As AI-enabled fintech Gobbill readies to go global, co-founder Shendon Ewans shares his tips on making partnerships work

Gobbill co-founders Shendon Ewans and Quentin Marsh. Source: Supplied.

Gobbill co-founders Shendon Ewans and Quentin Marsh. Source: supplied.

Artificial intelligence-enabled bill payment platform Gobbill is partnering up with two other fintechs to realise its international goals, but co-founder Shendon Ewans tells StartupSmart there are more important things than figures to consider in this particular type of business.

Gobbill was founded three years ago as a bill-paying tool for family and friends. But it was in 2017, when Ewans’ father fell victim to an email billing scam and had his bank account emptied that Ewans and his co-founder Quentin Marsh started to develop their AI-enabled fraud scanning system in a bid to protect vulnerable, often older, Australians.

Since then, Ewans says, Gobbill’s user-base has grown “steadily”, but remains fairly small. He adds, however, that once users try it out, they tend to stay.

“Payment volumes have increased faster than our user volumes,” he says.

“It’s a really sticky product.”

Now, the startup is set to head overseas, expanding its reach through two partnerships: one with financial advice fintech myprosperity, and one with card authentication, identity and payment solution iSignthis.

For Gobbell, Ewans says, the number one aim is “getting the product to more people”, and myprosperity can provide the global reach the startup is looking for.

Regtech iSignthis offers Gobbill know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) capabilities, and opens up the Gobbill platform to users in the UK, Europe and the US, in line with local regulations.

“On one hand, the partnership enables us to distribute quickly,” Ewans says. But iSignthis is also an “enabler in the area of payments,” allowing Gobbill to process different types of payments from various international credit cards.

However, Ewans maintains that the partnerships aren’t all about the numbers. They’re also about finding businesses that complement each other.

With that in mind, Ewans has shared his top tips on securing successful partnerships.

Make sure your values are aligned

Ewans advises startups to look for complementary partnerships with business that have similar values and will work well with existing teams.

“That may not be a brand name, or the biggest [business], but the party that’s able to work with you,” he says. 

Not only will that make working together a little easier, Ewans says, it’s a “sustained approach”.

“If you’ve got that alignment it really will survive for longer,” he adds. 

Ewans says Gobbill, myprosperity and iSignthis share their core values. Gobbill’s are centred around empowering consumers, finding them good deals, and protecting their data.

“It’s time to step up in terms of the ability for technology to support families … helping people to be in control of finances,” says Ewans. 

As any company grows, Ewans accepts it can be hard to hold onto those core values, but through partnering with the right people, he says, “we will try”.

Be persistent

“With any partnerships, in order to grow we look at give and take, forgiveness, and the ability to work through any problems we encounter together,” says Ewans. 

“It’s not all sweet smelling roses.”

It’s down to the founders, chief executives and other key people to persist and work through those problems, in order to make mutually-beneficial relationships work, he says. 

But be prepared to be wrong

“I’ve made this mistake so many times,” Ewans says, “going down a path that is incompatible”. 

If two partners are not aligned with the same vision, he advises startups to identify the issues as quickly as possible, work to “ascertain whether they’re the right partnership for you”, and then backtrack sooner rather than later, if needed. 

Gobbill has been in partnerships that ultimately didn’t work out, he says. “We were quick to identify that, and tried not to waste our time and spend too much time in qualifying that,” he says. 

It can be a difficult decision, but on the other hand it’s “sometimes quite clear cut”.

Without naming and names, he says: “There are some big household brand names out there that would seem like a great partner, but actually, they’re not aligned.”

NOW READ: Why BlueChilli’s Alan Jones says Aussie startups need to ‘get real’ about corporate partnerships


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