Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.” Joe Tusin, CEO & Founder of Chynge – a FinTech cloud solution for compliance in the payments marketplace – shares his life journey and, in particular, how change is pervasive in an entrepreneur’s life.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I have a long history in tech, with 30 years of industry experience, yes, that sounds like an insurmountable number among my 30-something year old startup peers. My experience is wide encompassing consulting, financial services, CRM, analytics, cloud computing, and I’m furiously connecting the dots to create a compelling FinTech solution. I am fortunate to have an incredibly talented team in operations, engineering, and sales. We have built and sold enterprise class software in prior lives, and our history and chemistry brought us together to build Chynge.
What is your business venture about?
Chynge Central, our flagship product, provides one-click compliance for the payments marketplace. Payments in FinTech is an incredibly crowded space because the business problem in cross-border payments is so big and so complex that everyone is rushing in with a different twist in their solution. However, the fundamental requirement for regulatory compliance is consistent across them all.
What is your mission at the outset?
As we move along our FinTech journey, we’ve refined our business and sharpened our mission. Our RegTech solution complements cross-border payments that are safe, secured and based on trust. The solution is the easy part but the branding takes time, grows organically, and does not switch on overnight.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I was a road warrior for many years, traveling at least 150K miles per year. One day, Lady Luck smiled upon me, and I was bumped up to first class going from San Francisco to Geneva, and my neighbour, for lack of a better word, was a courier for OPEC countries. He traveled fifty weeks of the year, traveled first class, stayed in five-star hotels, ate and drank anything he wanted but basically never saw his family in Ohio. His task was to carry documents and other valuable items from client to client. “Haven’t they heard of FedEx or DHL?” I asked. This is the top end of the customer pyramid where a very select few of clients paid a premium for trust, safety, and security. I was fascinated but I also racked my brains as to how I could codify and automate this transfer of value, and moved the service down the customer pyramid to a wide segment of customers.
What is unique about your business?
The movement of illicit money, whether it’s vice, corruption, tax evasion is large, estimated at 3% of global GDP, about $1-2T and growing at a rapid clip of 6% a year. Central banks and financial institutions fight illicit money with regulations, their weapon of choice. Over time, regulations grew layered and more complex. Banks throw warm bodies to comply with regulations resulting in a huge demand, with limited supply, for experienced compliance officers. We believe that the main safety of cross-border payments is via regulatory compliance. We decompose the regulations, create business processes, and automate them end-to-end. We then made it smart by adding big data and predictive models to measure the propensity of customer behaviours such as money laundering, corruption, financial scams, and terrorism financing.
Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?
Our targeted customers are financial institutions, and we started with direct sales. It’s the most effective way to get customer feedback on product, roadmap and pricing. We had a controlled release of our solution and very quickly reached $5M in Gross Transaction Value (GTV). Our sales pipeline has matured to the point where we can start to build out the ecosystem for partners and to scale the business via channel sales. This is where the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) becomes invaluable where we find the appropriate partners to build richer products and go to market faster.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
Steve Blank was one of the founders in the first startup I worked at. He has ingrained the sales discipline in me to get, keep and grow customers, and I evangelise this methodology with my sales team. We are a startup and we have a mere handful of customers so our focus is in the get-customer stage. We are in the money business which is highly, highly regulated. Ultimately, customers stay with us because they trust us and that we provide a safe and secure platform for them to run their business. Sticking to the basics, in our customers’ eyes, we are a trusted advisor and a thought leader in our space, and we continue to bring value to their organisations.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
In the 1950’s, cognitive psychologist George Miller published a landmark paper: The Magic Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two. Most people can remember seven things and AT&T implemented seven digits for their phone numbers so that people can remember phone numbers. We strive for a Customer Experience that is simple, elegant, and intuitive. How do we take things out instead of adding things in? It is really hard to make things easy.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
A startup is not a race; it’s a marathon. You need the tenacity, perseverance, persistence and stamina to go the long haul. You will keep falling down many times but you will have to get up, brush yourself and keep going. Google “adele all I ask sound failure”. No matter what happens, the music may stop but keep the faith and you will see that all those around you support you. You don’t skip a beat, just keep going because eventually, the music comes back on, and you resume into a cadence.
Do you have any final thoughts?
It is imperative to master a clear and crisp message around our solution. It is much more difficult than it sounds. The message has to be consistent and yet has different flavours for a variety of audiences such as a customer, partner, or investor. The TV series Shark Tank is an excellent guide where the successful contestants research the typical questions from the investors, and practice, practice, practice their responses and their pitches so that their delivery is silky smooth.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
When I was at Berkeley, a classmate introduced me to Richard Diebenkorn. He was an abstract impressionism artist, and also an activist in the Free Speech Movement. I was particularly captivated by his aerial landscapes. I was completely mesmerised by his works and could easily lose time in them. He expressed peace and tranquillity while protesting` against the city. Richard inspires me to build end-to-end immersive solutions amidst ongoing disruption in the financial services industry.
What’s next for you and for Chynge?
Bank products today are commodities with little or no differentiation. Conversely, we will continue to stay close to our customers, truly understand their business pains, and develop innovative solutions with an accompanying sticky customer experience. Our last crazy step will be to make portions of our solution open source. There is a Mercedes Benz ad from decades back and it is still as fresh as the morning dew in my mind. The ad showed accident after accident but the Mercedes automobiles had airbags which protected the occupants. Mercedes did not keep the airbag technology to themselves but instead they shared it with the other auto manufacturers. The message was clear: There are some things in life that are too precious to not share.
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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