Member Spotlight: Assembly Payments and Patona

After starting several successful fintechs, Simon Lee, Managing Partner of Patona, and Co Founder and Board Member of Assembly Payments, has some sound wisdom when it comes to scaling a business and making meaningful connections and partnerships with financial services heavyweights. 

Assembly started its life originally as PromisePay which Simon and his team started to address the issue of payments for contractors and freelancers. This idea was born from their experiences running consultancies and either not receiving payments or receiving payments late. The business morphed into a payments business for marketplaces and then into broader payments such as fintech as a service, property tech, the last mile for cross-border payment providers and cryptocurrencies.  “Along this journey, we partnered with two major banks; Westpac, who wanted a white label solution to compete with market disruptors, and Standard Chartered, who backed our global direct to market business model,” says Simon. “Doing both was not possible so the decision was made to split Assembly to have a focused white-label to acquirers model which is now called MX51.” 

A major part of starting businesses is the capital requirements needed to build and scale, and a fintech is a capital intensive business to launch. “When starting Assembly, I found that as an Aussie startup it was a challenge to get enough capital to be able to compete with the incumbents and global extremely well-funded players. It certainly wasn’t the easiest journey and I learnt a lot from working with some great people and the battle scars along the way.” However, for Patona, Simon highlights a different challenge. “With Patona, it’s resisting the urge to grow too fast. We have a great culture, great people and great customers. Our asset is our people so growing with great people is key to our success even if it means having to say no to revenue opportunities. That said we have been hiring around 10 people a month over the last four months.”

A significant portion of Simon’s time in Assembly was spent seeking investment to be able to survive to get to the next stage. Hiring great talent that could move at speed was the next greatest challenge, and the price tag of experienced fintech talent in Australia put more pressure on capital requirements. “I invested and joined Patona as Managing Partner to help businesses build great teams of experienced talent that can get more done for less. For me this ultimately solves the problem of capital requirements and dilution for the founders and investors of businesses.”

Simon has a few key tips when fintechs are trying to secure a bank as an investor or customer. “If you are talking to a bank and only talking to one person you aren’t going to get anywhere – you need to talk to multiple people and you need the support of senior leadership.” Simon also stresses that you should always send that one message or email that you are unsure about. “When I was starting up Assembly, I had sent at least 1000 messages to the top 4 banks with little response. I almost didn’t send a message to Brian Hartzer the CEO of Westpac as I didn’t think he would respond. He did and because I took that extra 5 minutes to send a message, a strategic investment and partnership happened.” 

Another vital tip is that founders should always be asking investors ‘What’s wrong with our business?’ and ‘Why won’t you invest?’. “Asking these questions enables you to solve these problems and come back with solutions. Eventually they’ll run out of reasons to not invest in you.”

A fintech needs to also consider the best kind of partnership for their product, be it a partnership with direct investment and full control of your own brand, or a whitelabelling of another company’s products. “If your main customer is the bank’s customer then you can’t sell them other services, and you lose future cash flow. But, if a fintech wins a direct customer they think, what else can i sell that customer?”

Simon has some exciting plans for the future. He is planning on using Patona to launch  a new startup with a couple of digital startup legends.  “We are focusing on the way people research and purchase online making the purchases closer to places where people learn and research what to buy. That’s all I can say about that for now but I look forward to launching this early next year.”



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