A group of entrepreneurs looking to disrupt Australia’s banking sector have secured one of the largest deals for this season of Shark Tank thanks to a joint investment deal with two unlikely sharks.
On last night’s episode, the season’s finale, the founders of soon-to-be-challenger bank QPay dove into the tank, seeking a $380,000 investment for just 8.4% equity in their business.
Andrew Clapham, Moe Satti, and Zakaria Bouguettaya are the three entrepreneurs behind QPay, which started out in 2015 as an online marketplace for students at Australian National University (ANU). Seeing a future opportunity with the advancement of Australia’s open banking regime, the three pivoted QPay into a digital bank and recently rolled out a prepaid debit card for the company’s 150,000 student customers in Australia and Britain.
The startup also did $10 million in transactions in the last financial year, a number that visibly shocked the sharks, though QPay made just $220,000 in revenue from it.
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The Shark Tank pitch, which was filmed earlier this year, came shortly after QPay had raised $570,000 in capital from Sydney Angels, and the founders were hoping to capture some additional capital from the sharks to tack on to the seed round.
Facing the five fearsome investors, the three were confident and well-rehearsed, with co-founder Moe Satti telling SmartCompany their experience going through two previous funding rounds meant pitching for investment wasn’t a daunting experience. But still, they weren’t prepared for the tank’s “eerie silence”.
“I wouldn’t say it was daunting, but there was an eerie silence in the tank. You hear all the sounds on TV, but in reality, you just walk in and they tell you to not speak for 20 seconds until they give you the go-ahead to pitch,” Satti says.
After a comparatively light-on grilling by the sharks, including questions around QPay’s application for a banking license, the sharks considered their options before Janine Allis, Andrew Banks, and Glen Richards backed out.
Steve Baxter and Naomi Simson were left, and both quickly offered exactly what the QPay founders were asking for — a $380,000 investment for 8.4% equity. Satti says they had semi-expected to get an offer from Baxter, and having Simson on board as well would be ideal, with the founder noting the male-led startup was lacking a “female presence”.
But a joint deal between Baxter and Simson had never happened before in Shark Tank history, with Queensland-based Baxter previously saying he’d never go in on a deal with Simson. In this case, however, he said he “wasn’t that greedy with this deal”.
“If you guys are really doing what you say you’re going to do, and it’s a believable story of which I’m buying. I absolutely see this as a market that is our future, and I want to be associated with that,” Simson said in the tank.
“And that is the only reason I’m accepting to go halves with Steve.”
After much celebrating, the three QPay founders left the tank with both Simson and Baxter on board, with each investing $190,000 for a 4.2% stake in QPay.
$1 million in funding
The deal with the two sharks has already passed through due diligence and was signed off just a few weeks ago. But it’s not the only funding QPay has secured this year: the cash forms part of a larger $1 million round contributed to by Sydney Angels, the two sharks, American Express and other individual investors.
Satti says having already confirmed the $570,000 round from Sydney Angels earlier in the year helped the team immensely when it came to pitching on Shark Tank and putting the deal through due diligence, as all the groundwork was already in place.
QPay is using the money to grow its development and marketing teams, and continue sending out its prepaid debit cards to students on the QPay platform as the company looks to expand through more Queensland-based universities.
“To be honest, we were pretty confident we’d get a deal. Our last round was oversubscribed, so we knew there were a lot of investors in the community who wanted to include themselves in the funding,” Satti says.
“We think we know students the best in Australia, better than any bank. We have thousands of users that trust us for all their payments, and we think we can provide them a better banking experience.”
Satti says the main issue he sees with the numerous challenger banks in Australia at the moment is their lack of users, something QPay didn’t have to worry about as the marketplace app had so many users already. He says the platform, which is student-only, has become so popular that parents have even started to apply for the debit card wait list.
The startup has also processed over 50,000 transactions on its prepaid cards, with numerous users telling the founders they’ve stopped using their old bank cards entirely.
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