West Loop Ventures and Enterprise Ireland.

We are now live for collections in UK, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Philippines and currently integrating with a partner in UAE. We are in negotiations for an additional 40 countries in EU, Russia and Africa and are onboarding 85 billing, banking, ewallet and ecommerce partners.

We have a team of eight, with six in Galway and two in UK as well as partner companies in Nigeria, Dubai and Mumbai.

We are now focused on getting all our onboarding to transacting and scaling the company globally.


Recommended reading: Business Achievers: Michael McElroy and SalesPlus


The best business tip you've ever received?

‘Do it now.’ Don’t leave it till tomorrow, get it done. Even if it's difficult.

Any advice for other business owners?

You need to have a plan, to have direction, but also to be flexible and react to what you learn along the way. As well as moving from purely ecommerce to additional segments, we also moved from our original plan of being a consumer facing service to being B2B. We realised the route to building PiP iT as B2B would be both quicker and more cost effective than B2C.

We have also recently launched an Enterprise Banking model as we realised our pricing model didn’t align with the banks we were targeting. We have now configured our banking offering to the way that banks make purchasing decisions.

I also always try to meet people in person. In our digital age global businesses can be built without leaving the office (or the sitting room), but if your business has partners, meeting them in person is immeasurably better than online. Meeting them, especially when you make a significant effort to get to them, builds relationships that last. In the last two years, along with around fifty trips to the UK, I have gone to Netherlands, France, Austria, Ghana, Nigeria, Kuwait, UAE, India and Canada. Business travel can be tough.

I went to The Hague to meet a partner for dinner. It was a 24-hour round trip for a one hour meeting, but it got the contract signed. I flew from Dubai to Kolkata for one meeting, spent eight hours there and went back to the airport and flew to Mumbai. The effort and expense has always paid off in building long term business relationships that helps the company to grow.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

My personal plan is to build PiP iT to a significant exit and then start a fund in Galway for tech companies that make a social impact. There are lots of people out there with great ideas, but without the funding or experience to get them to market. I want to be able to help them.

What does business achievement mean to you?

I think business people/entrepreneurs focus too much on the big pay day being the only achievement. To keep myself and our team motivate, I like to acknowledge every achievement.

Getting the platform live. Securing angel funding. Getting the place on the accelerator. Getting a deal signed with the UK Post Office. Our first transaction. Every transaction since then. Getting VC funding. Building out an amazing team. Making a Social Impact.

These are all great achievements. Each of these was its own success.

Where can people connect with you and your business?

Email is always best This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. More information on us can be found on www.pipit.global, we are on Linkedin and Twitter @pipitglobal 

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