Leon Wilson has been around the world but knew he’d launch his new business in his home city of Manchester.
In recognition of the city’s long association with the bee, the proud Mancunian has called his FinTech PollenPay – and believes it will change the way we purchase goods.
Buy Now, Pay Later is an alternative to traditional credit and the growth of BNPL companies has been one of the biggest FinTech trends of recent times.
PollenPay is due to launch at the end of February and has already secured investment of £800,000 and a £20 million loan facility.
“It has the capability of being a unicorn status business,” says Wilson, who came up with the idea while living in Australia where the BNPL market is much more mature.
“We’ve caught the wave at the perfect time for the UK market,” says the 38-year-old. “It’s going to be an interesting year for PollenPay.”
Wilson’s story is a fascinating one and began in his mid-20s when he accepted a software engineering job in the Middle East and Australia.
He specialises in high-speed railway lines and quickly fell in love with Australia, setting up base in Perth.
It was while he was working in the Australian Outback that he first got into cryptocurrencies.
“I was working long days in the middle of the desert,” he recalls. “There was not much to do when you got home so I started to dabble in the crypto space, mainly Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and a few of the other coins. We started buying them at the time for a bit of fun.
“We did well enough to semi retire and travel the world. I spent nearly a year travelling the world but it was not sustainable or fulfilling.”
It was around this time that a business idea started to form and it involved the BNPL sector, where companies like Klarna and Afterpay had flourished.
“If you look back five years ago, ICOs (initial coin offerings) were all the rage,” recalls Wilson. “We built an MVP and spent two years building that but realised it was not going to be sustainable at the burn rate that we had.
“We knew the BNPL space was booming (in Australia) but I wasn’t hearing too much from my friends in the UK about it. That’s when we started to do a deep dive into the BNPL space.
“PollenPay would allow a customer or user the option at the checkout to make a purchase and split the cost over a number of transactions.”
Explaining how it works, Wilson says: “The model that was adopted in the UK was predominately based on a fortnightly cycle.
“What that means is if I buy a pair of trainers for £100 I pay an initial £25, followed two weeks later by another £25, followed by another £25 in four weeks and I pay the final balance of £25 after six weeks.
“That works really well in Australia because people are paid on a fortnightly basis but in the UK people are predominately paid on a monthly cycle, which effectively means that two payments would fall in one month’s pay.”
In order not to cause any additional hardship, PollenPay has introduced a sliding scale feature so users can customise their repayment schedule.
Customers have six weeks to clear their account and the minimum payment is £5 although they can pay the whole amount at any time. There are no interest rates because PollenPay charge a merchant fee instead.
There are no credit checks, although there’s a spending limit of £250.
Wilson had expected to see oversee the launch of PollenPay – but then COVID-19 struck.
“I landed back in the UK in March 2020 to sign some documentation on some office space but we went into lockdown and I’ve been here ever since,” he says.
“The Manchester team is now 15 strong but growing. We currently doing some more testing. It’s an exciting time.”