Launching a Mobile Payments Startup in Hong Kong with Sopheap Lao, CEO of Mobexo

Sopheap, please introduce yourself…

My name is Sopheap Lao and I am the Founder and CEO of the Mobile Exchange Organization, Mobexo. I was born in Vietnam and grew up in Cambodia in a Chinese family.

I moved to France to pursue my studies and lived in Paris, London, Singapore, Taiwan and other places in Asia during my 16 years as a consultant to global MNOs’.

I now reside in Hong Kong with my 2 kids and wife where Mobexo is headquartered.

What’s the story behind creating Mobexo?

The idea of Mobexo was conceived during an afternoon in a café in the beautiful city of Paris. While sipping on my espresso, I realized I had forgotten my wallet and only had my iPhone with me. It was then, that I had the revelation of creating a payment service, which could be used as easily and as engaging, as listening to music on my iPhone.

As smartphone advances in technology, why did we still need to carry something as traditional and bulky as a wallet?

There are event wallets that incorporate a space for your mobile phone along with your cash and cards… why not have everything inside your mobile device? Thus Mobexo was born.

After 3.5 years of R&D in France and Vietnam, I moved to Hong Kong in May 2013 to launch Mobexo’s commercial operations, targeting 10,000+ users and 2,000+ merchants by Q1 2014.

How’s traction working out so far?

Traction has been picking up lately thanks partly to the holiday seasons where people are willing to shop and spend more. Our merchants have seen increase traffics with deals offered through our platform.

One sector, we are involved in, is the beauty and health sector where our customers, who are mainly female, tend to splurge a bit more during this holiday season.

We are signing up merchants of all sizes and offer them a 0% transaction fee process and 6 months of free services. If there are any merchants interested, please contact our sales team.

I guess most people visiting your site will be asking, how are you different to Square?

Our service differs in our delivery of benefits and payment processing methods. Mobexo seamlessly connects businesses and their customers by allowing business owners to create customized and targeted promotional campaigns via the Merchant Portal to reach their customers when they want to and how they want to.

Personal Mobexo users then have the ability to apply these offers when they pay using the application. Every time a user checks out using Mobexo, it will notify them when they have offers to apply to their payments. In this way, Mobexo is a tool that enlivens the connection between consumers and businesses.

In short, Mobexo offers a customizable system of pre-payment, payment, and post-payment services. The Mobexo mobile payment e-wallet is a free app on IOS, Android and Windows Phone, which allows two parties to transfer funds instantaneously and securely without the need of additional devices.

The app enables users to pay online or at physical shops, restaurant and bars. At payment time, users can earn points on their preferred merchants’ loyalty card and can effortlessly redeem promotional deals collected on web sites, games, magazines, TV ads, on street billboards, etc.

Unlike credit cards or cash, Mobexo allows merchants to accept funds from customers without requiring them to give out their personal banking information

What are the challenges of running a payments company in Hong Kong?

The challenges of running a payment company in Hong Kong is educating people of the safety and conveniences of using mobile technology. Although Hong Kong is considered highly developed, it is still heavy in cash transactions.

Getting people to switch from the tradition way of carrying cash or having to use an ATM machine to transfer funds to a more revolutionary method is a challenge we need to overcome.

How do you see the payments ecosystem developing in Hong Kong?

I believe the payment ecosystem in Hong Kong is posed to make an influential impact to Hong Kong’s innovation. With the rise of merchants who form small online shops to new business opening everywhere, having a reliable payment solution like Mobexo can let these entrepreneurs focus on running their business and to not worry about how the payment is handled, hence our slogan “a mobile payment company that wants you to forget about payments.”

There are several players out here who have been trying to create a mobile payment solution but with no avail, as user adoption has been slow. Our belief is that a mobile payment service needs to go beyond just providing payments.

Merchants in our platform have a web portal where they can view business analytics, run promotional campaigns and effectively target new customers. This allows merchants to provide a higher quality of service without increasing their business cost.

What advice can you share with entrepreneurs wanting to start or expand their business into Hong Kong?

My advice for entrepreneurs wanting to start their business in Hong Kong is to observe the market carefully and not to view Hong Kong as sort of an entry point into China. I strongly believe Hong Kong is vastly different to Mainland China, both having their advantages and difficulties.

Hong Kong is however a great location to conduct business. It is one of the freest if not the freest economy in the world and setting us a business can be done within a day. You also have the advantage of being in a centralized Asian location which makes traveling to other cities a breeze.

Beside mobile payments, what business opportunities do you see emerging in Hong Kong right now?

I see business opportunities in areas such as providing financial advice and transport. There are a few startups, which have caught my eyes such as Taxiwise for expats to book a taxi, and others who are trying to bridge the connection between westerners and locals.

What’s next for Mobexo?

Mobexo is rapidly expanding in Hong Kong and Vietnam to show the world that our platform is flexible and can work in a developed city as well as developing cities.

We will be releasing a new version, which offers new features for merchants, and users to render your entire wallet obsolete such as customizable memberships and loyalty cards, ordering and payment at your seats for restaurants and bars, and so forth.

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