Epi 23: Easy Payment Solutions for Businesses – Marwan Forzley, Founder & CEO of Veem

JC: Welcome everybody to another episode of the Future of BizTech. I’m your host JC Granger, I have with me here, the CEO of veem.com, Marwan Forsley. Marwan, thank you so much for coming on the show. Happy to have you on, why don’t you start with telling our audience a little bit about yourself and your background, and then just kind of what motivated you to start Veem?

Marwan: Thank you JC for having me and good to see you. I started Veem in 2014, I used to own e-commerce for Western Union. Got into a senior and through an acquisition with a company called eBillMe, which I founded and sold to them. I’ve been in startups and big companies throughout my career. I’ve been in payments for a long time.

One of the reasons we started being Mr. Make it really simple for businesses to pay and get paid. The vision is really simple. When you go to buy coffee in the morning, you don’t think of how you do it. You just pay and you move on, your mind and thinking about emails and calendars and things you have to do, but your mind is not fixated on how you pay. When you actually do business payments, whether you’re doing it domestically or globally, it’s the opposite issue.

In your mind you have to think about: How do I do this? What kind of information do I need? How much is it going to cost me? When is it going to get there? I got my shipment on time, et cetera. There’s a lot of things you start thinking about and to experience flips from really simple, to really complex.

So what we want it to do is to simplify it for businesses so that they can pay and get paid domestic and international cross border all by email, like dumb it down so that it’s really simple to send money around. That’s why we started Veem.

JC: That’s interesting. And would that being said, you know, can you talk a little bit more about how you simplified it? Right. I mean, what did you see as the issue before you created Veem? What was so complicated about it, and then how did Veem solve that?

Marwan: Yeah, let me walk you through what customers did before Veem and what, and how they do it. Within the Veem environment. So if you are a business, for example, and you want to pay one of your suppliers, think of China or Germany, as you know, some of the suppliers you have, what you did today is you go to one of the banks and you send a wire out.

So the way you do it is to, in order to send the wire, you have to pick up a whole bunch of information on the receiver that you’re sending money to. So typically the receiver’s name address, IBAN, Swift codes. You got to think about the currencies, do I send US dollars or do I have to buy foreign exchange, you know, RMB or Euros and send it out, and think about the fees that are applied for that bank wire. And then you have to think about cut-off times. Do I do it, you know, before 1:00 PM PST or 5:00 PM Eastern. So that makes sure I get it in before cutoff for the day. And then once you actually send the money, you don’t really know what happens to it until the supplier that you’re sending money to, tells you, hey, I received your money. Other than that, you don’t know. So, what we’re solving for is how do you make that experience simpler? So the way we designed Veem, you sign up, we do authentication on you to make sure that you’re a business, a legitimate business, and then to send money to China or Germany, essentially, all you need to do is enter the email address of the recipient and the amount of money you have.

That’s it. So I type in you know what I’m sending money to ABC corporation in Germany and $10,000, the company in Germany, ABC corporation receives a notice that you’re getting paid and then make a decision on how they want to get paid. Do they want it and Euros or US dollars? Do they want it in their bank account, their card, or in their wallet.

And so it gives them a bunch of choices to work with. Once ABC decides that “yeah, I’m going to pick up that money from you”. We then start routing the payments from the sender to the receiver, the best way to think of this like a good analogy is if you think of how consumer peer to peer systems work, kind of like if you think of Venmo, Square cash, Zell, Wechat pay, Alipay like that type of work for businesses.

So we have customers that, you know, used their bank to send money out and found it complicated. And then like the experience it’s friction for them and their suppliers. And so they log into Veem to send money domestic and cross border, to pay suppliers by labor, to do intercompany transfers. Some of them use us to collect money from their buyers. So that’s how the entire experience works. All of it is designed around the same principle that I gotta be able to pay and get paid anywhere – all by email, just keep it really simple.

