ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: ENFUCE
Our first Mastercard Lighthouse program winner Enfuce is taking the payments world by storm. Founded in 2016, the Finnish payment service provider is now listed as one of the 50 fastest growing technology companies of 2021 in Finland by Deloitte Finland. The company is making an impact with its Payment, open banking and sustainability services for banks, fintechs, financial operators and merchants. We had the pleasure of catching up with co-founder Denise Johansson, discussing everything from their progress since joining the program to what it has meant to be a female founder and entrepreneur in the industry.
“My fellow co-founders and I have been working within the field of payments since we graduated from university, so we have done payments and built solutions for other providers for many years. Five years ago, when we decided to found Enfuce, we saw a gap in the industry,” shares Johansson. They realized there were two key aspects they wanted to improve. “First, we saw that all new commerce that wanted to digitalize their payments somehow wanted to scale globally and scale big,” she says. However, existing players always had limitations and often offered to help companies start in Sweden, then perhaps Finland, before even being able to provide help with expanding further.
“Then we also saw that the way they had built their own infrastructure provided even more limitations, which also meant higher costs for newcomers when they joined the space,” and continues by explaining, “We wanted to take down these barriers to enter the digital payment field and we were the first in the world to implement payment processing into public cloud.” So they set out to change the model for how payment processors charge their customers. Johansson shares, “We have gone with a model that creates low barriers for new entrants to join and became Enfuce customers, and ultimately pay as they go. We tweaked the model so that it suits new fintechs.”
Today, Enfuce operates in 16 countries and provides services for over 25 customers and close to 10 million end-users with their platform. Having built a service around PSD2, Enfuce is able to offer a PSD2 service that on one side helps Banks, fintechs and card issuers become PSD2 compliant and on the other is able to connect to banks and utilize their hub for account information or payment initiation. Johansson explains, “We also have our own license from the authorities so that we can help TPPs utilize PSD2 services through our license and through our technical solutions.”
During the program, Enfuce succeeded with their aim to further connect with Mastercard, as well as with other participants and banks, and ended up winning the first ever edition of the Mastercard Lighthouse Program in the fall of 2018. When they joined the program, Johansson reflects on the fact they were really able to think outside the box and be creative during the process because they were already making profit. “That’s how we came up with our solution My Carbon Action. The idea started during the program, we pitched it to the partners and Mastercard, and when the program ended, we decided it was still something we strongly believed in and built the idea that today is My Carbon Action,” shares Johansson. The solution is currently an add-on service on their card issuing and payment processing side, as well as on their open banking side. “So no matter the digital transaction, we calculate the carbon footprint on that,” says Johansson and in December 2020 were recognized at the Banking Tech Awards ceremony for their highly commended sustainability solution.
As a female founder, Johansson has faced some challenges, but also possibilities, by being the exception in the industry instead of the accepted male profile; the reality of being a female founder in a male-dominated industry. Johansson shares a moment that really set the scene for her and her other fellow female co-founder and current CEO Monika Liikamaa. “The first interview we did as Enfuce, the first question we were asked was, ’So, you are both sitting here in front of me and you are doing everything wrong’.” Surprised by the question, they asked the interviewer to elaborate and explained, “Well, you are two female founders and, sorry to say, you are past 35, so you are older than most, and you are two moms. How come you founded a company at your age and in your situation?” Then they laughed and argued for the exact opposite; that in fact it was the perfect time. Johansson said, “The world we are living in is so highly regulated. You really need to understand the industry, otherwise at some point you’re going to mess things up.
Johansson continues, sharing that their experience and profile is in fact one of the reasons behind their success,
“We are different. We have different experiences, so us being the wrong profile to found a company has actually been a positive thing. Yes, we are female, we are over 40, we are moms – we are so proud of it and we can still build this company with our left hand. We believe in the services we have built and that they will positively change the payment industry.”
We look forward to seeing Enfuce continue to prove them wrong as they take the payments industry and its stereotypes by storm.