We feel lucky. As a start-up with a bright idea a year or two before a global pandemic, we had the usual challenging road ahead of us when it came to bringing that idea to market and making it thrive. This was especially challenging in Malta where, for all its wonderful quirks and appeal, contactless payments had not been met with enthusiasm and most people still quite liked paying by cash, thank you very much!

But then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and along with being a devastatingly difficult time for humanity, it also became a pressure cooker period for innovation, particularly around how we exchange and manage money. Solutions had to be simultaneously more efficient and more flexible. And it so happens that flexibility and efficiency are our raison d’être at wamo. In short, the time was, and is, right for us.

More than anything we want to make life easier for small business owners. Really, it’s that simple. And what’s frustrating when you look around is the disconnect you can see between what tech makes possible and what is actually available in terms of innovation for everyday small businesses, sole traders and start-ups on a budget. There’s incredibly smart tech and yet the smart solutions aren’t where they could or should be. While as a culture we like to say we really champion the entrepreneurial spirit, in reality we don’t put our money where our mouths are. Traditional banks have been able to respond to customer demand and incorporate quite innovative features for consumers, but hardly any at all for businesses. They are simply too antiquated and cumbersome to adapt and embrace the needs and expectations of modern small business owners.

We understand the problems that small businesses face very clearly: 1) it is much harder than it should be to open a business bank account (sometimes it’s not even possible); 2) it is unnecessarily tricky and expensive to take payments (the lifeblood of any business); 3) it is a daily frustration to have to jump from one app/platform/account or site to another to run a business digitally and, lastly, everything costs too much and takes too long.

Four years ago, we had solutions to all these problems and today we are focused even beyond that to start looking at how our agile tech can solve problems within particular sectors of business (more on this later). This is the reason we always ask our customers for their feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, because it’s not just the tech that must be agile, we are committed to growing and adapting and strong customer relationships seeking genuine feedback are the foundation for this.

So, knowing what the main problems are and listening carefully to our customers, we built a solution with the clear aim of making business banking encouraging and hassle-free for small business owners, sole traders, freelancers and others. 

Firstly, we made opening a business account as easy as opening a personal account. As the business owner, you download the app, input your and your company’s details, prove your identity by scanning a document and speaking a sentence into your phone camera, and we do the rest. Now you have a business account that’s just like a bank account but designed for today’s purposes - in around 10 minutes! Which really is how it should be. Completely secure, completely professional, no advantage of a traditional bank lost at all. Only gains.

A solution with the clear aim of making business banking encouraging

Second problem, the enormous hassle and unnecessary expense around taking payments. Given how far we’ve come in fintech innovation, payments should be so simple and yet taking payments can still be a nightmare for smaller businesses and sole traders especially. So we completely embraced the potentiality of QR code tech – ubiquitous in China for a reason… that it works! – making it possible for anyone to take a payment by presenting their customer with a QR code whether digitally on their phone or physically on a sticker or lump of wood or literally whatever works. What we know is that customers don’t want to have to download, sign up or fill out anything in order to use your payment system – fair enough, we think. With wamo, your customer scans your QR with their phone, their wallet opens and they enter an amount to pay. Done.

But more than QR, it’s having multiple payment options that’s important, you never want to be turning a customer away because you can’t accept their payment method. So, with wamo you can also send payment links to request payments (this is the latest advancement in payments and very safe), your customers can make transfers into your wamo account in the usual way of course, and if it’s a wamo-to-wamo payment then that’s as easy as peer2peer and you simply search your contacts and request an amount.

The next major hassle small businesses face is ‘app-juggling’ in order to get on top of their finances and in a bid to be organised, efficient and digitalised – small business owners have to try and find a combination of apps to manage their expenses, payments from customers, B2B payments, accounting, managing team finances and more. Even if some of these platforms can integrate with others, it gets time-consuming fast. Our overarching aim with wamo was to create a single space for busy business owners can do everything related to their business finances from. We created sub-accounts that can be used to organise income streams with linked Visa debit cards to further organise spending by project or person. wamo reports does what it says on the tin – you can request a report for your whole account or for specific sub-accounts, hugely decreasing the amount of time spent on paper-chasing and number crunching. And the team management aspect of our platform is something our clients really love - it’s empowering to set employees up with their own accounts, spending limits and cards and yet as the owner there’s no way of missing anything because it’s all there on your dashboard. You can also decide who sees what by allocating roles.

In terms of costs we always want to be transparent and more than fair. We believe the subscription model is best for everyone and ours is very simple and affordable. The smaller the business the less you pay and Best if you’re a sole trader or freelancer, there’s no subscription charge at all – you get your business account free.

We believe that B2B financial management can and should feel more P2P, that business communities can be nurtured through having innovative tools that create connection, ease and efficiency rather than placing obstacles in the way and spanners in the works. That’s our dream, and we’re sticking to it.

Yanki Onen, co-founder and CEO at wamo.io

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