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Founders Everywhere: Jacques Marco
Jacques Marco is the founder & CEO of Axis Pay, a digital banking alternative for small businesses and a mobile wallet for their employees.
Welcome to Founders Everywhere, where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at Everywhere Ventures, a global pre-seed fund supported by a community of 500 founders and operators.
Egypt has 8 million small-to-midsize businesses that employ 20 million people. The majority of these businesses are underbanked with little access to digital financial services and over half are still paying employees in cash. For small businesses, Axis helps digitize and streamline their payments to suppliers, contractors, and vendors, as well as manage employee payroll and salary advances. They also give employees access to a mobile wallet to receive their salary, send and receive money, pay their bills, and buy anything online with a virtual Visa card.
Founder and CEO Jacques Marco is originally from Alexandria, but did a lot of his schooling overseas including New York University where he studied economics and politics. During that time Venmo was thriving and he became very interested in the fintech space. He went back to Egypt and worked in banking for nine months before getting bored, which led him to co-found his first company Raseedy in 2018, which had a successful exit in 2021. Jacques immediately started building Axis because the Egyptian market was lacking options for small and medium businesses to access the digital financial services they needed. Read more about how Jacques and company are increasing the Axis-ability to complete and diversified digital payments and products.
What are the key priorities for Axis right now?
We’re four months into launch, so we’re working on getting the first 100 businesses onto the platform. We’re also focused on the Total Processed Volume (TPV). Are we processing more volume? Are we encouraging businesses and consumers to move more money on our platform? Engagement is super, super important at such an early stage.
How does Axis inspire “customer love”?
For the small businesses, we've assigned a dedicated account manager and it’s been very well received by our customers. We’re migrating people from offline solutions like cash and they appreciate having a direct person they can speak to when needed. It keeps the engagement and the feedback loop super tight.
Why will Axis win?
We offer a complete solution for the businesses and the employees. For businesses, it's more of an online banking, bill pay, and payroll processing platform. They can manage payroll and salary advances, as well as pay all of their vendors and suppliers into any bank account, prepaid card or mobile wallet. For the employees, they receive their salary and can then use any ATM, send and receive money, and pay bills. In addition they can have a virtual Visa card and are able to scan QR codes and pay merchants. While we don’t directly market to consumers, I would say we're equally strong with B2B and B2C.
What have been some of the greatest challenges founding Axis?
Getting the regulatory license from the Central Bank of Egypt took over 2 years. This was my second time going through the process so I knew what I was in for, but it’s tedious. It was hard to keep the team motivated to keep building and moving forward without customers during that time.
In Egypt, we also have regulatory constraints where you can't use the cloud, so you need to figure out how to build your own data centers on premise. It took time and resources, but we built our whole tech stack in house: core banking, ledgers, processors, and integration layers.
After launch, we had to navigate the complexities of real-time problem solving, responding to feedback, and implementing necessary enhancements. We also had different teams with different levels of maturity. The product and engineering team had been together for two years, but the sales, marketing and ops were all really new to the company. For me the hardest part was getting everyone on the same page, with the same spirit and energy.
What drives you into start-up battle every day?
For me, it's really a continuation of a journey of how you can drive banking penetration and payments in Egypt - across businesses and individuals. Accessibility is a super, super key part of what I care about, what we do, and what keeps me going.
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