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Medici interviews Joel Yarbrough

Where is the future of payments going? What are the biggest challenges? Where are the biggest opportunities? Find out during this informative interview with Joel Yarbrough and Medici at the Singapore Fintech Festival trade show.

Show Notes:

Shannon Rosic:

Here to talk to me about the current state of Fintech in the APEC region is Joel Yarbrough, VP of Asia Pacific at Rapyd. Joel, thank you so much for joining me.

Joel Yarbrough:

Thank you for having me.

Shannon Rosic:

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the current state of Fintech in the payment space here in APAC.

Joel Yarbrough:

APAC is an incredibly diverse market when it comes to payments and it comes to almost everything. So the state of Fintech here is diverse. We have an incredible amount of innovation happening at a country level. We have progressive regulation all around the region where regulators are looking at each other and trying to drive change, create new payment methods, drive realtime payments, and then we have a Fintech ecosystem that's built on top of that very fertile ground. So we see every single day has changed and that's kind of the watch word that we have is continuous change, but in a very positive direction.

Shannon Rosic:

What are some of the challenges that companies are facing here in this space?

Joel Yarbrough:

Honestly, it's really how do you manage that level of diversity? If I'm an overseas merchant or I'm a large business that's trying to sell to customers or collect from customers in the region, what's the right way to do it? How do I understand the fastest, most affordable, most effective way to do it? It's not going to be the same as it is in Africa. It's not going the same as it is in America.

Joel Yarbrough:

How do they really get themselves into the market in an efficient manner and make things happen? It's very challenging for people coming from outside and even from people coming inside the region. It's changing that quickly.

Joel Yarbrough:

A market like Singapore three-four years ago was very static from how credit cards, PayPal, cash, sort of traditional bank transfers market and now we have this incredible explosion of innovation with wallets, digital banking coming up, real time payments, new lenders in the market are operating as wallets, ride sharing platforms, driving wallets, one thing after another as being very, very explosive. And so that's the challenge people have to handle is how do they ride that curve in a way that's relevant to the market and relevant for their business?

Shannon Rosic:

How is Rapyd then ultimately helping solve for those challenges? And where do you fit into the ecosystem?

Joel Yarbrough:

Ultimately Rapyd's about one thing, which is simplicity. Our job is to make it so that global or super regional companies can expand into new markets simply, make good ROI on their investments so they can access that change. So with one API, one financial reconciliation process, they get access to the full diversity of the market without having to reinvent the wheel again and again and again so they can focus on their core business.

Shannon Rosic:

I've heard this term super app thrown around. Can you explain that?

Joel Yarbrough:

Super app is an incredible concept here. You have a market where people have gone very heavy into smartphone adoption at an extremely fast rate. Places like Myanmar went from zero smartphones five years ago to 2.1 smartphones today. So people are adopting the internet extremely fast category, but at the same time they don't have hundreds of apps on their phone. So there's an incredible opportunity for large platform companies like Grab, like GoJak, to really understand what happened in China in similar circumstances or India in similar circumstances to offer everything that somebody wants in one single platform.

Joel Yarbrough:

If you're not one of those platforms and you are a big company yourself, you're feeling pretty threatened. How do I engage my users without losing that connectivity? When we look at super app as a service, it's how do we bootstrap thousands more partners into that ecosystem so they can provide payment-like services themselves very, very efficiently in a way that makes sense for their customers, to create balances, to top them up, drain them, freight payment use cases, create new services that are adjacent to them, but very interesting from a customer engagement standpoint. That's what we call a super app as a service.

Shannon Rosic:

How is APAC different than other regions specifically when it comes to Fintech? What ultimately makes them stand out?

Joel Yarbrough:

I think there's a lot of things that really are the back or the down drop, the back drop to that level of change. One is the fact that every one of these markets looks at every one of these markets. You have bigger ecosystems where everyone might look at the European central bank, or they might look at the UK regulator, but it's still only two regulators in a very, very big continent.

Joel Yarbrough:

Here we've got a lot of regulators, a lot of markets, a lot of strong local participants who are extremely informed about what everyone else is doing. So the pace at which an idea moves or a meme moves in this market is incredibly fast. And so if an idea comes up in Indonesia, you'll see it in Singapore, you'll see it in Vietnam, you'll see it in Thailand within months and vice versa.

Joel Yarbrough:

As a result, we have this very viral level of change that's raising the water line everywhere. And then people like the MAS do an incredible job to try to synthesize across that change, be a bridge to everyone else. They look at things like our realtime payment system here in Singapore. They have announced bilateral partnerships in Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia across the border in ways to really drive by reality of payments in a way that I don't think you see in other regions. You don't see that kind of collaboration or competition between countries in the same way. They operate more like islands. This region operates as an ecosystem that's informed based on what the rest of the ecosystem is doing.

Shannon Rosic:

Absolutely. What do you think the future looks like in Asia for Fintech?

Joel Yarbrough:

Continuous change, honestly. I think if you're a large player today, you want to believe that the monoculture exists, that a few brands eat the world. I don't think there's any evidence of that. You and I are here at the Fintech festival today. There's no evidence. You walk around, what you see is a massive change. A conference is much larger than before, interesting players doing interesting things absolutely everywhere. So when we look out three to five years, we think that pace increases not decreases as the barriers to entry go down, as platforms like Rapyd make it easier for more people to get into this space, we think we'll see a lot more innovation in the future even than we do today.

Shannon Rosic:

What do you think is ultimately driving this change in Asia as well? Is it consumer demand? You're seeing a lot of that in other regions. What is it specifically?

Joel Yarbrough:

Ultimately I think it's opportunity. It's opportunity and it's optimism. You're talking about, I mean Asia read large is an ecosystem where massive numbers of people live, they're moving into the middle class at a massive rate that's driven by education, it's driven by access to technology, access to the internet and an openness to the world. You see people who are self educating at an incredible pace and building new businesses at an incredible pace, which is a foundational. It's optimism at get go.

Shannon Rosic:

Rapyd recently raised $100 million in your series C so congratulations on that.

Joel Yarbrough:

Thank you very much.

Shannon Rosic:

But what advice would you give to startups looking to get funding?

Joel Yarbrough:

I think focus on what you need to do. I think at the foundation you have four things that matter, product market fit. If you don't have product market fit, you have nothing. Figure that out. Capital is a byproduct of that, as is building a great team with great cultural values and then executing. The more that you can align yourself to fit and execution, and while on top of a great team, the capital both follows and precedes it.

Shannon Rosic:

So value proposition is paramount?

Joel Yarbrough:

Absolutely. There's a lot of novelty ideas out there that are interesting or might be technically fascinating, but if there's not a real emotional pain at the foundation of it that you're solving, it's not going to scale.

Shannon Rosic:

Makes sense. Well, Joel, thank you so much for your insights today.

Joel Yarbrough:

Thank you.

Shannon Rosic:

It's been a pleasure.

Joel Yarbrough:

Thanks for having me.

Shannon Rosic:

From a DT studio, I'm Shannon Rosic.

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