Philip Belamant’s Zilch: Building the World’s Most Empowering Way to Pay
( MENAFN- Digital solutions)
As the global payments industry continues to evolve, new startups challenge established players while companies navigate unexpected obstacles. However, London-based Zilch appears to have sidestepped much of the upheaval. This double-unicorn startup continues to follow a stratospheric trajectory that shows no signs of slowing down.
Since Zilch’s September 2020 launch, the company has garnered unprecedented numbers of UK customers. Several global investors have also stepped up to fund this exceptional business venture.
Philip Belamant Recognizes the Need for a New Payments Mechanism
The Zilch story began in September 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Zilch CEO and co-founder (and serial entrepreneur) Philip Belamant launched a bold new startup into the UK payments marketplace. This London-based company sought to circumvent the existing “buy now, pay later” (or BNPL) business model (known as BNPL 1.0).
In this traditional business structure, a BNPL company typically pressed eCommerce merchants to include its alternative payment option on the business’ checkout page. In effect, multiple BNPL providers might be competing for a single eCommerce merchant’s business.
Zilch CEO and co-founder Philip Belamant points out that this model creates multiple conflicts of interest. In addition, this frenzied marketing push completely disregards the customer’s financial well-being.
“Moreover, the traditional BNPL model can create direct conflicts of interest between merchants, point of sale finance providers and what is in the best interests of consumers. The customer journey is completely fragmented, leaving consumers to flick between apps and quickly finding themselves balancing multiple repayment timelines with different BNPL providers,” Belamant explains.
Zilch Debuts Its “Direct-to-Consumer” Business Model
Not comfortable with this arrangement, Philip Belamant decided to do things a bit differently. He built a direct-to-consumer (or DTC) business model in which Zilch appeals directly to eCommerce customers. By partnering with Mastercard, the Zilch app has guaranteed acceptance at 38.7 million global merchants.
Belamant describes Zilch’s customer-centric business structure. “Our unique over-the-top platform means Zilch is merchant agnostic and creates value for the customer first and foremost, which then, in turn, brings value to the merchants — not the other way around,” he emphasizes.
Zilch Customers Choose the Way They Pay
Each Zilch customer can choose a “pay now” or “pay in 4 installments” option. A customer who pays in full enjoys cash back, and they can apply this amount to a future purchase. Zilch also offers product discounts and personalized deals. These offerings are based on the specific customer’s buying power and product choices.
Zilch’s “Flywheel of Value” Kicks In
Philip Belamant describes how customers use Zilch in varied aspects of their financial lives. He calls this mechanism the Flywheel of Value. “People can use Zilch daily in their lives to accumulate cashback and rewards — that will be able to grow over time with a yield, which is pretty phenomenal.
“Then, they can use that to discount larger purchases, that may be discretionary or non-discretionary, anywhere they like — online or offline. And they can split those over time for free in a few different ways. So, this is the value flywheel we believe we’ve created and what we feel is giving us the traction we’ve had today,” Belamant remarks.
Debit and Credit Are Rolled Into One Product
Philip Belamant emphasizes the importance of dual payment options for customers. “The whole concept: the combination of debit, credit and rewards — the best of all of them in one product. Customers can enjoy tapping and paying and deals and discounts for anything, anywhere.
“Or they can pay over time with no interest of any kind for anything they want. So we really, truly believe that we’re helping customers to build affordability and empower themselves with each and every tap and pay,” he concludes.
Philip Belamant Details Zilch’s Exponential Customer Growth
Since Zilch’s 2020 launch, the company’s customer base has grown by leaps and bounds. Philip Belamant puts this rapid expansion into perspective. “In January 2020 we had 20,000 customers, January 2021–200,000, and by January 2022–2,200,000.
“A challenge rarely spoken of was that we had to scale our team from 20 to over 250 people, all the while dealing with millions of transactions and tens of thousands of customer support tickets. All of which comes with tough operational challenges. It’s been a ride — and that’s the shorter version of the story,” Belamant summarizes.
In May 2022, Zilch launched into the United States market. With more than 150,000 pre-registered customers on the books, the company plans to methodically acquire market share as it increases its name recognition.
Zilch’s Biggest WOW Moment
Looking back at Zilch’s impressive track record, Philip Belamant readily identifies the company’s biggest achievement. “Since starting Zilch, the biggest WOW moment for us, really, was when we tipped over 2 million customers, more than half a billion in sales, in just 18 months.
“We’ve saved people nearly $70 million in discounts and deals in that short period of time…faster than most of the fintechs you’ve ever seen or heard of…and this was our WOW moment,” Belamant concludes.
Global Investors Have Recognized Zilch’s Notable Achievements
Not surprisingly, Zilch’s remarkable success has drawn the attention of major global investors. Philip Belamant offers a sage observation on key factors that spur investors to open their wallets. “That’s how to attract investors — build a product that taps unmet demand in the market with a solution that prioritizes the end consumer’s best interests. Numbers count,” he succinctly explains.
