ZunguZ Facebook Payment Application | Interview With The Founder Robert Sussman

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Facebook just hit 1 billion active users globally and that was great but a new social payment application is set to make Facebook users across the world get more from their connections and even allowing companies to sell or receive payments from their pages.

TechZulu caught up Robert Sussman, Co-CEO of Zunguz, the Facebook payment app.

What is Zunguz?

ZunguZ is a global social payment platform that integrates deeply into the social graph of Facebook and financial service providers. The application is approved by Facebook and is enlisted and approved in the Facebook store for global distribution.  The multi-tiered platform allows for money to be transferred between Facebook friends, the ability to click and purchase any item that you see on Facebook and through the published API’s, developers can integrate and write their own applications on top of the ZunguZ platform.

Why the name?

As we know, developers always give their product a code name. We liked the Z on the beginning and the Z on the end.  The name just stuck!  We may keep the platform with the name ZunguZ and look for a client facing name for the application.

 When was it launched?

We built a Proof of Concept in 2010, went into closed beta in 2011 and opened up to the public in Dec 2011.

 Who are the founders and their backgrounds?

The idea was pioneered by renowned and award winning high impact serial entrepreneurs, Robert Sussman and Lance Fanaroff. Both have a solid and upstanding reputations.

Rob Sussman:

  • Qualified Electrical Engineer
  • Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Integr8 Group – one of the largest private owned Information Communication and Telecommunication Managed Service providers in South Africa (Annex.13)
  • A member of the Young Presidents Organization YPO – since 2003
  • ABSA Jewish Entrepreneur of the Year – WINNER (This award was actually presented by Gill Marcus) – (Annex.13)
  • African ICT Achiever Awards – Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Year – WINNER multiple times (Annex.13)
  • African ICT Achiever Awards – OVERALL WINNER (Annex.13)
  • IT Personality of the Year – FINALIST – by Gartner, GIBS, & Computer Society of SA
  • Ernst & Young – World Entrepreneur Awards – FINALIST (Annex 13)
  • A member of Endeavor Global

Lance Fanaroff:

  • Qualified BCom Degree
  • Co-founder & Co-CEO of Integr8® Group – one of the largest private owned Information Communication and Telecommunication Managed Service providers in South Africa (Annex.13)
  • TOPCO National Business Awards – Entrepreneur of the Year – WINNER (Annex.13)
  • TOPCO National Business Awards – Businessman of the Year – FINALIST (Annex.13)
  • IT Personality of the Year – FINALIST – by Gartner, GIBS, & Computer Society of SA
  • Ernst & Young – World Entrepreneur Awards – FINALIST (Annex.13)
  • TOPCO National Business Awards – on Judging panel
  • A member of Endeavor Global

What inspired you to come up with the idea?

 Since the early 2000’s Rob and Lance have recognized the problem that exists in existing payment systems, to seamlessly offer people to connect with each other and with merchants around the world. The solution was to place people at the centre of payments as opposed to banks and money. At the point of payment or point of purchase, people should be able to connect to any payment instrument that allows them to call their preferred funding source and make a payment on any device, anywhere in the world, and choose to share that experience with the people they care and trust the most. The system would need to be frictionless and leverage off the viral attributes that are inherent built into human nature.

The opportunity to innovate and take ZunguZ forward and make it a reality transpired with the uptake and traction of Social Networks in the early 2000’s and more specifically with the launch of Facebook in 2004 and its momentum gained over the next few years. Rob and Lance made multiple business trips to the USA and UK in order to understand the offerings and strategy of existing payment providers, social networks, banks and financial service providers.

As a result, various rounds of global meetings were held with:

  • Facebook – Head of growth markets
  • Barclays Bank – Vice President
  • PayPal – Payments Director
  • Omidyar Networks – head of investment
  • Morgan Stanley Smith Barney – First Vice President Wealth
  • Citi Bank – Payment heads
  • Amongst many others

Using the most current information in this space, Rob & Lance deployed a team in 2010 to build a Proof of Concept for ZunguZ. They then headed back to the USA and UK to get comment and advice on the platform, after which they returned to South Africa, made the enhancements and launched a closed beta in 2011. ZunguZ was then taken to a Silicon Valley high-impact endeavor event and gained over whelming attention from investors from all over the world. While attracting capital may have been important, Rob & Lance believe it is the right capital that will enable the ZunguZ platform to grow into the defacto social payment platform that will disrupt the disconnected closed loop providers.

How does it work?

While the backend system is complex, the client facing application is simple and easy to use.  A ZunguZ account is activated in seconds by going to www.zpayments.co.za

From here, a user can transfer money directly from their bank account or use any MasterCard or Visa card anywhere in the world.  We are in the process of integrating into various point of sales and providing prefunded vouchers for the unbanked.  A user can then transfer money to any of their Facebook friends just by clicking on their face.  No other details about the person you are paying is required.  They don’t even need to have a preauthorized ZunguZ account for a user to transfer money.  A user can also click and purchase any item that has been loaded by a ZunguZ merchant and purchase that item directly from within Facebook.   The virility that is built into the “click to purchase” button, allows for a purchaser to share the experience with their friends.  This stimulates additional marketing and revenue for merchants.  After all 50% of all online purchases are influenced by a person’s friends.

Which countries do you cover currently and how many users so far?

The platform is global and has the ability to allow for frictionless payments all over the world between 1 billion people.  It also has the ability to influence the purchasing behavior of people all over the world.  We restrict money transfer to South Africa while we conclude our due diligence on international money transfer partners.

Are you competing with banks or are you working with them?

We don’t compete with banks.  We don’t offer banking services, but we do refer our users to banks that work with us.  So we bring business to banks.  We actually enable banks to attract new customers as well as securely port their services to existing users, using our patent pending social fraud algorithms.  We are open to all banks and have declined the numerous requests for exclusivity.  We may give exclusivity on a particular feature to a financial service provider or telecommunications company as required.

How safe are money transfers or online purchases on social networks?

This is where ZunguZ is difference from just linking your bank account to Facebook.  We don’t link the 2 and would advise people not to do this.  We provide a secure layer that keeps the 2 completely separate.  The ZunguZ advanced patent pending social fraud screening algorithms, combine the same level of your banks security with a social fraud screening layer.  So this can be even more secure than internet banking.

Why should people use Zunguz?

We place people at the centre of money as opposed to banking which is money at the centre.  ZunguZ is simply easier and we believe that people will use what is easier, more available and frictionless.  We believe we have a disruptive technology that is the next big thing.

Sam Wakoba

Sam Wakoba travels around the world's technology hubs and events writing about startups, VC’ s and ventures. Spends nights reviewing trending gadgets, ICT initiatives, and disrupting technology.

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