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Rapyd CEO Arik Shtilman Discusses 2020, the Impact of the Pandemic and the Move Towards Online Payments

Rapyd Arik blog 2021

Arik shares his lessons learned in 2020 and how to survive and thrive in 2021.

2020 was a tough year for businesses across industries and around the world. Everyone has faced exceptional challenges and we have had to completely change how we work, manage and run our businesses practically overnight.

We sat down with Rapyd CEO Arik Shtilman to get his take on the last twelve months. He shares how Rapyd and its clients fared throughout a year of unprecedented global crises, and what the future might hold for Rapyd, the payments industry and fintech as a whole.

Arik shares his insights on:

  • How the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for omnichannel payments and scalable systems.
  • Why many fintech businesses weathered the storm successfully, but some didn’t survive.
  • Predictions for successful new technologies and trends, including why food delivery companies could be the big winners of 2020.
  • How Rapyd is set to grow in 2021.

Arik, how did the payments and fintech ecosystems change in 2020?

The payments ecosystem in 2020 went through some significant shakedowns, as we all know. The year started with the standard growth rate – but then came this storm called COVID. For most people, it was a very bad storm. Online payments was a category that has seen positive business impacts caused by COVID.

The industry changed completely as businesses realized they had to provide omnichannel payments – with lockdowns causing the volume of physical payments to drop, then increase as some of the economy re-opened, then closed again, and so on. This accordion-style switch between physical and online payments really hit home the need for omnichannel payments for businesses of all sizes.

In terms of the evolution of the wider ecosystem, fintech mainly matured in 2020. We’ve seen some companies that had been raising capital in 2019 needing to change their business model. Some Neo-banks could successfully implement their business models on a very large scale during 2020 because of the way that they executed during the year, but there are other companies that are unfortunately fading away because what they offer wasn’t able to adapt and pivot in the new climate.

And what was the biggest surprise of 2020?

The biggest surprise for me was the way the stock market behaved. Seeing that the pandemic didn’t stop the stock growth and that all the companies that continued to grow (at least from a valuation perspective), is something that surprised me. If you look at all the small and medium-sized businesses outside of the tech ‘bubble’ that suffered because of the global crisis, you would expect it to have an impact on the global economy. These smaller businesses consume services from the big companies, so there’s no way to disconnect the two – but it doesn’t initially appear to have impacted the big businesses. I think it’s an unrealistic situation and that sometime in the near future we’ll surely see an impact.

Which technologies in the payments space would you bet on?

I think that Buy Now Pay Later is definitely something that is getting significant adoption in the world, in large part because of the move to online payments. I’d bet on these types of technologies, or offerings, to be long-term winners.

And what new technology or emerging trends do you find the most exciting?

There’s so much buzz relating to food delivery and the way that restaurants are operating post-COVID. People started to build the entire concept of Cloud Kitchens way before COVID, but the real boom started during COVID. The Cloud Kitchen concept, restaurants focused on delivery instead of dining in, is a fascinating phenomenon, and I think it’s going to change the future of restaurants and food delivery.

What was Rapyd’s biggest accomplishment in 2020?

2020 started with a strong tailwind from our growth in 2019 and was actually a very important year for us. We launched self-service onboarding at the end of January, right before the pandemic started, and it really impacted the majority of the territories where we operate.

Other important milestones were the acquisition of Korta around April, a company out of Iceland, that we acquired in the middle of COVID, and which gave us local card acquiring capabilities in the European Union.

Finally,  the launch of our plugin strategy with Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix and Magento plugins in September was another very important milestone.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?

Definitely how to support all client types and sizes. At the beginning of the year, we were very enterprise-focused, supporting mainly medium-plus sized clients, meaning a very distinct type of product and experience. With the pandemic came a big shift towards online payments, meaning we had to make sure our product could scale up and down between customer types.

It became obvious that every single business, no matter how big or small, would need to migrate to an online presence. And the fact that the same product engineering implementation teams are able to basically create a product that supports small to medium-sized clients and big clients was the biggest lesson learned during the year.

How have Rapyd customers responded to COVID?

We’ve seen both ends of the scale. We have customers that had their business model crashed by the pandemic thanks to lockdowns and the closing of the ‘physical’ world. But we also had clients that grew thanks to the changes that happened – for digital goods and food delivery clients, business was booming.

We saw some new business models emerge from the pandemic: we onboarded into the platform some cooking websites, and different types of cloud kitchen-related solutions and saw them thrive. We also saw new, and very interesting, business models, for example, telemedicine.

What advice would you give to a CEO in the COVID era?

Firstly, make decisions quickly. Don’t wait for somebody else to make a decision for you, don’t wait for the situation to guide you to where you want to go. Even if you made a mistake, that’s fine, you can fix it quickly. But make decisions as soon as you can, even the big decisions because waiting is the worst thing you can do.

Secondly, communication is key. Ensure that every employee working from home is constantly updated, so they know what is going on and feel like part of the team. You don’t want employees to ever feel disconnected or neglected, especially in times of crisis.

What are your predictions for Rapyd in the upcoming year, and what’s your vision for growth?

One of our goals is to continue to successfully serve both clients that come through enterprise sales channels and self-service onboarded clients, making it a 50/50 split, and see 3x growth in the business. An ambitious target, maybe, but one that’s very doable based on where we are now.

And finally, Arik, the burning question…

…is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

Definitely, yes! It’s actually one of my favorite movies and, yes, I do see it as a Christmas movie, and an unforgettable one.

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