JC: Yeah, because that does remind me of, I received an email one time from, I think like cash app or Zelle was one of those things where it just came from email and that’s all it was. It was a more of a peer-to-peer style and that’s all I needed to do to receive that money. So that’s kind of what this reminds me of, like you were saying so long story short, it sounds like you took the simplification of those peer-to-peer money sharings and you put it into a business form. So specifically it sounds more for international, right? So to keep things more organized, I mean, I imagine you could do domestic as well, but it sounds like it solves an even bigger problem with international payments. Is that about right?

Marwan: There are different types of issues. So we solve for both domestic and international. We have quite a bit of domestic volume actually, in addition to international and we’re solving two different things in domestic markets, you kind of solving for customers that used to send money by check or by bank wire.

And you’re giving them something simpler to work with that’s more better user experience, better UX, UI, and marries that data and the payments together. When I send the payment, I’m actually also sending the data with that payment. So you know, that this payment that I receive. And when I have the contract with it or the invoice with it, I know that this payment belongs to that invoice and I can track what happened to that payment.

So we do it and internationally, it gets more complex because there’s foreign exchange in the middle and there, where you end up where it gets more complicated is because you’re dealing with foreign exchange so you need to understand who pays for the foreign exchange. Is it the payer or the receiver, at what rate and what countries?

And when I send the money, who is converting it? Does the sender want to convert it, or the receiver wants to convert the foreign exchange currencies? It gets even more complicated because depending on the amounts, there are different regulatory regimes around the world that dictate what can happen to that money movement, which you don’t, you know, when you’re doing it domestically, you don’t have the same amount of time.

JC: Sure well let me ask you a couple of questions about this. So I love how efficient it is. I like the communication real-time, like you said, Hey, you know that the receive date, you can get a notification I imagine so you don’t have to wait for that vendor to say, yeah, we got it. Or they just fall off the earth, but let’s talk about protections for it. Like PayPal, for example, if I pay somebody through PayPal and they do not give me what I paid for, PayPal has their own insurance basically, to cover that. Does Veeam have that built-in? And if not, then does it tie into something that can protect someone for an international payment that was sick? Cause you know, it’s not a wire right. Directly from bank to bank, but how does it work if somebody said, well, what if I’m doing my first business with a company in China or Germany or Australia or wherever. Do they have any protections in place that are covered either by international stuff or banks or by Veem? How does that work?

Marwan: So the most important thing is that we are regulated. We have money transfer licenses in every state, in the US and we have other licenses we work within other markets. So as part of that, we have to make sure that there is oversight on who to send money to and how we send the money.

So we can, if you, for example, login and you want to send money through someone who ends up being a fraudster, the system is scanning for that, and we’ll shut it down to protect for cases where the new recipient you’re sending money to is not a legitimate party. And that’s part of the security of the system.

The other thing that’s important about the security here is that the payer and the payee do not know each other’s bank account, which in a typical bank wire, the payee has to exchange their bank account information with the payer. The payer then just sends that money to the payee.

In the system, each body is protecting their own information by putting that on the network. And the network does the money movement for them. When you actually send them money, we do not send the money unless all the basic criteria checks out. Is this the right sender, and the right receiver? Do we have all the KYC requirements? Do we know why this payment is being sent? All that needs to check before money is sent.

When you actually send the money, if it turns out that this is the wrong party or the party that you sent money to did not ship you, these are processes that sort themselves out between the payer and the payee. Our job here, we are the payment processor facilitating the movement of funds in an experience that’s simpler compared to what they have today, which is bank wire.

Same process, by the way on bank wire. If you actually ship, if you send $10,000 to someone in Germany and that party in Germany did not ship you the goods, you have to sort it out with that entity in Germany, the bank can help with refunds, can help with figuring out how to recall payments.

But that process happens between the two parties that are negotiating with each other in response to a contract that they signed between each other.

