“With the advent of smartphones, people are continuously connected. They’re looking for ways to do things quicker,” says Dan Wagner, co-founder of local payment app walletdoc. “Walletdoc came about when I received a fine in the post. The post office was striking and it arrived late. It made me ask: why are bills still sent through the postal service? With today’s technology, we should be receiving our bills immediately (and electronically) so we can react on them straight away.”
At face value, walletdoc is about taking the hassle out of paying your bills. It allows you to store your bills, reminds you to pay them and also makes the payment process simple. Wagner is a well-known programmer and developer in the local video game space. And while walletdoc may be his first step into the fintech space, his co-founder, Leonard Shenker, is from the payment industry, having previously worked at Paycorp Holdings.
“Once I entered the fintech space, I noticed that there is actually a lot of room for innovation,” says Wagner. “The startup scene is exciting. With video games, it’s like the movie industry. You’re creating a product, but unless it’s part of a series, you’re moving onto something new next. What’s exciting about apps is getting user feedback and making continual improvements.”
Wagner, together with Shenker, designed the entire walletdoc system and is the main programmer behind the iPhone and Android versions of the app. He is working with an international team of contractors, but they’re also currently hiring local developers.
Walletdoc is part of AlphaCode, a club for next generation fintech entrepreneurs in Africa. The startup is also connected to Microsoft BizSmark South Africa, which opens up walletdoc to Microsoft’s services on Azure. More recently, they’ve partnered with Absa, which is jointly marketing the app to its consumer base as well as anyone with a credit or debit card.
Says Wagner: “It helps legitimise our brand and gives it credibility and scale. Our business had a chicken and egg scenario – you need billers to attract consumers and you need consumers to attract billers. We solved this by having a deal with EasyPay, which gave us access to over 400 of South Africa's largest billers. The deal with Absa gave us access to millions of consumers, with the trust and credibility that the Absa brand brings to the table. We’re a new company in the fintech space, so when you’re dealing with this kind of money, it’s important to have a bank behind you.”
“Because the walletdoc system is hosted in the Azure environment in datacentres across the globe, personal information is stored in an encrypted Microsoft database, with a server that’s maintained by Microsoft,” he says.
Walletdoc is not about one preferred payment method, it’s about paying bills.
“We’re also geared up for tokenisation. We’re keen to add EFT,” says Wagner. “Now that walletdoc has kicked off, we need dedicated developers working on each platform.”
Walletdoc works for two types of customers – B2B and consumer.
Says Wagner: “We’re collecting on behalf of the billers. It’s crucial because cash flow is a problem for a lot of companies. When we started walletdoc, we thought that every bill would have a number. That’s not the case. We have to generate one based on unique identifiers in the bill. Instead of wasting time finding key information, walletdoc gives you this information in the exact same format, every month, no matter which bill it is – from school fees to rates and taxes. We accept over 400 of South Africa’s largest bill issuers, including (almost) every major municipality, Eskom, Telkom, Virgin Mobile, schools, etc.”
Walletdoc is a method of payment, says Wagner, and he needs to grow the app, which is why he’s built it in a way that makes it easy for SMEs to come on board.
“It doesn’t make a difference whether you use QuickBooks or Pastel, you can still use our system. We can read the bill format, regardless, without integrating into the walletdoc ecosystem. This is what differentiates walletdoc. Instead of going to Eskom, for example, and asking their development team to write a programme to specifically talk to our system, we can take the bill format as it is today and read that information for the user, and then populate it in such a way that they will get paid. It makes the life of the consumer easier, but also gets the money to the biller quicker.”
While Visa Checkout is slowly making strides in South Africa, another new innovation – Visa’s Token Service – is fast becoming a global standard for enabling digital experiences.
Walletdoc is geared up for tokenisation, which replaces sensitive payment account information (such as the 16 digits found on credit and debit cards) with a digital account number or token.
Allocating a token or unique code to an online or mobile payment reduces the risk of fraud because the technology in its simplest terms does not allow sensitive data to pass through Visa’s secure network. The token allows payments to be processed without exposing actual account details that could potentially be compromised.