Bitcoin 2022 Exclusive: Global Payments Innovation For The New Economy

Zinger Key Points
  • Checkout.com processes payments for merchants including Netflix, Sony Group, and Siemens.
  • The company owns the full stack, giving it a synthesized data view of what’s going on.
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Detroit-based Benzinga, a media and data provider bridging the gap between retail and institutional investors, sent its team to Miami, Florida April 6-9, for Bitcoin 2022.

During that time, Benzinga sought to recognize the innovations across the digital assets sector, and spoke with founders, investors, and beyond.

The following is a conversation with Jess Houlgrave, who leads Checkout.com’s crypto strategy and business. Check it out!

Beniznga: Hi Jess! Care for an introduction?

Jess Houlgrave: Until the week prior, I was the chief of staff at Checkout.com. Now, I started a new role leading our crypto business and strategy.

Before that, I started in investment banking, private equity. I became interested in crypto around 2014. I was living with somebody who introduced me to it all and, being a finance major, I wrote an undergrad paper on the evolution of monetary systems and crypto was that in real-time.

I left my job full-time in 2015 to go as deep as I could on the space and try to be a crypto trader. I didn’t have the risk appetite for it, though, but I was obsessed with the innovation.

In 2016, I wrote a master’s thesis on the applications of blockchain for the art world. Artists are often at the forefront of innovation as they look at things through a very different lens.

Then, I started a company called Codex Protocol where we were using NFTs before anyone really knew what they were to check the provenance of our work and overcome the issue of fakes and forgeries in the traditional art world.

We had a product for digital artists, too, to be able to create NFTs on Ethereum ETH/USD. We were way too early, but it was fun and I met a ton of people.

Later, I started a social impact company called SheEO where we mined cryptocurrency. We ran block producer on EOS.IO EOS/USD for a while. We were running some ETH nodes and used the proceeds to fund girls coding programs in developing countries.

Also founded the Foundation for Art and Blockchain. We used the proceeds to fund artists working on the social implications of crypto and blockchain.

How did you find Checkout.com?

I joined Checkout.com a couple of years ago, post-Series A.

They were looking for a chief of staff, and I was not quite ready to go be an entrepreneur again. I didn’t have the emotional capacity at the time and was really excited by founder and CEO Guillaume Pousaz’s vision to disrupt the payments ecosystem.

He had built an incredible team and product that merchants loved. It was kind of the perfect role for me to join, and I’ve learned a ton about payments along the way and running a business.

Also Read: Bitcoin 2022 Exclusive: Building A Financial System For The 100%

Who does Checkout.com cater to?

The best way to think about us is like a payments partner.

Today, we process for merchants all the way from the likes of Netflix Inc NFLX, Sony Group Corp SONY, and Siemens AG SIEGY, to crypto companies.

The product that we have today is the same for both. It’s the ability to accept payments and pay money out. In the context of crypto, we process for about 12 of the top 15 exchanges. We do that on both sides. So, if you go onto a crypto exchange, as a consumer, and want to buy crypto with your debit card or alternative payment method, our rails are sitting behind that.

Equally, if you want to go back into fiat and payout to your debit card, we can provide those sorts of options too.

What’s your focus, now?

We’re super lucky to work with amazing merchants in the crypto space, both on the exchange side, but also on NFT marketplaces and games.

Anything that needs fiat payments is something we can do today. I think what’s becoming increasingly apparent to us is that the needs of those merchants are slightly different from the needs of some of our more traditional merchants.

The regulatory environment is more complex to navigate, among other things, and I think a lot of what we’re going to be focused on is how we start taking away the complexity.

Biggest concerns or challenges?

It’s less about concerns and more about supporting merchants through change.

We’re a regulated business all around the world and I think regulation has a very important role in the protection of consumers and investors as it provides a clear framework to operate in.

What we see a lot with our crypto merchants is a waste of resources through a lack of focus due to unclear regulation.

I sit on the Bank of England Advisory Board for central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), the UK Fintech Strategy Group, and, also, the UK Government and Treasury Group for international fintech.

We’re really privileged, as Checkout.com, to have a seat at some of those tables and be able to inform policy, as well as guide it into a way we know is going to work.

Focus post-pandemic?

We’re uniquely positioned to be able to support merchants in a way that isn’t about selling them a payments product. It’s about going deep with them on developing products that are going to meet their needs and give the best experience possible to consumers.

We have a lot of commitment to invest, and we’re going to keep building our team and trying to figure out where the long-term potential is. There are so many experiments happening in crypto and we’re really excited about things like play-to-earn, DeFi, and more.

What are your thoughts on crypto consolidation?

At Checkout.com, we’ve made some awesome strategic acquisitions and investments. We’ve brought great people into the team and that’s something we’ll continue to look at.

What’s really important is that we own the full stack and that, ultimately, gives us the ability to serve our merchants best because we have a sort of synthesized data view of what’s going on.

Whenever we think about how we develop from a technology perspective, it’s really important to us that everything fits very well together. There are opportunities for us to do that in crypto.

Checkout.com released its report which found positive trends and appetite for crypto adoption. Tell me about this report and its implications.

We surveyed 30,000 consumers and 3,000 merchants around the world.

About 67% of them, on the consumer side, were under the age of 45. On the merchant side, they were mostly digitally progressive merchants, fintechs, and marketplaces.

We were surprised, particularly on the merchant side. People seem to have a really strong awareness of some of the potential benefits of crypto, including stablecoin settlements as being a means for a faster, cheaper way to settle transactions.

It’s great to start having some of those conversations with merchants and bringing them along that Web3 journey.

Market News and Data brought to you by Benzinga APIs
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Posted In: FintechExclusivesInterviewcheckout.comGuillaume PousazJess Houlgrave
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