As the first online Direct Debit payment provider in Malaysia, Curlec was founded with the vision to make it as easy as possible for businesses to collect recurring payments. And 2019 has proven to be a big year for Curlec. Not only did the company see tremendous growth, but it has also surpassed the RM100 Million mark in transaction value, just 18 months after launching.
Behind all these successes, the company is deeply rooted with an amazing set of people that work hard to disrupt the payment industry that we all know today, and take its place as one of the leading players when it comes to payments via Direct Debit in Malaysia.
We sat down with Co-Founder and Director, Steve Kucia who shares his insights on what it is like to work with a young team in a dynamic and fast-growing startup.
This feels like, sort of, a golden year for Direct Debit and Curlec in Malaysia. Tell us more about your milestones and the team behind the success.
I think golden year might be an understatement. If you just take the number of active merchants using Direct Debit when Curlec started and compare that to the number of merchants that are effectively using Direct Debit now, we have added 50% to that number, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised by the end of 2020, we would end up more than doubling the number of active merchants using Direct Debit in the country.
As a small team, we are fortunate that at least 5 of our core team members were involved in the original program with MEPS a little bit over 8 years ago. So there is a tremendous body of knowledge around Direct Debit in our small organisation. We have seen the inception of the paper-based system, the introduction of the electronic eMandate, and all the collection processes. We’ve seen it all. And I don’t think anybody can go as far back and come to where we are today with the whole process as we have done.
You don’t just wake up one morning and suddenly know all there is to know about Direct Debit. The combination of experience and enthusiasm in taking this to the wider market is a wonderful recipe for success.
Definitely more than a golden year for us.
The team is made up of mostly young professionals and millennials – is that shaped by the work you do?
We bring new people in; young programmers and salespeople to our team. Many of our programmers joined as graduates and stayed on. And that has been great because as I look at these people now, I’ve seen them grow intellectually and their knowledge on Direct Debit has expanded tremendously over the last 2 to 3 years.
Some people say that technology is a young person’s field. If you read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, it talks about how some people are lucky based on the year that they were born and what surrounded them at the time enabled them to progress in life. I was born around the same period as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and it’s true that most people in technology today are the younger generation.
But my belief is that you cannot necessarily put an old head on young shoulders and expect a young person to operate in a way in which a person who has got 10, 20 or 30 years of experience and successfully run a business.
So many startups start quite quickly and I would guess about 90% of them fail for lots of reasons. But one of the main reasons is because they don’t manage their money quite well. And you can easily see that not just with the startups here but also around the world.
In our case, we are very lucky. My Co-Founder, Zac Liew and I are miles apart in terms of age. He brings energy and enthusiasm to the partnership that is needed in a young startup company like this. And perhaps my contribution is a bit more level headed in building this business and make a profit for the long term.
The office is designed in a very garage style setting. Could you describe what you were trying to achieve when you created this space?
You can look at some startups that go absolutely crazy with lavish offices, with a pool table or ping pong table. For some that might be cool, but I think it somewhat detracts from what we are all here to do, which is to provide service for our customers.
Of course, we want to be comfortable. Physically, we work closely together because we have a lot of people working in a small space. But within our company, we do flexible working hours, we don’t worry about when people take their holidays. There is no admin or forms to fill in, but we have a guide to how many days someone should take in a year (14-15 days), but as long as the job is done, it’s ok.
So in terms of the physical nature in the office, we prefer to be open and have people easily talk to one another in an open environment, and luckily our building has lots of places to go to, be it coffee shops or the hotel lobby when it is necessary.
We do use a lot of co-working spaces (3-4 within the vicinity), office facilities as and when needed. So we subscribe to them. Why buy an expensive and furnished office when you can just go and have a half hour meeting in a nice place and pay a small fee. So I think the environment, whilst scant, serves its purpose.
What are you looking for when you hire a new person to join the team?
Depending on the role and experience the candidate has, the most important thing is the person’s willingness and ability to absorb and learn more.
For example, if you want to be a professional footballer, you would need to train most of your early life. But in this business, it’s not quite like that. Having a degree of expertise in specific fields is good, what’s more important is that you have the desire to learn more about it and become an expert in that field.
The goal for our team is to become experts. Our main tagline is that we’re always learning. The minute that we stop, we are taking a step or two back.
What’s next for Curlec?
First of all, we want to be the leading Direct Debit player in the Malaysian landscape and create that market here. And then extend our services beyond payments and towards subscription management.
The obvious thing is to take this great idea that we have and see what we can do by expanding in surrounding countries in ASEAN such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. No one is doing Direct Debit in these countries properly if they are doing it at all.
Over RM100 million has passed through our platform in Malaysia in the last 18-20 months. The market knows that we are a payment platform that is trustworthy, and once our brand has built upon that level of trust, then, people in surrounding countries will start to know about us. Maybe not as the guys who processed RM100 million, but billions.
I expect us to grow and I expect the company and the staff to be admired and recognised outside of the company as the people that know how to guide our customers to better manage their cash flow. We will be the experts that people come to, to ask for advice. So I see that happening in the next couple of years and be more golden as I said.
Want to work with us? Our team come from a variety of backgrounds and we always welcome diversity – submit your applications today by visiting www.curlec.com/careers