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Setting Up Online Acquiring as a Startup Firsthand - Round 1: Failed 🚫by@wtmoney
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Setting Up Online Acquiring as a Startup Firsthand - Round 1: Failed 🚫

by What the Money?May 25th, 2023
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A Georgia-based digital start-up is trying to get an online acquiring for its website. The company has no IT, relies on e-com plugins for CMS systems like Wix, Shopify, Woocommerce, and has no office. The only straightforward way is to use the local banks and payment providers. Dig into this first-hand experience.
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I decided to perform an experiment.


Set up online acquiring of my website wt.money, selling content that I and my team create, as a straight-up digital start-up.


I am recording my experience as it goes along. With all the ups and downs of me and my teammates. Upon this point, I was either on the exact opposite side, at the payment provider, or at the large merchant side. Here I am now, a no-name start-up.


My business profile:

  • digital content, i.d. market research papers;
  • English language website;
  • no previous history of e-com transactions;
  • existing history of sales off-website by direct contracts;
  • incorporation in Georgia (country) as an SP;
  • no IT, i.d. heavy reliance on the e-com plugins for CMS systems like Wix, Shopify, Woocommerce, etc.;
  • no office, I am a digital nomad and a remote worker.



‼️ Don’t consider this article as a guide or advice on setting up a local business and connecting it to any particular payment provider — this is a 100% personal experience narrative with all discoveries and failures.


Round 1. The Beginning.

Not to-dos I set for this stage of the experiment:

  • not to reach out to global payment providers, stick with domestic;
  • not to use any of my connections in the fintech and banking industry;
  • not to create any documents or actions just to satisfy the checkboxes.


Being incorporated in Georgia, the only straightforward way is to use the local banks and payment providers. There are only 5 major ones:



I went to all of them. Here is my hands-on experience.

Round 1. The Process.

Payze

The onboarding experience starts with the admin panel. Familiar, easy to navigate, and a bit overwhelming with empty graphs. Right from the start I can get the keys and proceed to testing. This is cool.



After filling in the application there was no response for a while. Like more than a month. We tried LinkedIn, online chatbot, and finally direct contact with the assigned manager. 2 months later we got an answer about rejection from the vendor’s side due to risk policy. Meaning the acquiring bank behind them.


The rejection itself is fine, but the lack of an update and any application status change was quite disappointing. The most elusive provider of all.


The recommendation was to try again in 3 months.

UniPay

The onboarding experience starts with the admin panel, which looks quite nice and simple.




The KYC process is well designed and made as an integrated experience I have seen on multiple global providers. All the data is filled in online, pretty easy and straightforward.



The decision on the application came within hours. Rejected. However, this onboarding experience and communication I think is the best one out of all the 5 providers I went to.



Bank of Georgia (BOG)

  • Personal bank account: open and active.

  • Business bank account for the entity in question: open and active.

  • History of transactions and supporting documents: exist.

  • Online acquiring: refused.


BOG’s online payment checkout product is iPay or its newer version Payment Manager. As far as I understood. It can be applied for from the BOG business account. The integration can be made via API. As for the ecommerce plugins, unfortunately, I was not able to search for them directly from BOG.



The application for iPay is made available directly from the BOG business app.


It became apparent from the choice of the activity that it embeds a huge list of categories that it is not possible to go through easily. They are duplicated, machine-translated, and not-autofit, and there is no search for the keywords.


So I made it easier for me — choosing the closest thing and explaining the activity in the comment.


Quickly enough I received the initial letter from BOG. It said that I need to open a bank account for a legal entity first. Confused, I have replied that I do have it, and this is where I have applied from in the first place. A couple of emails later I got a rejection ‘due to internal policy’.


My takeaway from this experience is the following:

  • There is little interoperability between the ecom and business accounts divisions at BOG. Cross-sales are not steady.
  • Sadly, there is no intention of onboarding start-ups. Evaluating my application they have not looked at the comment section, only at the category I have chosen and the website. Saw a mismatch, and rejected it. No further questions were asked.
  • Ecom division at BOG might be weary of the digital content business.
  • KYC profiling for the business account is usually heavier than for online acquiring, so I think it is only about the planned business activity, not the entity documents.

TBC Bank

  • Personal bank account: not open.
  • Business bank account for the entity in question: open.
  • History of transactions and supporting documents: does not exist.
  • Online acquiring: refused.


TBC has an e-commerce product. Moreover, there are plugins for WooCommerce and CS-Cart. The journey starts with the application with the basic info about the company. And continues to a description that is much suited to e-commerce.



I got the feedback fairly quickly. Interestingly enough, it was in Russian language, even though I have been filing the applicable in English.


The questions were designed to check the substance:


  • is there an office? can you prove it with photo?
  • who are the target clients and how much you want to charge them?
  • who you are and what experience you have to prove this activity?
  • FB and LinkedIn profile.


Even though I provided answers to all these questions, and my experience can definitely be proven, I did not pass. Rejected due to internal policy.


My takeaway from this experience is the following:


  • I got further here than at BOG. Straight to substance check. Apparently passing the KYC stage (obviously, I have an account their), and business viability check. TBC’s ecom business seems to have an intention to work with the start-ups.


  • Most likely, I was failed at ‘no office’ checkbox. No office, no business. That is the harsh reality of the banking world. All the digital start-ups and remote working around the globe are great, awesome. But you’d need a office to pass the substance check, please.

Liberty Bank

  • Personal bank account: not open.

  • Business bank account for the entity in question: open and active.

  • History of transactions and supporting documents: exist.

  • Online acquiring: refused.


Liberty’s ecommerce service cannot be applied from within the business apps, they have a separate website for that. The initial application is easy enough.



Instead of an email, I received a phone call with a rejection from a bank employee. Amazingly, this happened within 5 minutes from the application. With rejection came the most helpful explanation I could get at this experiment stage:


  • ‘there is no Georgian language on your website and it is required for the local acquiring’,

  • if you seek international card acceptance (I do), Georgian banks will not help, they will only provide domestic acquiring. You need the payment providers such as Payze to get full coverage.


Thank you, Liberty. You opened my eyes.

Round 1. The Ending.

I have been refused an online acquiring service from all 5 Georgian banks and providers.


My homework for Round 2 is:

  • multilanguage website, including Georgian,
  • e-commerce functionality live, not demo,
  • a dedicated desk rent at a co-working place.


See you soon at Round 2!


‘What the Money?’ is a fintech consultancy bureau that advises on doing business across the globe and talks about digital innovations, payment landscapes, and e-commerce. WTM releases monthly digests, regular reports, and articles on hot topics in these industries.

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