The nature of any given startup is constantly morphing, what more during a worldwide pandemic that threw a curveball at every business there is. Curlec, a FinTech company co-founded by Zac Liew, needed to survive 2020 to thrive in 2021.
Where luck is concerned in business, Curlec was in the right arena fighting for survival. As a FinTech focusing on online payments, they managed to grow three times as big last year.
The CEO’s advice to entrepreneurs navigating challenges at any pivotal moment gets straight to it: act fast.
“There’s no point flogging a dead horse. If you need to pivot, pivot quick, and just move quick.”
The company was founded locally in 2018 by Zac Liew and his business partner, who persuaded the then-analyst to return to Malaysia from the UK, with the proposition of a business model that was unfamiliar here at the time. Their idea was to help companies take control of their cash flow with direct debit payments, an advantage they brought to smaller businesses that were typically snubbed by big banks.
“Payment is just an entry point for us. What it is we want to do is serve our businesses, our clients, our merchants better; and they all have recurring revenue type business models,” he shares. “It’s building software, building systems to accommodate all of that.”
Curlec is looking right at the future of a subscription economy. Businesses want recurring and predictable income, while consumers — whether realising it or not — have shifted their recurring spending in support of that.
“(As a consumer) I don’t need to own products anymore, I can subscribe to services,” he explains.
Like any other startup, Curlec faced many challenges in areas such as funding and early customers. “I still remember back in the day, two to three years ago, having to find our first customers,” he recalls. “We’re having to convince these guys about a new payment product that was never in the market.”
Hitting milestones shared among the team, Zac says, makes it all worth it. This would include Curlec processing its first RM1 million, all the way to eventually RM100 million.
Curlec was awarded Malaysia’s Best FinTech Startup at the Southeast Asian Global Startup Awards 2019. This year, they’ll join five others startups across Asia Pacific in Visa’s first ever Accelerator Program. Zac himself was honoured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 2020.
The CEO muses on the daily work life as startup of 25 “scrappy” employees, where he wears many hats across departments including HR, operations, sales and marketing (“but not so much (of) tech and products”).
“Everyday we go into the office and say, ‘I want to learn something new’. I want to continuously be learning. I want to learn to unlearn, unlearn to learn.”
He sums up, “When you take that mindset, no day is the same, right?”
Videography & main photo: Hans Media
Special thanks: 8 Conlay, KSK Land
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