Kris Marszalek is the CEO of Foris, Southeast Asia’s universal money app.
Foris is one of the 8 companies admitted to the SuperCharger FinTech Accelerator 2.0. Don’t miss SuperCharger’s Demo Dayon 11 April, 2017 at HKEX, where the companies in our cohort will showcase their cutting-edge demos.
We sat down with Kris to learn more about Foris and why it is well placed to win in Southeast Asia.
As Foris is not Kris’ first venture, we also asked him to share his tips and advice to other FinTech founders.
Q: Can you let us know about Foris?
Foris gives you perfect interbank exchange rates anytime you send or spend money abroad. We make it really simple for our customers: download the app, get a complimentary physical Visa card and you are good to go and start saving money on every transaction. Our app also allows people to send money to friends for free and in real time — and the best part is that they can immediately access it with their Foris Visa card. If you happen to be sending money abroad, we got you covered as well - just do it from the app.
It’s the perfect app for anyone who travels (both work and leisure) or for expats who need to frequently move money between currencies. You can save a ton.
Q: How did Foris start and what is its mission?
Our mission is to use the startup way to build a new type of financial institution: one that is friendly, innovative and relentlessly focused on customer needs. One that we would like to use ourselves. One that we would like to actively recommend to friends and family.
You can say that we’re just building a product for ourselves starting with solving one of problems we faced when traveling around the region: you always get bad exchange rates when you use your bank or credit card and even worse rates if you use a money changer.
Q: What type of competition do you face in your space?
We have banks and bank subsidiaries, money changers and remittance companies.
In spite of all the fintech noise, there is very little in terms of competition from other startups. It’s all incumbents that have large market share.
Q: Southeast Asia is a pretty heterogeneous region — what is your strategy in scaling in the area?
There is no easy way to scale across Southeast Asia.
- scale only when you have a strong product with a confirmed market fit
- stay opex-light
- hire local teams
- partner locally to address compliance and customer acquisition
Q: Why would a customer choose Foris over traditional incumbents?
There is a powerful commercial incentive to download Foris app and get a Foris Visa card — we give everyone perfect interbank exchange rates.
Our entire product is built with customer in mind, so everything just makes sense: account opening, sending money, exchanging money, accessing your money with a complimentary Visa card — we keep it really simple.
Q: What is the role of traditional banks in the future?
You are going to see a massive shift over the next 5–10 years with large technology companies attacking this space and taking marketshare from traditional banks. Students who are now in high school are more likely to bank with Tencent, Alibaba or Facebook than HSBC.
A good comparison to what tech will do to banks is the case of telcos. SMS was a massive revenue source for telcos. Whatsapp came, delivered a new, better experience, killing SMS revenues in the process and creating a lot of value for it’s shareholders. Banks will see a similar thing happening to some of their products. Global remittance is a good example, FX fees is another and there will be more to come. I don’t think that the role of the banks will be reduced to a data pipe as it was with telcos, but fintech startups are definitely enabling and sometimes just forcing banks to evolve faster.
What we will end up having as consumers is more human, more intelligent financial services.
Do you have any tips for other FinTech startup founders?
1) build something people really need, without it there will not be any sustainable traction
2) build a great founding team
3) make sure you are really passionate about what you’re building
It’s going to be hard and it’s going to take time, so it’s important to have a great team and real passion to carry you through tough times. Traction will help to bring everyone together, so make sure you are building something meaningful.
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