Clip offices occupy two floors in the exclusive Manacar Tower on South Insurgentes in Mexico City. Here, those over 40 are a rare animal, boys with their laptops walk hurriedly in their brightly colored halls bypassing a sea of desks and computers, where endless clicks mark the beat.
Hectic, vibrant, restless, the atmosphere is unmistakably that of a company born in Silicon Valley, but it is not Uber or Google, nor Amazon. These are the offices of perhaps the most successful Mexican startup in recent years.
A phrase sums up well what is happening here. The words of Winston Churchill are read on one of the company’s auditorium beams: “To be perfect is to have continually changed”.
Until the last year, Clip was only known as the company that created the iconic orange mobile point-of-sale terminals that connect to cell phones and tablets.
Without the need for contracts or minimum fees, Clip allows any merchant to accept payments by credit card, debit, vouchers and points easily and quickly.
Its customers, mostly small businesses register their interbank CLABE and receive the money in up to 24 business hours without the need to have spent 20 thousand pesos, which is what a traditional bank terminal costs. Clip’s most basic iteration costs just 300 pesos and can be purchased at convenience stores, internet and supermarkets.
“Our vision has always been the same, to empower businesses to accept all payment methods and help them grow and that will continue to be our idea and philosophy”, says Ricardo Muñoz, Clip Marketing director.
“The main friction that businesses in Mexico have in general is to accept payment methods such as credit cards, debit cards and vouchers faster. If you go to a bank to get a terminal it takes more than 100 days to accept the same cards that Clip accepts at the time of purchase”.
According to the executive, the device has allowed many small businesses that could not compete with large retail businesses now to do so.
However, something is changing within this company. In what is part of a corporate split and a diversification of its portfolio, in the last year the company has launched four new products.
Clip Plus is a new version of the classic terminal but it already connects via Bluetooth to smartphones and has a keyboard to enter the PIN that some cards require.
Likewise, Clip Pro is an autonomous terminal with internet included that no longer requires the support of a telephone.
In parallel, the company launched Recarga Clip, which allows merchants to offer airtime from Telcel, Movistar, AT&T and Unefon without buying a balance in advance. Finally, Clip Catalog is a software that allows businesses to organize products and keep inventory updated at no additional cost, with categorization functionalities, real-time inventory control and barcode reader.
This is how Clip, in just one year, has migrated from being a company that only provides hardware, such as terminals, to a hybrid that combines software to provide technology solutions focused on businesses.
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“We are a technology company and Clip is not only about payment methods but how we give that added value to the business by making things easier. So, what we are doing is just putting together a portfolio and continuing to help businesses to have better work tools for their day to day”.
“The market is the one that asks for these solutions. Clip is an ecosystem in these two dimensions, at the hardware level devices that are adapted in a better way because the needs of each business are different, and software, which are tools, all business oriented”.
SON OF PAYPAL
Clip is the creation of Adolfo Babatz, who had previously worked as an advisor to Grupo Kuo – one of the largest conglomerates in Mexico with investments within the food, chemical and automotive sectors – and an analyst at The Carlyle Group.
For four years he was in charge of PayPal’s operations in Mexico and product and loyalty manager for Latin America, where he led the development of new products associated with money transfer.
This previous experience as a facilitator of payment methods was the creative seed for Clip years later, in 2012, together with Vilash Poovala. Previously, the partners had proposed for PayPal a new payment method similar to what is now Clip, but it never materialized.
According to his authorized biography, Adolfo’s opportunity arose when in the United States he went to the Market Square, a mobile payment solution and saw how the solution they had developed in PayPal took off in that country, so Adolfo resigned to found and dedicate to Clip.
During its first two years the company grew 800 percent and achieved in an initial investment round about eight million dollars.
Over time, Adolfo has become a benchmark in the Mexican entrepreneurial environment and has won awards from Endeavor Mexico as “Entrepreneur of the Year” and by Expansión magazine as one of the 30 promises in the 30s.
In an interview conducted by entrepreneur Roberto Ibarra, Babatz confessed that after a successful start-up during 2014, Clip began to lose focus on his main objective: small and medium-sized businesses, so he had to reorient his efforts.
“I, for sweet tooth, for stuck, for whatever you want to say, I began to see that maybe we could do more things. I defocused the company, defocused it to a card not present and to large businesses. Then we were making chili, sweet and butter.
“I made a lot of mistakes in hiring halfway. There were no clear responsibilities. That led to many changes within the company”, Adolfo shared in that interview.
Ricardo Muñoz, Clip Marketing director, apologizes to Adolfo with El Sol de México for not being present. As his team alludes, Adolfo has chosen to step back a little from the reflectors to give more space to his collaborators.
Ricardo describes Adolfo as “an inspirational leader” in the company, and as the one who has established a clear value business path in Clip, knowing how to delegate responsibilities to work units with clear objectives.
“He is very close and is with all the teams looking for what is outside. Obviously we have to justify what actions we are going to do and why we are going forward and what we are looking for all the time is to reinvent ourselves internally in processes, as a team, in order to bring solutions in a tangible way to the market”.
AGILE AND HORIZONTAL
Ricardo explains that the diversification in Clip’s portfolio responds to clear needs to remain in force in a market that changes suddenly.
The introduction of a device such as Clip Plus with Bluetooth is explained by the emergence of smartphones without a headphone port through which the first Clip terminal was connected. The Clip Pro autonomous terminal makes sense of the emergence of delivery-based businesses that require payment at the delivery site.
In the panorama, the company knows that towards the future the plastic will stop using and it will be passed to technologies such as facial or biometric recognition, so they say they are prepared for these changes. This is how the company has had to adopt a continuous rhythm of changes in the market and establish appropriate solutions.
At the organizational level, Clip works in an agile way reducing what Ricardo calls “bureaucracy” in self-contained multidisciplinary work teams, but carefully supervised.
“The best example is that in one year we launched three software and hardware products. So, it is not so much how easy or how complicated, but how appropriate it is for the needs out there”.
“Obviously this is taking greater speed and talks a lot about the structure we are forming at the organizational level. Speed is dictated by the market and that is where we have to match. It has its complications, but the idea and vision of the company is always to be there, to be at the right time with the implications that it carries internally. But the simplicity of all that has to be for the consumer, not for us. The complexity is absorbed by us ”.
Just last May, the Japanese group Softbank – an important investor in high-flying businesses such as WeWork, Uber, Slack or Nvidia – announced that it had invested 20 million dollars in Clip.
After the transaction, the valuation of the company increased between 350 and 400 million dollars, and the total financing of the company reached to date an approximate of 160 million dollars.
According to Ricardo, the recently acquired capital was destined to broaden the talent display in the company, accelerate the market launch of new products and strengthen brand marketing throughout the national territory.
Currently Clip is only sold in Mexico and according to the executive there are no plans to expand to other markets. Ricardo is noted the disharmony that this implies, as he recognizes there are other markets with the same deficiencies as Mexico and have even asked Clip to reach other latitudes.
“The opportunity here is very big, Mexico is a country where financial inclusion and penetration of such devices is still very low.
“And it is normal, I had been entrenched for a long time with this banking brake to put it that way and we are practically breaking that scheme. So, today the focus is Mexico and today we want to focus on having all businesses accept a Clip card”.
“Globally and in a technological issue, the first thing is expansion and it is a matter of looking for other businesses. We remain firm in that aspect of focusing on Mexican business, in today’s needs in Mexico to facilitate and support a topic of financial inclusion in the country. What we want to tell is that first Mexican fintech story of success and we are focusing on that and that is why Mexico will continue to be the focus of the company”. Ricardo concludes.
Also published on Medium.