JC: Sure. Okay. And I do like that there are some protections in there because I know a lot of small business owners who have been, you know, on the bad end of the stick there, you know, sending money overseas, and that company was, you know, It seemed legit and then they never hear back from them, you know, things like that. So I guess that is a good transition to your next question is, do you guys specialize more in enterprise, like big fortune 1000 companies, or are you really focusing on the small business owners? What’s your preference?

Marwan: We focus on small and mid-market. Businesses, primarily, they tend to be a lot of e-commerce startups. E-tail import, export online business services, and they use us to pay a variety of different types of receivers from suppliers to labor, to intercompany transfers. And again, some of them use us to actually collect funds from their buyers, but generally, the bulk of them, the bulk of the initiators, the ones that send the money or request the money are SMBs.

Sometimes they send money to larger companies and that’s part of the way the system works. But the focus on the initial accounts are basically SMB focused.

JC: Got it. Okay. And then let me ask you one more thing here. Um, you know, we’re obviously coming out of the tail end of COVID right now, you know, by the time this airs, hopefully we’ll be even closer than that, but my question is, how did Veem do during COVID? I mean, you know, what did you guys take a hit, or did you find that companies were using you more than they did before? You know, just what happened with you guys when it came to all the different effects of COVID?

Marwan: So COVID actually did very well, like the wonderful actually for companies that are virtual, it had a hard hit for companies that are dependent on physical exchange of goods and services. So like things like physical retail and travel and these sectors got badly hit. Our portfolio of accounts had more virtual businesses. And so we actually benefited from the shift of traffic that happened to these businesses that are virtual, that did very well during COVID their business.

It’s fueled by two primary use cases. E-commerce became very prominent during COVID because you know, people shop online. And then the second thing is remote labor. Cause you know, without offices, people started looking, businesses are looking for labor they can find, and that labor doesn’t have to be in the geography you’re in.

And that created payments in general to labor, to the labor use case to actually increase in size significantly.

JC: Very cool. Okay well then let me ask you this too. I mean, that’s good for you guys. That’s fantastic. Obviously being a platform provider, you know, and I mean, I know that there’s an empathy there where it’s hard to know that so many businesses suffered, you know, sometimes I feel like some people have almost like survivor’s guilt a little bit business-wise like when their business does randomly really well during a time where so many are going under, but I think it’s important for people to remember that, you know, you might be doing well, but it’s because you’re providing something for companies to help them stay alive, right? Like, you know, that’s a big deal. So I’m glad you guys did well because you’re obviously helping other businesses, you know, stay above, uh, above water on that too.

Now I’m a marketing guy. I’ve owned a marketing agency for like 11 years now, uh, been doing it for about 20. And so I always ask, you know, what kind of marketing is Veem doing to get itself out there. I mean, you guys are already a kind of a larger company. I think in the previous interview you had told me, you guys are not like one to 200 employees. I mean, you guys are doing pretty well. It sounds like, but what do you guys are doing to tell small business owners about yourself? I mean, is it paid ads? I mean, what kind of tips or tricks can you give to the audience? Because a lot of people listening also have their own platforms and sometimes they’re not at your level yet right, but they want to be there. So. Is there anything that you did marketing-wise that really got you guys out there hard and fast, that you’d recommend to anyone?

Marwan: A good chunk of the growth has been coming from existing customers that actually really like the system and bring other customers to the platform. And that’s one thing I would encourage, you know, listeners and generally anybody that’s building a business. One of the things that’s really hard to do is constantly acquire customers all the time. And so when you have a model where customers are delighted and they have a like experience, they really like, they actually help you out and bring other customers to the platform.

So that’s that’s number one. Then the other thing we’ve done is partnerships. We plugged into Quickbooks, Zero, NetSuite, Magento, you know, things we’ve done on the integration side too, to make the experience within the context of what you use today. And that’s something that helps in that kind of acquisition because, you know, and QuickBooks, why assign up to Veem and do it independently when you can do the transaction from QuickBooks and same thing with NetSuite environments you’re in.

