Ken Kruszka is a FinTech and Payments pioneer, who holds the distinction of being the first person to send $1 around the world by mobile transfer. In his career, Ken has launched: the first mobile remittances service in the US, the first global mobile bank account, the first neobank for immigrants in the US, and the first decoupled business payments smart switch. Currently, Ken leads SnapCheck in revolutionizing business-to-business payments: eliminating $50 Billion in costs, removing $20 Billion in fraud. Previously, as co-founder and CEO of m-Via, Ken grew the company into an industry-recognized leader in mobile financial services and brought the company to cash-flow positive before leading m-Via through an acquisition by Boom Financial. Ken is a Founding Member of the Faster Payments Council, as well as a member of the Federal Reserve’s Business Payments Coalition and the FedNow Community. Ken has been named a Top Innovator to Watch by Bank Innovation, a Top FinTech Innovator by Aspioneer, a Top 25 FinTech CEO by Technology Innovators, and a Leading Corporate Digital Transformation Innovator by Databird.
Ken is a FinTech and Payments pioneer, who holds the distinction of being the first person to send $1 around the world by mobile transfer. In his career, Ken has launched: the first mobile remittances service in the US, the first global mobile bank account, the first neobank for immigrants in the US, and the first decoupled business payments smart switch. Currently, Ken leads SnapCheck in revolutionizing business-to-business payments: eliminating $50 Billion in costs, removing $20 Billion in fraud. Previously, as co-founder and CEO of m-Via, Ken grew the company into an industry-recognized leader in mobile financial services and brought the company to cash-flow positive before leading m-Via through an acquisition by Boom Financial. Ken is a Founding Member of the Faster Payments Council, as well as a member of the Federal Reserve’s Business Payments Coalition and the FedNow Community. Ken has been named a Top Innovator to Watch by Bank Innovation, a Top FinTech Innovator by Aspioneer, a Top 25 FinTech CEO by Technology Innovators, and a Leading Corporate Digital Transformation Innovator by Databird.
Pemo Welcome Ken. So good to speak to you again after all this time. I was wondering if you could give us an update on what’s happening with SnapCheck.
Ken Kruszka Yeah I’m happy to… I Guess yeah, this would be a very opportune time to announce to you that SnapCheck has just entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired. So yeah, hold tight on that… the announcement is going to be coming out this week, but I can tease that a little bit here.
Pemo And oh it’s pretty exciting for you? Yeah, okay. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that process? It’s so great that you know it’s in demand and someone else wants to buy it. I know it’s been your baby for quite a long time right?
Ken Kruszka Yeah I have been on this journey for a little over 6 years and it’s very exciting to see what that next evolution of SnapCheck will be and how it’s going to be taken to the next level by the acquirer. So, it’s always fun to be able to take that step back then and see your baby take their first steps and then move on.
Pemo Yeah and so tell me, and just to update the listeners, I know we’ve talked many times in the past over the years but can you tell me what problem it is that SnapCheck solves.
Ken Kruszka Yeah, Snapcheck is on a mission to eliminate paper checks. So we look at all the use cases where checks are still prevalent. This is in small business B2B payments and mass disbursements. Those could be rebates, refunds, insurance payments and we’re looking to modernize those payments… bring those use cases into the twenty first century through a digital payment mechanism that helps to minimize the friction of change and drive those use cases over the digital divide.
Pemo And it’s really quite uncanny how the US has held onto checks for so long right? Like why? Why do you think so because even in the UK and Australia, New Zealand all those countries no one uses checks anymore?
Ken Kruszka It is pretty amazing.
Pemo What do you think that’s about in the US? Just as an aside.
Ken Kruszka Yeah I think for a large part you can attribute most of it to inertia especially in a small business world where the company is just trying to make donuts and sell donuts. They’re not trying to modernize how they’re paying their bills and how they’re paying their vendors and suppliers. So it’s simply something it just works right now. I don’t need to change it. It’s something that is not important for me and then in mass disbursement, a big hiccup in trying to move those over into digital is just the data. That companies are collecting on those payees. Right now they have names, they have physical addresses and so it’s just easy to send out a check. In order to move over into digital you have to go back to that person saying hey can I have your account number hey can I have something else in order to give you your money in a different way. So those are probably the 2 big ones.
Pemo And so Ken, how was it for you when we went into lockdown in march last year. Did that help the business because everything seemed to go digital and contactless. So I would imagine that your business would have been more in demand.
Ken Kruszka I think like everyone, COVID really turned the tables completely upside down. So, we had some projects that were in the works for a long time that completely got shelved and we had a huge demand show up of people approaching us for applications for SnapCheck digital checking. So I would say it was good and bad. It was definitely a roller coaster as we saw some long-term projects go to the side, we were really pulling our hair out saying I don’t know what’s going on. But, yes, ultimately that drive to digital the drive away from physical really meshed with our mission statement and our vision for the future.
Pemo Ah… interesting so you had to pivot?
Ken Kruszka We didn’t really pivot. We just had I guess you know inbound demand from new clients that previously were waiting and seeing right?
Ken Kruszka They were a little bit reluctant to move over into digital and then once everything turned remote they said the time is now we need to move into a remote digital world and we were sitting there waiting.
