MARKETS & INVESTING | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Meet Valoot and its mission to democratise FX payments

This start up helps consumers to lock in competitive FX rates for their purchases abroad.

When Ovi Olea traveled abroad, he went on a shopping spree and swiped his credit card, but he gave up figuring out the exact foreign exchange (FX) rates that would be applied to his purchase – an experience that deeply frustrated him since it made him feel helpless.

“There is no visibility and control,” says Olea. “The foreign exchange (FX) rates used for the conversion seem to be at best random, and sometimes can be really unfavourable.”
With this pain point in mind, Olea founded the Hong Kong-based financial technology startup Valoot Technologies and developed a solution that lets people lock in competitive FX rates for their purchases abroad.

Consumers can choose their own payment currency before using their credit cards and also know the FX rate in advance straight from the market, enabling them to sidestep hidden mark-ups and commissions to eventually pay at less than around 3 percentage points. Valoot earns by charging a “very small” fee for the service.

A few months after establishing the company, he brought on board Valoot COO Bei Zhou and Valoot CTO Nik Tang, two other key co-founders.

“People tell us that they think the team were all crazy to give up stellar careers and well paid jobs in order to be 100% focused on Valoot,” says Olea.

But deep cross-functional expertise between the founders has helped propel Valoot forward, securing pre-series A funding earlier this year with First Eastern Investment Group. Olea says the deal not only provides investment to Valoot, but also access and network that the startup would need to grow exponentially.

The amount of investment was undisclosed, but it was sufficient enough move the company to pursue its core activities, including establishing more industry partnerships and bulking up its sales force.

 “We are funded to an ideal level,” says Olea. “Not comfortable enough to move into a fancy new office, but at the right level to push on through with execution of our business priorities.”

Democratising FX

Valoot has been attracting more clients through their unique solution, extensive industry contacts, and quick execution. Olea recalls one client that wanted to implement WeChat Pay for their e-commerce site, turning to the company after discovering that none of the established payment gateways offered the service.

“We rolled up our sleeves, used our network and determination, and we had the solution live for the client in less than two months,” says Olea.

Valoot is aiming to become “the biggest and the best” payment gateway for WeChat Pay globally. In the United Kingdom, for example, the partnership allows Chinese students to pay tuition fees at competitive FX rates.

Valoot is also exploring multiple partnerships to further widen its network and reach. It recently announced a partnership with Tencent to receive the company's system when the user pays.

“We want to bring about much-needed change in this area by transferring our payments and FX skills and expertise for the benefit of everyone shopping abroad – in effect democratising FX,” says Olea.

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