So that is also important. And then the other thing is just being present, especially in digital forms on the web, you know, SEO, SCM, molded, general acquisition, tactics to acquire customers are things that we are quite plugged into to get this, the initial sales coming through digital forms and web-based forms.

So that’s the general layout. Some of it is from customers on the swamp partner. Some of is from web-based activities that we’re engaged in.

JC: Very cool. Being The Future of BizTech podcasts, we like to talk about things that are kind of coming down the pipeline. So the first question I have is actually a general industry question, you know, have you thought of, and where do you think the, just maybe the business payments industry in general will be in five years? I mean, do you see any kind of radical changes that are going to be coming? Do you see any, you know, technology that’ll help with things? I mean, in five years from now, where do you think just the industry as a whole is going to be going when it comes to? Is there anything that you foresee?

Marwan: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of interesting moving pieces here that are, I think are going to be quite a bit stronger in the next few years. I think there’s going to be more demand for real-time payments – domestic and international, there’s going to be more demand for wallets. Wallets offer flexibility to the user to figure out how to deal with their funds. And that’s why you’ll see the emergence of like neobanks and ways to, if you have money in the wallet, how do you use that money on a network or off-network?

You’re going to see the increase of cards in B2B environments. Historically cards have been more of a consumer. An e-commerce type consumer and commerce type environment. You’re going to see more cards in B2B world. You’re going to see less checks. And I think there’s going to be a lot more emphasis on tailoring your payment needs to the environment that you’re in.

Like, you know, think of payments as a service that’s plugged into somebody else’s service. The same way when we were talking about Net Suite, for example, if I’m inside Net Suite, and I want to do a payment, you know, payment, Veem as a service available to you through NetSuite. So it’s plugged into the environment that you’re in.

I call it like that integration model is something that I think you’re going to see a lot more of. So these are all like growth initiatives I think are going to become bigger things in the future. I would say one more thing that may sound quite futuristic at the moment and I think it’s going to be more for reality down the road, crypto Bitcoin.

JC: I was going to ask about that. If you didn’t say anything, I was going to ask them, but what about the integration and conversion of B2B crypto?

Marwan: Yeah, I think you’re going to see more of that as well. I mean, I think Bitcoin is here to stay. It’s going to be a player. It is not going to be the end all be all, but it is going to be a rail among a number of fails and it’s going to be a payment type that will exist in the future.

JC: And that brings my next question then is so that’s the general industry. What about Veem again? The audience that I have, you know, they listened for a reason that they want to hear about some things coming out. You know, this will probably air a couple of months after we talk, right? So what can you tell me right now as to what you guys are working on? You know, what’s going to give you that edge. What are some new features or processes or something that’s coming out with Veem that people can look forward to, or by the time they listen to this, will already be available.

Marwan: We are big fans of giving options for the payer to pay with whatever payment type they like and same thing on the receiving end. So for example, we’ve had the ability to pay from your bank account through a check on all your bank ACH. We’re adding cards, so you can pay with card and on the receiving end, you can receive on the card, receive through your bank account, or receive by check.

JC: I could receive on a credit card or debit card?

Marwan: Debit card

JC: Okay. That’s interesting. That’s really cool on the receiving side

Marwan: Customers like that because that’s where the payment. And so these are cards is that payment type that we’re integrating on both the payer side and the receiver side. The other thing is that we’re doing, that’s all coming up, every account on the system is going to have a wallet. This wallet gives you the ability to keep funds on the system that you can use to pay other parties on the system, or to take it off network and use it to pay, you know, other suppliers that you have, for example, you know, I received $20,000 and you know, I want to actually pay my Google Adwords, I can take that money converted to a card and then, you know, use the card to pay my Google Adwords. So there’s a lot of integration of cards into the system that we’re putting in place.

