The Dutch are excellent at setting up Fintech companies, but fall short when it comes to scalability, says entrepreneur Peter Kwakernaak. With AcceptEmail, his goal is to replace paper billing with digital billing by email. “The Dutch should be more bold.”
Within one year everyone in the Netherlands will have paid a bill via email: this is Kwakernaak’s chrystal clear goal. Kwakernaak is ultimately responsible for AcceptEmail; another promising Fintech company from the low lands. The company started ten years ago as a small project, but quickly grew into a company since mid 2008.
“A chic and above all simple solution”, explains Kwakernaak. “We considered paper bills to be impractical, just like sending reminders; even in this case companies keep sending paper.”
The solution was something that would have been considered impossible a decade ago: pay via email. The email contains a secured payment banner that sends you to the transaction page where you can pay via Where you can pay via bank transfer, credit/ debit card or PayPal. The banner jumps from blue to green to confirm the transaction.
Kwakernaak came to AcceptEmail because of his experience in setting up companies in financial services, such as Maxware, Clear2Pay and NetEconomy.
“I discovered: all those bills for households: there are so many gaps, financially and marketing-wise. Just think about it: paying a bill can be an excellent opportunity for some extra communication from a company or for making special offers.”
He started small in 2008. “We started at the back-end, with payment reminders. I thought this would be a good way for companies to explore the concept and discover that there is something in it for everyone, simply because it’s friendlier.” Here he refers to bill reminders with an unfriendly tone-of-voice. Kwakernaak: “You can’t be angry with people who have been paying their bills on time for the last twenty years, let alone send them an impractical, often out-dated letter.”
A growing number of companies in the Netherlands are ready for this. Companies such as Nuon, Essent, Wehkamp, BMW and the ANWB [route assistance service] are already sending AcceptEmails. Kwakernaak: “It’s expanding tremendously. We have well over 600 companies on board: from insurance and telecom to energy companies and housing corporations. Many companies such as publishers and insurance companies are still phasing out paper bills. We see enormous potential here.”
The digital gap
Paper billing is decreasing slowly yet the uptake for digital stagnates. Most companies offer either a self-service bill portal or use an aggregator like a bank. At best the uptake is 20-30%, mainly due to cumbersome registration, poor mobile experience and lack of appetite for the next pair of user id / password not to forget. Yet a lot of people do want to go digital if provided with better alternatives. To fill this gap, pay per email and pay per text are excellent additions to the small menu, especially because they are push and they are address spaces you choose yourself.
According to Kwakernaak the true competitors are direct debit and recurring credit cards – payment methods preset and automated in which the bill itself is not a payment request any more.
Kwakernaak is a global thinker. “Dutch Fintech companies are usually well thought through and flexible but we lack scalability too often. This is usually underestimated by the entrepreneurs themselves. Our statement is: if you can make something happen in the Netherlands you can add so much more value abroad. We have smart people and a good infrastructure. Many excellent ideas are created in the Netherlands.”
Finally, do you have tips for entrepreneurs with international plans? Kwakernaak: “My first tip is to think global but act local. Really make sure to be scalable in advance. You have to deal with local people and local rules and at the same time think ahead: would this work if multiplied by a hundred? Be bold: as Dutch entrepreneurs we have to be smarter than the rest, so think about how people want to be approached; this is different in France and different in Russia.
Regarding AcceptEmail, he wants to go all the way. “I want to leave something behind that we can all be proud of: change something as boring as bill payments.” World dominance? Kwakernaak: “I don’t know, we’ll see how far we get.”
An example of how AcceptEmail deals with this in the US
Rtlz.nl – Chris Koenis
March 31th, 2016