How We Built Payment and
Management Solutions For SMEs
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Augusto Lins; President and Partner of Stone Pagamentos, a leading provider of financial technology solutions that empower merchants to conduct commerce seamlessly across multiple channels. Our goal is to improve the lives of Brazilian entrepreneurs.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I have worked in the banking and payments industry for over 20 years. Before joining Stone, I had Senior roles as Head of Sales at Redecard, Director at Banco Itau-Unibanco and was part of the executive team at Hipercard and Fininvest. After starting my career as an entrepreneur, I moved on to corporate and investment banking in the early 1990s.
Throughout the years, I held various roles abroad in commercial and business development for NM Rothschild, ING Bank and Barings. I hold a degree in Electrical Engineering from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, an MBA from Boston University and completed the Owner/President Management program at Harvard University.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Stone was founded in 2012 as an independent Brazilian payment company with an innovative merchant centric approach focused on solving the difficulties of small and medium-sized commercial establishments. The company was born from our desire of changing the payments industry in Brazil which, until then, consisted of a duopoly of verticalized companies linked to big banks.
Using proprietary technology and unique seller-oriented client service, Stone began its operation by offering clients an unprecedented value proposition in the market and reaching cities no player had ever focused. Back then, prices were high, the quality of competing market services was subpar, the fees charged to sellers were extremely high and there was hardly any innovation. To accept payments from the main credit card networks, sellers were forced to work with both types of existing digital payment operators in their establishments (one for Visa and another for Mastercard).
Stone’s purpose is to do things differently by creating a stronger relationship of greater transparency with clients, innovating and providing the best technological solutions and offering swift and efficient services.
In our history, we have had many defining moments. However, we would like to particularly highlight winning over our first client, Geraldo Mineiro, a small cheese merchant from Minas Gerais. Mineiro has been with us from the very beginning and has participated in key moments of our company. Most notably, he was chosen to ring the opening bell at Nasdaq on the day of our public listing in October of 2018. Mineiro acted as our tribute to all Brazilian merchants at that ceremony.
Since then, Stone has considerably grown, and we believe in the growth potential of our business model due to the results we have delivered throughout the years.
Who is your target market?
StoneCo’s mission is to transform the way SMB merchants use software and financial services to sell more, manage better their business and grow. STONE is a publicly-traded company at NASDAQ under the ticker STNE. and StoneCo went public on the NASDAQ in October 2018.
StoneCo has designed internally a cloud-based technology platform that helps clients connect, get paid and grow their businesses, while meeting the rapidly changing demands of omni-channel commerce. Its platform enables clients to develop, host and deploy its solutions quickly.
StoneCo operation consists of Stone Pagamentos, Pagar.me, Mundipagg, Equals and Cappta, leading providers of financial technology solutions that empower merchants and integrated partners to conduct electronic commerce seamlessly across in-store, online, and mobile channels.
Stone is focused on marketing to SMB in the offline space, but also serves clients of all sizes that make transactions online or have an omni-channel sales approach. Stone serves many integrated partners, which use or embed Stone’s solutions into their own offerings to enable their customers to conduct business more conveniently.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We are focused on enabling our clients to sell more and better manage their businesses to continue growing. We believe that, with technology, innovation and transparency, we can contribute to the development of the digital payments sector. What sets us apart is precisely our distribution model, based on geographic hubs in several cities and in the countryside, designed for a seller’s optimal experience with competitive rates and transparency.
We have also launched our own logistics team capable of swift deliveries and maintenance at no extra charge to the client. Finally, clients enjoy unlimited guarantee and training for all our products upon delivery: a major benefit which did not exist in the market before our arrival.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Stone has been transforming the digital payments industry by changing the way sellers interact with financial products. By offering unique client service, we believe we have been transforming the business and empowering our merchants. We are very motivated by the feedback received from our clients, to improve our services and develop new products. We have a unique culture that breathes customers every day in a way they have never seen. And they are thankful for that.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Stone offers a collaborative and innovative environment, full of challenges and opportunities for professional and personal growth. It also gives learning opportunities beyond theory every day. More than technical qualifications, we are mainly looking for people who have an entrepreneurial spirit that fits with our culture. We strongly value those who have some key skills: integrity, proactivity, learning ability, and those who are thirsty for knowledge.
We encourage our people to always pursue additional study, as we believe that this is necessary to go beyond. Through study and knowledge we can become owners of our professional and personal development.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Stone is a fintech company and endeavors to deploy the most updated technology to provide better services, automate processes, manage risks and reduce costs. We operate cloud-based solutions, with an open platform architecture with microservices and lots of APIs to deliver high availability and high scalability.
All our software is developed in house, and we use artificial intelligence, machine learning and Business Analytics to improve CRM and offer our customers better products and services.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
We have learned important lessons through our journey such as the power of being a customer-centric company and listening to customers, and also the importance of having a strong culture and being able to attract the best talents.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
We believe in 5 aspects of being an entrepreneur and we have been working hard on it: The Entrepreneurial Spirit, Innovate, Freedom, Speed and Fun.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur requires some challenges everyday, mainly regarding reconciling professional and personal life due to long working hours.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
We have some essential books which supported and inspired our culture every day, such as “Winning” (Jack Welch), “The Culture Code” (Daniel Coyle), “What You Do Is Who You Are” (Ben Horowitz), “Trailblazer” (Marc Benioff), among others.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
We will be working hard for within the next 3-5 reach market leadership andexpect to be known by a major player that is changing the life of SMBs. We think that our business model can be replicated in other countries, provided local regulation permits, which is still years to come.