Pemo And so I gather that that would have been the start of, now you’re saying that you’re going to be acquired. Do you think that all this intensity around digital, going digital has helped in selling the business?
Ken Kruszka Definitely I think that there has been a renewed emphasis all the way around the business world in payments as well as just in the users of payments to figure out new ways…. When you can’t get into your office, when you can’t get to your physical files or your physical checkbook…. how do you now conduct your business when everyone is stuck at home? So this move towards collaboration, the move to online everything, and move to conducting things digitally, now really came to the forefront because people were locked out of those physical spaces that they were used to.
Pemo And so inertia left, correct?
Ken Kruszka You know that one of the great maxims of life is that we only change when there is a crisis and you know nothing could have been more truthful here over the past 2 years, right? We have all been through a major crisis together. And we have all changed. We have all evolved together.
Pemo Yeah, well and so great that it’s been ultimately a very positive outcome for you and SnapCheck.
Pemo And, so what do you think the future looks like for SnapCheck and then obviously talk about what your future looks like because you are parting ways I gather or will you be staying with the business?
Ken Kruszka I will be parting ways. I’ll let the business grow and evolve. I think that there’s definitely a lot of excitement and opportunity the acquirer has a much larger footprint and reach than we did. And that we were able to achieve ourselves as a small little startup. So I think it’s going to be an exciting avenue not only within our concentration in those use cases and niches but also now geographically I think that there is a huge opportunity to use SnapCheck cross-border, and within a larger segment of customer base not just small business or mass disbursements. I Think there’s a real opportunity up and down the stack for the application of SnapCheck to transform business payments across the world.
Pemo Right. And so what’s in Ken’s future?
Ken Kruszka Oh that’s a very good question.
Pemo Are you taking time out to start with?
Ken Kruszka Yeah, right now I Yeah right now I am taking a deep breath to enjoy the holidays and I will be looking for that next challenge very soon.
Pemo Yea, of course, because you’re the original fintech entrepreneur aren’t you really? I mean…
Ken Kruszka Definitely one of the early players and my own persona here is that I can’t sit still so it will only take a matter of days before I get sick of the walls that I’m staring at and I need to do something new.
Pemo And of course family and friends will be shocked and horrified to see so much of you for a little while.
Ken Kruszka Yes, they will be the strongest proponents of me getting a new job.
Pemo Ah, well, it’s such a great, positive outcome and so nice because, well gee… must have been 2016… we first would have connected. So, that’s part of your six years right?
Ken Kruszka Yes, you’ve had a front row seat for much of the SnapCheck journey, which has been a lot of fun.
Pemo Yeah very cool, very cool. And so talking a little bit on the bigger scale, how do you think fintech is going to go now after this crisis? I mean the crisis hasn’t finished. It looks like we have to just keep living with COVID in its various forms. How do you think this is going to affect fintech and fintech start-ups?
Ken Kruszka Yeah, like I said I think we’ve all been through this shared crisis together and it has brought about new thinking up and down the industry. I think that part of this is that the sleeping giants have awakened now. The large banks, and the large big tech have awakened to the opportunity of fintech in transforming the world and they are starting to move. So I think that the next wave of innovation and change is really going to be how this big mosh pit of everyone really working hard together collaboratively and competitively within fintech to transform what has been a very antiquated system top to bottom for a very long time. So the good news is there’s so much opportunity because things have been antiquated for so long. But now there’s going to be a lot of players and hopefully working together to help solve some of these customer problems that are still outstanding and we can kind of evolve into what I call Fintech 3.0, which is now the move to collaboration to the large banks and large players working together with more innovative smaller fintechs in order to leverage the strength of each and combine them together in a way that can really help users modernize their payments, modernize their back offices, modernize their banking stack, and be ready for the next hundred years.
Pemo It’s pretty exciting. I know all the investors that I’ve been speaking to say that the market’s really hot at the moment. Last year when I was interviewing them when the lockdown started they didn’t know where everything was going to go but now Fintech is really hot and you know it’s great that a lot of fintech start-ups will be getting investment to get their work happening.
Ken Kruszka Yeah there’s a lot of investment into the space. Over the past year we’ve seen a number of really significant IPOs that have happened so I think the time’s definitely now. The future is in fintech and if you read certain analyst reports, what we saw from the nineties and 2000 was the move away from physical companies dominating the markets to electronic digital companies dominating the financial markets and what we’re going to see next is that fintech is that next wave. I think that in the next 10 years you’ll see at least half of the top 10 market cap companies being fintech companies or calling themselves fintech companies.
Pemo Fantastic! Well, it’s pretty exciting for those of us who stuck with fintech even when others weren’t focused on it. So It’s really, really a great thing. So, really wishing you all the best, Ken, for your next steps and obviously we’ll have to circle back once you’ve found that next great thing to develop and build and we’ll check in then.
Ken Kruszka Look forward to it. I’ll definitely… you’ve been good luck for me so far, so I’ll keep you on call here for when I start that next journey.
Pemo Fabulous. Thanks so much Ken and lovely to catch up with you and congratulations again on the business being acquired and yes.
Ken Kruszka Ah, thank you so much and happy holidays to you.
Pemo Yes, same to you.