JC: What about a Veeam card? Like I’ve seen like a Venmo card, right? Where like, They’ve now they’re now sending an actual debit/credit card kind of thing to users for peer-to-peer. What about a Veem card? Are you talking about having a business that could actually have a Veem card? So when money gets loaded onto it, they can use that. Is that what you’re referencing or do you mean, is that coming?

Marwan: That is coming and that’s when I talk about cards, I’m talking about like all angles of cards, you know, you pay with a card, you receive money on the card, but also you could have stored value that you can convert to a physical card or a virtual card that you could use somewhere else, all that are all around the same methodology that cards is an interesting angle as well, that some customers really prefer. And then we can tailor it to that. Giving the optionality and the choice to the user.

JC: That’s fantastic. My last question about Veem itself here is how does Veem make money as an, if I’m a small business owner and I want to go and use Veem, am I charged a flat fee per month? Is it a transactional system where it takes us a teeny tiny percentage of everything going, you know, in and out of it? You know, what am I going to expect as a small business owner as the fees, if I want to use Veem?

Marwan: Yeah, we believe that in this day and age, and especially in, during COVID the idea of charging a monthly service fee or a setup fee is not something we do. We think of the pay-as-you-go model. There are no transaction fees for domestic transactions, so you can do ACH and checks for free. We make money on FX and we make money on cards.

These are the two primary revenue streams. You also have the ability to get financing, working capital on these payments. So for example, if you have an invoice, you can have the invoice funded on the spot as a payee, or if you have an invoice that you’d like to pay, you can pay it in installments. These are all like added services that we make money from.

JC: I didn’t know you had that. I didn’t know you had financing options for your users. I mean, as a marketing agency, I know a lot of other agency owners, for example, and depending on the services that they offer, if they do, let’s say they do a website, right. It’s a big project amount. It’s not always as affordable for some people, but so if they had a system where they could say, well, sure, the website’s $20,000, but you can finance it automatically. Is that what you’re saying? Like, if, if somebody was to have a big project-based thing, they could use your system so that their customer could pay it off over time.

And then, but there are, they’re paid upfront or do they get it and installments also, how does that work?

Marwan: You as the invoicer have the ability to say, okay, can I get this invoice paid now? Right. And that’s different. That’s a service to you as the invoicer. That’s one this program is, is basically called get paid now. You get paid on the spot. There’s also a separate program that we’re offering for the payers. So now when you send the invoice to pay or if they cannot pay on the spot, the entire amount in full. They can also request to have that paid in installments. We then take that data on either end of the transaction and find the party that is going to underwrite it.

We are not the lender. We are essentially qualifying the accounts and we work with partners that underwrite the transaction.

JC: But that’s a good thing too cause there are protections in that as well.

Marwan: Yeah and it’s all in the payment and the context of the payment flow. So, you know, you have the invoice, it’s ready to go. You’re going to get the same invoice financed. You can get it done. It’s not a general-purpose loan. You know, you go to the bank and you get a general-purpose loan. That’s not how this works. This works for the trade finance for the invoice that you have that you’re working with.

JC: Got it. Well, that’s fantastic. Listen, Marwan. I’m so happy that you came on too, I’ve heard of Veem before. It was awesome when I heard that you’re coming across, I played here to be on the show. Is there anything that you want to tell the audience last minute? And then also, how can they reach out to you or contact you or the company, maybe tell people how to get ahold of you guys.

Marwan: Yeah. So Veen.com v-e-e-m.com. You can sign up online. It takes like two minutes. Uh, it’s all automated. Once you’re verified, you can start sending payments or getting paid. I am also on LinkedIn, so I have a lot of LinkedIn connections and I frequently monitor that account as well as Twitter so you can reach me out. @forzley is my handle. And so I respond to LinkedIn emails as well.

JC: Awesome. well, Marwan again, thank you so much for coming on the show. Great to have you on. And I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Marwan: Thank you for having me.

JC: Thanks, bye

LATEST Episodes

Subscribe now for Podcast Updates