Galen King creates threat to Paypal market in New Zealand – Kiwipay

Galen King is a start-up mastermind. In his first year of Uni, he started Lucid Design. It now has 7 employees. In 2004 he started Kiwipay and it is quickly becoming a competitor to Paypal in New Zealand.

We caught up with Galen and asked him about how he started Kiwipay and what his biggest obstacles were.

“I started Lucid Design in my first (and last) year of University in 2000 in Christchurch. I freelanced for a number of years including a couple years while travelling. The early years were certainly pretty low-key and I spent plenty of time knocking on doors and sending (ahem, unsolicited) emails looking for work. In 2006, I hired my first employee (who is still with us) and we have grown since then to seven now—based mostly in Nelson and working with clients around the world. Running a consulting agency certainly has its challenges and is a lot about people skills and management. I am still learning and adapting to find the right balance for keeping my team content, inspired, and productive while keeping clients happy and helping them to appreciate and understand the creative process and how we can deliver value.

“Kiwipay has not been an easy project and there have been numerous hurdles and challenges along the way. For one, it has always been run as a side-project rather than a fulltime venture. This is in part to the fact we have not taken on any external investment so have stayed extremely lean. Due to the nature of the online payments space and the reliance on banks and banking regulations, I have taken a rather cautious approach to growth—preferring slow, steady growth with lower risk than fast growth that exposes us to greater risks. We are also bound in many ways by the banks and the banking industry with regulations and requirements that are not always easy to work with.

“Kiwipay is designed to be simple and intuitive for both the merchants and their customers. Our goal has been on making it easy for small to medium-sized businesses in New Zealand to process credit card payments online without the usual high costs and complicated application process associated with banks. One of the main issues with PayPal is how complicated and unintuitive it can be for customers. We don’t have any statistics to back this up but, from anecdotal evidence with building e-commerce websites at Lucid Design, it’s clear that customers often get confused when they are taken to PayPal at checkout and I am sure many sales are lost through this convoluted process. Kiwipay is still in its infancy and there are many things we would like to do to make it better, more streamlined and more tightly integrated. We still only offer a fraction of the features of PayPal but it is our intention to stay lean and focused.

“One of our key features is the ability for merchants to send a simple, human-readable payment URL to their clients and customers for quick, easy one-off payments. The beauty of this is that it enables our merchants to integrate Kiwipay with Xero as a custom payment service so their customers can pay Xero invoices with a couple of clicks. This is pretty neat and we are planning even tighter integration with Xero.

“When we initially launched, it was simply through word-of-mouth and we marketed only to existing clients of our creative agency, Lucid Design. We stayed very small for a number of years so effectively operated with zero risk and low overheads. It gave us a chance to learn the space and gain valuable experience. As we have grown and scaled up the platform, we have found organic growth to be surprisingly good as it seems people really are looking for alternative online payment providers. Google AdWords and referrals from existing clients also work very well for us.

“It’s fair to say running Kiwipay simultaneously has not always been easy. New Zealand is a small place — and Nelson is even smaller! Creating a good team is not easy for startups and I think success has a lot to do with working with the right people. This has probably been our toughest challenge, not just in finding developers, designers, and other team members, but finding good support and advisors. We are still on the lookout for anyone who would like to be involved with Kiwipay to take it from good to great.

“In addition to this, over the past couple of years, I have also set up The Bridge Street Collective, a co-working studio and café for creative professionals in Nelson. The Collective is home to around 20 other people in various creative industries. My biggest ongoing challenge is how to effectively juggle different things and how to make them succeed. I am also learning to say no and to not over-commit. It’s taken me years to be ok with that.”


Do you think 2013 is a good year to be an entrepreneur in New Zealand?

Absolutely. There are some fantastic initiatives kicking off (such as the Punakaiki Fund, Lightning Lab and Free Range) and also a greater focus on collaboration and working more together. New Zealand is a small country with an even smaller startup seen. I think it can be intimidating at times for new founders to get involved in the startup community. The growth and development of co-working spaces, incubators, and startup weekends is a fantastic thing for helping aspiring entrepreneurs connect with others and gain motivation and stimulation to help them take off. So, yes, I am excited about the future and what’s in store for New Zealand. It’s a wonderful little country with a lot of bright, creative people.

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