From leading a successful app for retail leaflets in Belgium to being a strategic investor and advisor for fintech companies like Swipe, Bulgarian entrepreneur Oggy Popov has never been one to shy away from a challenge. With his latest venture, ViaBank.io, Popov aims to offer a cost-effective, user-friendly, and secure account-to-account payment solution to consumers and businesses in the CEE region.
Popov’s entrepreneurial spirit has already led him to achieve success with his previous project, an app for retail leaflets and offers, that he turned into the leading platform in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Poland before selling it to a German competitor.
We sat down with him to talk about his latest venture in the fintech world and how his entrepreneurial path led him back to Bulgaria.
Oggy Popov’s entrepreneurial journey began in Belgium, where he worked for an internet marketing company and met a client who was creating digital leaflets for retailers. Recognizing the opportunity, Popov developed the first local platform for retail offers where even today, thousands of Belgian consumers plan their weekly shopping.
He oversaw the growth of his project after relocating to the Netherlands. His wife took charge of managing the content of the platform, while the team launched the project in as many as 17 EU countries. Popov and his wife ultimately decided to move to Bulgaria to develop the product further. They chose to focus on Central and Eastern Europe, as the region had fewer Western competitors, allowing them to strengthen their market position.
“When the consolidation of businesses in the region began, our German competitors preferred to acquire us rather than compete with us in this market. As a result of the deal, I became part of the German group, which we sold to one of the largest European brochure companies in 2021. Currently, my entire team works for the German company, and a large part of the product team, including the CTO, product managers, and engineers, are Bulgarians,” he recalls.
After ensuring a smooth transition in his previous company, Oggy Popov no longer held an operational role in the business since mid-2022. Instead, he shifted his focus towards developing ideas for a new venture. One of them is the first Bulgarian platform for buying and selling second-hand mobile phones, Swipe – a company founded by his close friend Mihail Dimitrov in December 2021.
Along with Nikola Pavlov, the former CTO of Grabo.bg, Oggy took on the role of strategic investor and advisor. While Mihail serves as the driving force behind the company, Oggy and Nikola provide guidance and support. In the last year, Swipe generated €0.5M in revenue, and they expect to see that number reach €5M by the end of this year.
“During the period that I was in the digital brochures business, I was looking for a way to connect viewing brochures with real-time payment in the store. My goal was to prove that our platform has a cause-and-effect relationship – i.e., you view the brochures offline with us but then pay online,” Oggy says.
When Open-Banking started gaining popularity thanks to the PSD2 directive, this became possible. With this directive, the European Union opened up the financial data and processes of banks to third parties. Too many fees from European businesses go towards processing payments, and the directive made it possible for payments to be made from bank to bank three times cheaper.
The journey and future growth of ViaBank
“Thus was born the idea for ViaBank. Together with Martin Popov, CEO of the digital agency Interactive Share, we started working on the project around the end of 2022. Our mission is to save our customers a significant portion of the costs they currently pay as commission, as our fee is only 0.5% per transaction, compared to the 2-3% required by card providers. We provide tools to allow customers to get their saved money back as cashback in online and offline stores,” Oggy Popov explains.
Card payments currently dominate the payments industry, but the EU’s PSD2 directive has paved the way for innovation in this space. To address the high fees associated with card payments (typically ranging from 1-2%), regulated third-party providers (TPPs) have emerged as a viable alternative. By leveraging open banking rails, TPPs can facilitate instant settlements between customers and merchants, with fewer intermediaries and less friction, resulting in significant cost savings. The potential benefits of this disruption are clear: merchants can earn more while passing on some of the savings to customers, making it a win-win situation for all parties involved.
ViaBank.io says it offers secure and efficient account-to-account payment solutions to consumers and businesses. Their platform simplifies the payment process and ensures regulatory compliance. ViaBank.io has e-commerce payments, QR code payments, payment links, and in-store/in-person payments.
Their e-commerce payments solution enables immediate bank transfers at checkout, while QR code payments allow for cardless payments through scanning. Through the payment links people can request payments through generated links via SMS or other messaging platforms. The in-store/in-person payments solution makes bank transfers as easy as card payments, streamlining payment processes for businesses.
“Our focus is on the region, as demonstrated in our brochures. We’re eager to quickly establish ourselves in this area, leveraging our knowledge and connections from previous experiences. We’re currently concluding the first round of funding, which includes a regional fund, as well as funds from Bulgaria and England. This initial funding round will allow us to take our first steps in Bulgaria and Romania, before moving on to other countries in Central and Eastern Europe in the next round,” he shares.
The groundwork of their company began only a couple of months ago, but by next month, they will be ready to work with their first clients. “Our ambition is to expand rapidly and establish ourselves as a reliable presence in the region. We believe that our expertise and relationships will enable us to achieve that goal,” Oggy concludes.