When Maxime Rosburger founded Meal Temple Group in Phnom Penh, Cambodia back in 2013 he did not foresee it would bring him, years later, to be part of a fintech superapp success story operating in more than 20 countries between Asia and Africa, partnering with Alibaba, Cybersource, and other global organizations.
Back in 2015, the startup ecosystem in Cambodia was virtually non-existent. Upon his arrival, Maxime realized he could not get his favorite restaurant meals delivered like it was commonplace in France, his home country; thus spawning the idea of creating his own business and solution. Maxime and his team had to educate a whole new market, setting up a team of drivers, onboarding restaurants, and establishing a marketing ecosystem aimed at locals and expatriates. The word of mouth worked well within the expatriates’ community, and within months, Meal Temple established itself as the go-to solution, delivering hundreds of meals daily.
As years went by, the list of services expanded to include online grocery delivery and thus grew its customer base. At that time Maxime and his team succeeded in competing with the global startup studio Rocket Internet, which tried to penetrate the market and failed as a result of the coarse competition and complex market.
A few years later, local competitions started to appear, the likes of Nham24, eGates, Moove, and others, and some renowned international players such as Foodpanda (DeliveryHero), Grab, Uber. As a result, the market became much more competitive and survival depended on extreme marketing budgets and spendings.
Albeit Meal Temple Group was serving thousands of very loyal customers and growing its business daily, it was also facing this increasingly fierce competition. This is when partners and international angel investors specialized in emerging markets participated in the transformation of the group, amongst them; Axel Peyriere founder of Emerging Classified Ventures, Alex Odom, Chief Investment Officer of Belt Road Capital Management and Sy Pauv Phu, CEO of GAEASYS, a software development company operating out of Phnom Penh, Cambodia; all key participants in the new strategy; pushing north, across the Cambodian border towards Laos, to initiate an expansion strategy. To reinforce that strategy, the company partnered with Gregory Schmidt, founder of KiwiPay Group, operating MyDelivery.la in Vientiane.
Following the expansion, Meal Temple Group acquired MyDelivery.la and started working closely with Gregory Schmidt and his team with a renewed focus on its local fintech business: KiwiPay. Bolstering this new vertical, the group started onboarding SMBs in Laos with the integration of online payment gateways of Alipay, WeChatPay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and others to process sales. At the time KiwiPay Group had also been closely cooperating with local banks and authorities to bring smarter and more inclusive financial services into the market. Onboarding SMBs is one thing but establishing trust, security and efficiency are another.
The same year, Meal Temple Group finalized a deal with Freshgora in Myanmar, founded by Htut Oo Yoon, and expanded in the Burmese fast-growing economy of more than 55 million. This is when the Fintech SuperApp story started to get root and the group’s vision became clear.
Meal Temple Group and its operations had created a natural expansion bridge to KiwiPay Group and its technology to launch in more markets. Over time they obtained payment operator licenses in Cambodia and Myanmar, and naturally expanded the technology in similar markets; in frontier markets. The vision is established, the path clear; local customers, in all of these frontier markets, are naturally looking for convenience, are leapfrogging from a cash economy to a cashless one (as they did from no internet to mobile internet), therefore looking for affordable, reliable, fast, and efficient financial services.
At this moment it became obvious to Gregory Schmidt that the synergies between Kiwipay and Meal Temple Group were established and could unlock massive opportunities in these frontier markets. The choice was made for KiwiPay Group to take over the operations, acquiring all the assets from Meal Temple Group, and initiating the creation of the super app for frontier markets; KiwiPay Group moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to Singapore, and reincorporated as KiwiPay Pte Ltd, with its core products now encompassing the former services of Meal Temple, Delivery.la, Freshgora, and Kiwipay; the freshly rebranded KiwiGo.
In 2020, while the global pandemic disrupted the economies and operations of most companies around the world, the now strong cross-border operational knowledge of Gregory Shmidt and his teams became a unique strength, complemented by local partnerships with central banks and financial regulators. With the help of Gregory Schmidt’s partners’ networks, new offices and teams were structured in new countries in Africa. Strategic partnerships with banks, mobile operators, central banks, and financial organizations all around the world were signed.
Today, KiwiGo can launch its services, both for individuals and professionals in 21 countries around the world, from Africa to Asia, all sharing similar challenges and opportunities. Countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Madagascar, Kenya, Togo, Senegal, Myanmar, Mali, Niger, Laos, and Guinea Bissau, for. total population of more than 400 million people. KiwiGo has already entered partnered and started to cooperate with banks like Bank of Africa, Ecobank, RAWBANK, ABA Bank, ACLEDA, PostBank, UOB, MTB, Afriland First Bank, and others, as well as mobile operators such as Airtel, Orange, and others.
While others operating fintech have been struggling during the pandemic, mostly due to reduced activity, the freeze of the tourism economy, and other obvious factors; KiwiGo, with its frugal and lean operation cost base, has been able to expand its reach faster than previously expected. Early 2021, the company introduced its KiwiGo token; KGO, based on the Binance Blockchain. KGO is to be used as a token for transactions between merchants and their potential customers. Not only that, it is a gateway in this economy, in this never-ending quest to bring trust, security, efficiency, and speed to local customers and transactions.
KiwiGo is now a management and partner team of more than 30 people, coming from various backgrounds and located all around the globe; working to build the most advanced super app for frontier markets, available both for Android and iOS mobile devices. Gregory Schmidt, CEO of the group, is now holding regular lives and interviews with partners and supporting organizations to extend the reach of the brand. Those public relation activities are also meant to promote the KGO token created by KiwiGo, based on the company’s proprietary “T.E.S Principles”.
The “T.E.S. Principles” have been created as an understandable framework to bring the vision, value, and KiwiGo’s positioning to life. For Gregory Schmidt, the project can only be achievable if it is economically feasible, socially useful, and technologically sound; for both the markets and the founders.
Technology is a core fundamental of the KiwiGo brand, bringing tools and services together that are not only adding value to the brand but creating opportunities. In that context, technologies should be accessible and part of the real-life usage of the people; good technology extends an already existing ecosystem, not one that aims at changing it dramatically; technology is an aid, and we are developing it with this principle in mind.
Developing a brand and its services in frontier markets means understanding the economical tissue of those markets, their needs, and their development. The local population may have a smartphone and no bank account, this creates a different economical environment within which there is diversity and possibilities that may differ from the western world. Local economical specificities have to be recognized and considered.
KiwiGo is not aiming to paste a model that works elsewhere, they are creating a model that works where they operate. KiwiGo wants to bring inclusion and incorporation of those societies’ cultural and societal aspects.
This story is more than 6 years in the making. From a local food and delivery company in Cambodia, a fintech startup in Laos, to a company’s operation that now ranges from food and grocery delivery to logistics, ride-hailing, financial services, international remittance, and more. From a total addressable market short of 30 million people where the two original companies started to a total of more than 400 million addressable customer base within over 21 countries of operation.
This story is far from over, as KiwiGo, in its efforts to bridge the real and digital economies, introduced the KGO currency, core mechanic within the superapp ecosystem initiating a new generation of real-life crypto-currency, meant to be used by real people in countries where those technologies will make a significant difference in economic inclusion.