Disrupted by digital and accelerated by the covid-19 pandemic, branded payments is a fast-growing $3trillion-plus industry. The increasing demands by consumers for alternative payment methods, online privacy and seamless digital cross-border transactions have also driven this growth, with Recharge.com emerging as a key leader in the space.
Serving more than three million customers with sales of over $500million, Recharge.com is led by CEO Günther Vogelpoel. After working in the telecoms sector for 15 years, Vogelpoel joined the Dutch startup when there were 20 employees. Now, there are over 150.
Recharge.com’s services allow merchants and consumers to engage with alternative payments through prepaid branded digital cards. This includes the issues of retail gift cards and mobile top-up services.
Its latest Series B round closed at $35million in funding, led by new investor SmartFin and existing investors Prime Ventures and Kreos Capital, and as one of the Netherlands’ fastest-growing companies, the company is thought to have raised $71.8million to date.
For this latest Behind the Idea, The Fintech Times sat down with Vogelpoel to learn more about the company:
Tell us more about Recharge.com and what it offers
Recharge.com is a leading one-stop shop for branded payment needs. Branded payments are a form of alternate payment method, and they are a flexible way to engage in a service – besides gifting and support, people are turning to branded payments to control their spending and privacy online.
Our purpose since day one has been to make branded payments fast, safe and simple, and we’ve continued with that as we’ve expanded to connect millions of people to over 750 brands all around the world. These include some of the world’s largest brands, such as Apple, Google, Spotify and Netflix.
What problem was Recharge.com set up to solve?
When it comes to branded payments, consumers are still largely underserved by inconvenient and expensive offline brick-and-mortar sales points. There are numerous varieties of branded gift cards and top-up phone cards, but it can be complicated for consumers to obtain them. Consumers need to either purchase them in person, at a shop or kiosk – or can try buying them online, but there are not many reliable, secure websites where you can get the specific credit you want and pay for it with the payment method of your choice.
Recharge.com solves all this – with an assortment of card options, in just three simple steps, you can purchase any kind of credit, and we deliver it instantaneously into your email inbox. As well as being seamless, we provide a safe and secure way for consumers to access their favourite services.
Many digital platforms ask consumers for details that simply are not necessary. Branded payments, on the other hand, enable consumers to protect sensitive data like their date of birth and billing address. We’ve found that as consumers become increasingly protective over their personal data, branded payments alleviate these privacy concerns.
Since launch, how has the company evolved?
We have come a long way, and I am proud of helping to build Recharge.com. I came on board over seven years ago, working with a team of 20, and now we have 150 employees. These days, besides providing international mobile top-ups in 150 nations, we also offer a variety of digital goods and gift cards.
Our customer base has become increasingly international. To date, our most successful markets have been Germany and France, but there is still a lot of potential for the rest of Europe. There is also a lot of growth potential in the GCC region, where we launched a couple of years ago (in Saudi Arabia and UAE).
Besides our global expansion, we have also been looking at how we can continue to serve and delight our customers as a mobile-first company. Our app is something we are always looking at in terms of finding ways to enhance and deliver better service options. In a world with a plethora of banking and wallet functionalities, we are fascinated by the potential for what we could integrate into our platform in the coming years.
What has been the biggest challenge or most ‘tricky moment’ to overcome?
Like most business leaders, I would have to say that the pandemic was an interesting time for us. On the one hand, as a business, it accelerated our growth since it sped up digital transformation and alternative payment methods. However, as a team, we had to figure out how to respond to a new set of challenges.
What are your biggest achievements or ‘proudest moment’ so far?
There have been so many highlights, but bringing on board the resources we need to reach our global potential has been an enormous achievement. In 2021, we raised a $35million funding round led by new investor SmartFin and saw participation from existing investors Prime Ventures and Kreos Capital. This set us up for our international expansion.
It means we are in a stronger position than ever to achieve our goals as an international team on a united mission to integrate brands and payments while providing maximum flexibility to the customer.
How would you describe the company culture?
Since we’re expanding rapidly throughout new markets, it has been crucial to have the right people on board so that we can scale effectively. To me, the ‘right people’ not only come with the right capabilities and knowledge but also have the right mindset.
They are aligned with our commitment to make our company a safe people for people to work, which includes protecting the wellbeing of staff – we do not tolerate harmful or bullying behaviour, talking behind people’s backs or being judgmental. Many of our employees are far from home, so colleagues have become like family to them.
These days, we have team members representing over thirty nationalities to ensure we are relevant in as many corners of the globe as possible. Our teams reflect the diversity and culture of the regions and customers we serve. The feedback I get is that they all appreciate the culture we have built.
What’s in store for the future?
Our overarching goal is to continue building a truly global marketplace that is the world’s top one-stop shop for branded payments. Right now, this means looking at a greater push into North and South America. We are investing in the US, Canadian and Mexican markets as they have tremendous growth potential. In Latin America, services are rapidly becoming digitalised, while North American culture tends to focus heavily on prepaid credit and gift cards.
We are also spreading the word about ‘pay now buy later’ – PNBL for short – which is all about consumers making upfront prepaid payments so they can buy a product or asset in the future. In a world where BNPL payments are both controversial and also becoming more accessible, I believe it’s more essential than ever to publicise the PNBL approach, which goes hand-in-hand with the core philosophy of branded payments.
The PNBL approach encourages consumers to build a solid foundation for themselves and their credit scores in the decades to come. The consumer has more control over their money management and financial visibility by knowing exactly how much they earn and spend each month. At the end of the day, it is about financial empowerment, as fundamentally we want people to have as much power as possible over their financial lives.