KogoPay raises an initial £200,000 on Crowdcube at a £10m valuation

Dr. Narisa Chauvidul-Aw has a PhD in compliance and information systems from the London School of Economics (LSE) and started in auditing at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC). She has worked in both academia and business: as a Lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, LSE and King’s College in London before assuming a full-time role as Finance Director and later, advisor in Internal Audit and compliance for global companies. She is a serial entrepreneur with involvement in different industries including media, retail and payments. Currently, she is working on a mobile payment app for helping people.

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

I’ve always been interested in new technology and keeping up with new trends. Mobile payment has been in a trend for many years now and has recently become popular. Wallet and QR code payments are quite common in Asia but not in Europe – this is another reason why I want to the first Fintech company to promote it here, especially using QR code payment. Hopefully one day we can use KogoPAY wallet and QR payment everywhere around the globe.

Our vision is that anyone should find sending money across the world as easy as sending an email. With KogoPAY, we have created an instant payment system for individuals and small businesses to make international transfers between Europe and Asia.

In the future, we want for KogoPAY to be more than a conventional business turning a profit. We want to create our ecosystem that we are not only making money but also helping other people with the mobile payment app along the way through our project “Pay It forward”. We want to be the first App to introduce QR payment in the UK and Europe. I would like to see people can pick up their phone using our App to scan and pay to Big Issues vendors, donate to charities on the street or help paying for food, drinks or hostels to homeless people, etc. I’d love to see people use our KogoPAY app to pay for their own food and drinks and also pay for others by leaving the sign of our logo on the board. People who have no money and who see the Kogo logo can come to the shop to ask for Kogo food or drinks that someone else already payed for them. I really want to make it happen next year!

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

In 1999 during the dotcom boom, I created my first website in the UK about Thailand. You could search each area in Thailand and where to go, where to eat. You could also search using the postcode in the UK to find Thai restaurants too. 21 years ago, this was a very new thing. Tourism Authority of Thailand used our website as their official website for a few years and I sold my website to them. I liked the technology involved in website design and learned to code with a friend from Imperial College. Technology has always fascinated me! A year after I had started the website, a Thai reporter for BBC radio did an interview with me about the website. His dream was to create a magazine for the Thai community that could keep them updated on the law and other information about living in the UK. I founded ThaiSmile magazine with him and other two friends in 2000.

In 2003 I finished my PhD and worked for Red Bull UK in the Monsoon Valley Wine division where the owner and major shareholder was Thai. My magazine was used to promote Monsoon Valley, a Thai wine, which was sold in Thai restaurants.

Later I moved into consulting work which was more flexible and better fitted with my life as a new mother. In 2005, I founded a Thai supermarket and sold it, keeping 20% of the sale value.

My increasing interest in blockchain led me in 2015 to study it in detail, investing in proprietary information. I employed a development team and acquired an FCA licence and SPI (Small Payment) licence. Then I started working towards an Electronic Money Licence (EMI).

About four years ago I became interested in blockchain settlements for instant cross-border payments and in mobile payments. Mobile payments are due to increase by 900% in six years with particularly fast growth in Asia. Europe is catching up too. Our timing is right to launch our Mobile Payment App for helping people in UK, Europe and Asia.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

Twenty years ago, it’s the dotcom, website on the internet. I was so excited about it and learned to make the website myself with a friend who studied in engineering. 6-7 years it’s about Blockchain/ DLT technology, Big Data, Data Analytics, IOT. My personal interest is in Blockchain settlement for instant cross border payment and mobile QR code payments, as well as the transformation created by Big Data and Data Analytics. These are the two transformations that I have witnessed recently.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that? Using your own words, why do we need women-focused groups in the tech community? We need to motivate and engage more girls and women in technology. We need to find female role models in tech to encourage the girls. We need more female focus groups in our community so that we can support each other.

What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the actual tech skills)?

This industry is not an easy one. We must get licences from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the HMRC (the UK government tax authority), and the Central Banks (in our case from the Central Bank of Lithuania and the Bank of Thailand). I’ve spent 4-5 years learning and doing KYC and AML checks myself. Opening bank accounts here in UK and Europe is one of the most difficult tasks. Banks look at us as a Money Service Business (MSB) and consider us a high-risk client. We need to work harder and show the bank that we have proper control systems and compliance procedures in place. This is a tough industry! My advice would be to be prepared to work hard and learn from your experiences. I applied for a small payment licence from FCA a few years ago so that I could learn the detail of our industry and 18 months ago we started the process of applying for an EMI (Electronic Money) Licence. We applied for our EMI Licence last year and we are getting approval soon.

My advice would be to be prepared to work hard and learn from your experiences.

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

God, who guides and blesses me and my parents who taught me not just to work and study hard but to think about how to help people in need too.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

Enjoy life. You will be fine!

Dr. Narisa Chauvidul-Aw has a PhD in compliance and information systems from the London School of Economics (LSE) and started in auditing at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC). She has worked in both academia and business: as a Lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, LSE and King’s College in London before assuming a full-time role as Finance Director and later, advisor in Internal Audit and compliance for global companies. She is a serial entrepreneur with involvement in different industries including media, retail and payments.