“What Uber is to taxis, SONECT is for ATMs”. A bold claim indeed but one that Sandipan Chakraborty, Founder and CEO of SONECT is comfortable in making. Having developed a location based match making platform, SONECT connects those who want to withdraw cash with those who want to make a deposit. Having recently been announced a finalist at PitchIt@LendIt, we spoke to Sandipan to find out more.
Tell us about your company, what does it do and what industry problem is it addressing?
SONECT converts any shop into a “Virtual ATM” reducing the high “cost of cash” via a location based on-demand service that allows its users to withdraw cash using smartphone everywhere.
ATMs (cash dispensers) are expensive for banks to install and operate. Cash handling requires even a small retailer to spend time and money. Consumers never like to find, visit and pay for accessing cash. Combining all these, global economy wastes over $300B every year while over 75% of all consumer payments continue to happen using cash.
SONECT disrupts the ATM industry by democratizing the process of cash distribution. What UBER is to Taxis, AirBnB to Hotels, SONECT is for the ATMs. It is a location based match making platform that connects those who want to withdraw cash with those who want to deposit cash – typically, a shop owner. This way, the shop owner not only reduces his cash management efforts but also earns money and increases footfall, consumers can withdraw cash at the click of a button on their smartphone wherever they are, and banks can save up to 50% in running their ATMs while generating new revenue.
What’s been the company’s journey to date? How big are you now?
SONECT was founded about a year ago and we launched our operation just a quarter ago. Within such a short span of time we have already created around one hundred virtual ATMs in Switzerland and has observed a triple digit MoM user growth. The largest retail bank and the biggest payment processor in Switzerland – PostFinance has joined us as investor. We were also part of the Swiss National Fintech team (top 10 fintech startups in the country) that represented the country this year. We got selected by multiple renowned accelerators like F10 – run by SIX payment service provider, BNP Paribas Plug&Play, Elevator Lab run by Raiffeisen Bank International. Besides this, we have been recognized by numerous startup awards and been featured in local & international media publications.
The company has 9 employees and an amazing board of advisors comprising of ex-chairman of the board of SWIFT, ex CEO of CLS Bank, FIDES Treasury, ex CFO of Falcon bank and many other banking industry veterans.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Launching a company in a highly regulated financial space is always a challenge but that magnifies when the business model involves something as sensitive as cash. We had to go through rigorous challenges from the regulators initially before we could launch our service. But those initial challenges have helped us refine our product and find the right spot to launch a product on a global scale.
You’ve recently been chosen as a finalist in the PitchIt@LendIt event, what has the process been like to this stage, and what would it mean to you to win this award?
SONECT has already presented its virtual ATMs in many countries in Europe and US – but never in front of UK investors. In order to make our voice heard in the best place for fintech in Europe, we thought PitchIt@LendIt would be the right podium. Looking at the renowned judges in the selection process – we also considered this to be a good litmus test of what we are doing. It was exciting when we received the confirmation that we are in the finals but the process that started after that is indeed amazing. Unlike any other events, we received personal mentors who are preparing us for the final pitch. This clearly proves how tough the competition will be on stage. Winning this award would certainly open up a lot of doors in the UK based fintech world and accelerate the growth of our company.
What are your growth plans, and how would winning an event such as this benefit those growth plans?
As we continue to expand in Switzerland, we are preparing for our international launch next year. We want to expand quickly into multiple cash heavy European markets by the end of 2018. Winning an event like this one would certainly help us gain credibility in the investor community and close our fund raising quickly so that we can focus back on our business growth.
LendIt Europe, the largest European event series specialising in fintech and lending, is hosting the PitchIt competition throughout the conference, which takes place in London, 9th-10th Oct ’17. The eight finalists have been selected from over 100 applicants, and will compete head to head in front of some of Europe’s biggest VCs.