by Leo Molatore
February 26, 2019

We all know the pain: expense management, such as for business trips, costs employees everywhere a lot of time and nerves, because they have to deal with a lot of paper receipts and manual input of data – even in the 21st century!

Bulgaria-based fintech Payhawk addresses this problem with a smart, digital solution – and was able to win over the jury of Wirecard’s Start-Up Challenge at Paris Fintech Forum recently. After all, Wirecard also began as a start-up 20 years ago and is now in a position to support other young, exciting companies that also want to achieve success.

Payhawk asserted itself against strong competition –  numerous applications came from a total of 18 countries, and at the end of January five finalists were invited to present themselves to the jury: in addition to Payhawk, these were Spendee with a budget and expense tracking solution, Parcela Já with a smart installment solution, Twino with their P2P lending marketplace and Otly with a digital allowance management app for kids.

Each of the five finalists had the opportunity to pitch their solution and then had to face a Q&A session. In the end, Payhawk convinced the jury, which consisted of Thorsten Holten in his capacity as Wirecard’s Managing Director Sales Financial Institution / FinTech Europe and USA, Jörn Leogrande, EVP of Innovation Labs at Wirecard and Jana Lvova, Visa’s Head of FinTech Delivery.

Jörn Leogrande, EVP of Innovation Labs at Wirecard, Thorsten Holten, Wirecard’s EVP Sales Financial Institution and FinTech Europe, Payhawk CEO Hristo Borisov and Jana Lvova, Head of FinTech Delivery at Visa (from left to right).

Jörn Leogrande, EVP of Innovation Labs at Wirecard, Thorsten Holten, Wirecard’s MD Sales Financial Institution / FinTech Europe and USA, Payhawk CEO Hristo Borisov and Jana Lvova, Head of FinTech Delivery at Visa (from left to right).

Payhawk will now receive a package of benefits, for example reduced setup fees, implementation support and consulting services from Wirecard and Visa. We talked to Payhawk CEO and co-founder Hristo Borisov about how he came up with the idea for this innovative solution, how it helps SMEs and what his plans are for the future.

Hristo, once again congratulations on your victory! Can you tell us more about your background?

Thank you! Well, I started my career in software development and then moved into product management. All in all, I’ve spent 11 years in the tech industry.

My passion has always been helping solve challenges for businesses, especially SMEs.

“Our digital expense solution helps SMEs growing their businesses instead of wasting a huge amount of time dealing with expenses and paperwork.” – Hristo Borisov, CEO of Payhawk

And how exactly did you end up founding Payhawk to tackle the travel expense problem? 

I did a lot of travelling! 😊 As a director of product at my previous company, I was responsible for a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But when travelling, I had to use my personal cards, and then fill out lengthy expense reports and wait for reimbursements.

Today, I constantly talk to companies that waste a huge amount of time dealing with expenses and paperwork rather than growing their businesses. They don’t have a way to empower their employees with individual company cards. As a result, 90% of small businesses only have one company card because of the time it would take to collect all receipts and invoices, and then reconcile the card statements for every card.

Hristo Borisov, CEO and co-founder of Payhawk, the 2019 winners of Wirecard's and Visa's Start-Up Challenge at Paris Fintech

Hristo Borisov, CEO and co-founder of Payhawk, the 2019 winners of Wirecard’s and Visa’s Start-Up Challenge at Paris Fintech

Can you please briefly explain how your solution works in practice and how it helps companies?

Payhawk is a company card that collects and reads data from receipts and invoices in real-time. There is no need for employees to deal with expense reports as all data is prepared automatically. On the other hand, the business does not have to wait for more than a month to receive an updated financial report once it’s processed by the accounting team. You can see your budget vs. actual amounts instantly. Payhawk enables small businesses to issue both physical and virtual company cards without visiting a bank. As a result, the business can empower employees and stay in control.

It's as easy as this: the Payhawk customer journey

It’s as easy as this: the Payhawk customer journey

Why did you apply for the Wirecard Start-up Challenge – and did you expect to win?

We applied because Wirecard and Visa are two of the most respected and trustworthy institutions in the financial market in Europe. We see great synergies between our companies and with partners like Wirecard and Visa on our side, we see great potential to innovate faster.

And to be honest, we didn’t expect to win. We knew the quality of startup applicants would be very high, and it was proven when the other four finalists that pitched their products in Paris were announced.

With a view into the long-term future, what goals would you like to achieve with Payhawk?

Our aspiration is to become the world’s biggest bank without holding a single dollar. We see the future as a marketplace where businesses can discover, manage, and use multiple payment instruments, such as debit cards, credit cards, bank accounts and so on, powered by a single experience regardless of where money is kept. An experience where money follows the way you do business.

Thanks Hristo and all the best for you and your company!