Yoyo Chang first entered the financial scene at the age of thirteen when an ex-VP at JP Morgan taught him how markets worked and how to trade stocks. He quickly became highly proficient, growing an investment portfolio for his family and friends to high six-figures.
At eighteen, he got together with a group of school friends to start a project to solve the lengthy lunch queues at their school. He soon saw the potential application of the ideas coming from this project to be mapped across the entire payment industry.
During his first year at the University of York, Yoyo self-invested £120,000 of trading profits to build a pilot product for KodyPay. The result was a resounding success on the University campus, with >2500 students testing the pilot live. He then moved on to raise £1.8M to build out the entire KodyPay product and continues to work with his founding team, ready for a late 2020 launch of the second-generation KodyPay platform.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Yoyo says:
By the very end, the team and I would like to make a difference and have an impact in contributing to all sorts of charitable efforts. Payments is an incredibly lucrative industry, and the more we can do to channel some of that money into helping the less fortunate, the better. We ultimately want to enable all of our users to get used to making a direct, positive impact on others’ lives.
The excitement in knowing that we can make a difference and improve an ordinary person’s overall life experience keeps me motivated. It’s also the excitement of making something happen that isn’t currently happening in our world right now.
Read on to know more about Yoyo Chang and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background and what motivated you to get started with your company?
Yoyo Chang: I’ve always been interested in finance. Since I was thirteen, I began trading stocks because a teacher of mine happened to be an ex-VP at JP Morgan. I simply soaked up everything he said to me. I got pretty good at it and still manage a high six-figure investment. KodyPay came about when I realized how awful the queuing situation was for lunch at my high school. Everyone was paying cash, and by the time we got to the end of the queue, lunch was usually over. So I approached some friends and said, “Hey, can we fix this?”. A few days later, KodyPay became a school project. We worked on it in our spare time, and later when I went to University, it began to ramp up into a fully-fledged company.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Yoyo Chang: Our current product is a hardware-free, mobile point-of-sale solution that has a really solid payments infrastructure sitting behind it. Customers can skip queues with totally digital checkout flows coming straight to their device, and merchants don’t even have to be there to process customers. KodyPay users can also choose from lots of payment methods (e.g., Alipay, soon Kakao Pay, etc.) to use when shopping in-store. Merchants can take advantage of all of the above without any additional integration work. They just need an app.
We knew we wanted customers to skip queues from the beginning, but we weren’t sure what that looked like at first. We went through all sorts of ideas, from using crypto-backed funds to facilitating chip and pin a little as Mobeewave does. But we eventually honed the product and got where we wanted to be.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Yoyo Chang: In total, we’ve raised just over £2M, but of course, the big news is that we’ve just completed a round for £1.8M. This has come from a group of high-profile individuals, including our chairman Hank Uberoi, along with a fantastic IBM partner company called Cognition Foundry.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fundraising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors, and which channels worked best for you?
Yoyo Chang: Our seed round investment process wasn’t quite the standard VC roadshow that most investment rounds begin with. We originally decided that we’d start a round of investment after we began developing our pilot product. That was the point where I thought, “Wow, I’ve put a good chunk of money into this now; let’s really get started.”
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Yoyo Chang: Due diligence is probably the biggest challenge during the fundraising process. This is because we are required to submit many materials that did not exist, as this was the first time I had ever sought out funding openly. You never know what you’re going to be asked by a VC, and we certainly had some fun nights having to turn around materials in less than 24 hours.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Yoyo Chang: So far, we’ve been quite lucky that our solution hasn’t required all that much marketing. We were simply proving that remote payments are a viable option across a university campus or festival for our initial pilot, and any testers initially got some bonus cash for working with us. In a student-rich environment, it was quite easy to find people who wanted to help. With the current social climate, once again, people are already inclined to move to solutions like ours due to our product. This naturally won’t last, so we have a variety of strategies ready going forward. The core message here is that the more the product can sell itself at the very start, the better.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Yoyo Chang: Undertaking a marketing strategy with a super high customer acquisition cost but having very little customer retention is a difficult place to start. Lots of startups like to reach for the stars from the get-go with their marketing schemes, but this isn’t always the right way. The high acquisition is worth it if you can keep your customers, but you have to be absolutely sure of that trade-off.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
Yoyo Chang: When you have self-doubt in what you can achieve as a founder, that can take a big hit on your business. In the end, maintaining maximum confidence in your people and your product is what keeps everything going. The other common mistake is in the product foundation. You absolutely need to bring everything you do back to the end customer and why they should choose you over somebody else. It’s no use thinking that you don’t have any competitors because even if you don’t, you certainly will have soon.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Yoyo Chang: You need to surround yourself with a group of people who will nurture you as you go through the journey of being an entrepreneur. The path is not an easy one, and there will be significant ups and downs. Resilience is the key to success.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
Big Short (book) – this is probably one of the first books I’ve ever read talking about the stock market. I remember I was 15 when I first got hold of this, and I could not put it down. It became a fundamental framework for my thesis for investing in companies’ recovery plans.
The Social Network (Movie) would come in next. I’ve always referenced this film for a laugh with my team. Aside from politics and suing, it becomes more relatable to us every day, representing the startup’s whirlwind.
Lastly, I like films about Steve Jobs. He’s probably one of the most inspirational human beings to me. This is in the sense that as much as he may have communicated his vision in a somewhat frustrated manner, he knew what he wanted. He continued to strive for it, without letting any barriers get in the way.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Yoyo Chang: The excitement in knowing that we can make a difference and improve an ordinary person’s overall life experience keeps me motivated. It’s also the excitement of making something happen that isn’t currently happening in our world right now.
What are the top-three life Lessons that you want your (future) sons and daughters to know?
- It is ok to be naive and not understand what is happening around you. But trust the process and have the confidence to follow your heart
- The people around you are perhaps the most important aspect of your life. This is because they will shape and influence you as to who you will eventually become
- Never give up until you find something you have a passion for: it will stay with you for the rest of your life
What would you like to be remembered for?
Yoyo Chang: By the very end, the team and I would like to make a difference and have an impact in contributing to all sorts of charitable efforts. Payments is an incredibly lucrative industry, and the more we can do to channel some of that money into helping the less fortunate, the better. We ultimately want to enable all of our users to get used to making a direct, positive impact on others’ lives.
You can follow Yoyo Chang here.
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