“It might sound obvious, but the key to standing out is building a product that solves an existing real-world problem. My mission with Zilch was to provide people with the most ubiquitous and empowering way to pay for anything, anywhere. Thinking back, what stood out to investors was the clear, transparent and customer-centric credit alternative we designed,” says Belamant.
By all accounts, Zilch has met this demanding criteria, and the marketplace has enthusiastically responded. In fact, Zilch has experienced the most rapid growth of any European company since such record keeping began.
Snapshot of Zilch’s Cash Infusions
In November 2021, Zilch became an extremely rare double unicorn by executing a $110 million fundraising round. For perspective, a “unicorn” is the investment world’s term for a startup that has achieved a $1 billion valuation. Here, Zilch’s latest funding round launched the company over the $2 billion valuation mark (hence the double unicorn designation).
Gauss Ventures and Ventura Capital were the latest funding round’s major investors. Zilch planned to utilize the cash influx to help fund its upcoming United States launch. Notably, Gauss Ventures is also an earlier Zilch investor, participating in two Series B fundraising rounds. Goldman Sachs Asset Management, M&F Fund, and DMG Ventures have also supported Zilch in previous funding rounds.
About Philip Belamant
Philip Belamant is a South African serial entrepreneur who has launched several thriving payments industry businesses. His early successes occurred in the emerging African market. In this region, Belamant’s market knowledge and resourcefulness positioned him to design electronic payments systems in a region that lacked a robust digital infrastructure.
Today, Philip Belamant serves as the co-founder and CEO of London-based Zilch. This payments industry trailblazer continues to change the way consumers make purchases and conduct multiple aspects of their financial lives. Zilch’s May 2022 United States market entry marks the first stage of its global expansion.
Philip Belamant and Elon Musk: 3 Key Similarities
Not surprisingly, Zilch CEO Philip Belamant has entered the top tier of successful entrepreneurs. In fact, he shares three entrepreneurial traits with business magnate Elon Musk. Also from South Africa, Musk co-founded PayPal, a leading payments provider that serves consumer and business funding markets. Musk is also the CEO of car maker Tesla Motors and space launch vehicle firm SpaceX.
Passion Drives Their Performance
Throughout Philip Belamant’s entrepreneurial career, he has created multiple technology-based companies that clearly solve existing marketplace problems. However, it’s a lesser-known fact that Belamant has been driven by a passion to use his businesses to effect beneficial societal change. “All my professional life, I’ve created technology-based businesses that create a positive change in society,” he reflects.
Elon Musk is the epitome of passion-driven work. Whether building innovative electric cars or spacecraft designed to haul cargo and astronauts, Musk throws every ounce of himself into each effort. In fact, Musk has been known to work 80-hour weeks, and even sleep under his desk, when engaged in the work he loves.
They Remain Focused on the Objective
Philip Belamant begins each venture by analyzing consumers’ challenges within a defined market. He develops a goal that, when realized, will resolve these challenges. Then, his company develops a targeted service package to achieve the goal. Sometimes, one strategy doesn’t work as planned, so Belamant’s team switches gears and develops another one. Throughout the process, he remains firmly focused on the ideal outcome.
“When we say we are a customer-first business, that means we looked at challenges consumers faced in the market, how payments could be more valuable, and designed our services from the ground up to meet consumer demand,” Belamant explains.
For his part, Elon Musk has turned laser focus into an art form. While building Tesla from the ground up, Musk often worked long hours until he solved a specific problem and/or accomplished a defined goal. In effect, he entered a “flow state” in which he ignored everything else until he had completed his overarching objective.
They Completely Ignore the “No” Word
When Philip Belamant is working toward a goal, he is not deterred by logistical obstacles, bureaucratic red tape, or naysayers. Instead, he maintains an upbeat, respectful attitude while finding a way to resolve each issue or maneuver around it.
Elon Musk is renowned for his inability to accept the word “no.” During college, Musk convinced a professor to change an exam grade from 98 to 100. The professor’s perfection-minded student insisted on nothing less.
Zilch Continues to Put Customers First
Looking ahead, Philip Belamant says Zilch has fulfilled its mission of providing customers with an empowering payments product. He understands why customers have embraced the Zilch payments app and looks forward to facilitating increased customer growth and adoption.
“Putting the customer first, as we have at Zilch, is a necessary variable to balance what works best to help customers spend responsibly within a world-class payments app. But facts and reviews always help inspire myself and my talented team to keep working hard and deliver an empowering product customers love the freedom of and can’t wait to use wherever they go.
“Furthermore, what I know now is, having the most highly rated product of its kind says so much as to why we continue to witness incredible customer growth and utilization,” Belamant summarizes.