First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ari Gardiner: Thankfully, we are healthy and doing well all things considered. On the business side, we are fortunate to be in the contactless payments space, which is such an exciting and high-demand sector right now.
Suresh Palliparambil: COVID-19 has definitely created a challenging time, but we are staying healthy, taking precautions and being responsible for keeping ourselves and those around us safe. It has been an interesting adjustment as I used to travel a lot for work and now, I’m home and able to spend more time with the family, especially my two teenage kid which has been a blessing.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Purewrist.
Ari Gardiner: Before co-founding Purewrist, I worked in the watch industry. During that time, I had a vision that the world of payments was going to evolve beyond what we knew into something more agile and flexible. Over the years I maintained that vision was persistent and worked hard to pull from what I knew in the watch space and the financial industry to build our Purewrist end-to-end contactless payment platform and the Purewrist GO low-cost wearable for tap-and-go transactions.
Suresh Palliparambil: I’m the newest member of the Purewrist team, but I have known the founding members for over six years from my work in the contactless payments space. I’ve been in the contactless transaction industry for 20 years; 10 of which were focused on mobile technology, credit and debit cards and a handful of which were spent with NXP enhancing the security and connectivity for all things contactless, from RFID chips in retail apparel, to cards in passports and chips in credit cards. Earlier this year, I joined Ari and the Purewrist team to help scale the company and take it to the next level using my experience within the industry.
How does Purewrist innovate?
Ari Gardiner: By listening, trying and creating. These three things are important to continuously adapt to the changing times and put your best foot and product forward in a landscape that is constantly changing.
Suresh Palliparambil: I second Ari with the emphasis on listening. Everything we do is built off of the feedback we receive from our customers. Establishing a feedback loop is what allows us to understand if a customer is going to like and use something. Innovation is a constant process, and as a company, we need to always be thoughtful to ensure we’re building something people care about. At the same time, since some of the ideas we’re implementing have never been done before, it’s a way for us to bring customers to the “aha!” moment and include them in the creative process when they start selling additional ideas and applications. Overall, it’s important to listen, be nimble, react and stay ahead of the curve, and our team has been doing a fantastic job with this.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ari Gardiner: The pandemic has delayed some efforts and made us shift our business plans a bit, but thankfully we’re in a space that is beneficial and helps to keep people safe. Many people are turning to the digital eCommerce ecosystem, but when they do need to shop in-person, they are looking for new affordable contactless ways to pay. Since we are in the business of issuing digital accounts and cards tied to our tap-and-go payment wearables, we had to switch our focus from large B2B applications to individual consumers.
Suresh Palliparambil: The COVID pandemic has taken a toll on sporting events, music festivals and corporate gatherings which impacts the B2B side of our business. Last year we had a lot of action in the hospitality and entertainment side since our chargeless, waterproof Purewrist GO bracelets can be customized with company logos, colors and more to meet the unique demands of each business. The pandemic certainly put a dent in that aspect of the business, but it has also helped us realize the importance of contactless payment technology moving forward into the new normal – from both a business and a consumer perspective. Business customers now understand the value of not dealing with cash and are implementing contactless payment terminals now to ensure shorter lines and wait times. Consumers, on the other hand, are interested in solutions that don’t require contact with cash or card reader terminals. We’ve managed to work on consumer projects that have an immediate need while also planning longer-term B2B projects while companies develop their plans to reopen. Having these different projects has helped us feel little to no negative effect on the overall business.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ari Gardiner: There are always difficult choices to make in business. What it comes down to is weighing the pros and cons to evaluate the ramifications of each choice. At the end of the day, what I’ve learned is that you need to go with your gut instinct, listen to advice and insight from trusted advisors and weigh every option before making a difficult decision.
Suresh Palliparambil: We’ve had to make some difficult choices while we’ve been navigating unpredictable and moving targets during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the start, no one knew how long this would continue for and what to do with the business in the meantime. Initially, we were focused on partnerships within the events and hospitality spaces which fell into a holding pattern as cities across the globe shut down. We had to make tough decisions around where to focus our resources. We ultimately had to readjust our targets to go after the consumer market first and the enterprise/events/B2B market second. Being nimble and agile with your choices helps your business maintain a sense of flexibility in hard times.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Purewrist in the future?
Ari Gardiner: It’s important to exercise consistently and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Always keep moving forward, innovating and executing. There are no guarantees in life, but to make things happen and move your company forward, you need to constantly problem-solve to grow.
Suresh Palliparambil: Exercise, do something that is relaxing and switch off when you need to. Find new hobbies that can help you disconnect from the world. Recently, my family and I have taken up hiking on the weekend as a way to unplug and reset. Many of us are now working from home, so being active and creating plans or picking up new hobbies can give you better separation between work and your personal life. Just as we explore new avenues for our personal lives, businesses need to also explore new avenues and applications. This can help them stay afloat and generate cashflow despite what’s going on in the world. Continuous innovation helps to create multiple revenue streams and lessen the blow by ensuring your eggs aren’t all in one basket.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ari Gardiner: Our competitors are the traditional methods of payment; cash, cards, mobile payments. While they are technically our competitors in the sense that people are currently using these options, at the end of the day, we are also a complement to these existing solutions. Disrupters don’t have to completely take over a space to be successful; in many cases, they help people ease into adoption by complimenting and simplifying the technologies and tools that they already use.
Suresh Palliparambil: Our competitors are the traditional prepaid card issuers, cash and the traditional wearable companies that people are already used to. We’re bringing something completely novel into a very traditional market. Our Purewrist platform and Purewrist GO technology is a combination of what people are doing with cards, digital banking and wearables and ultimately creating a solution that is affordable to the mass market. We’re not replacing these other options but giving consumers the choice to make these transactions in a safer, more secure way without the high costs. From an enterprise perspective, we’re letting businesses accessorize and brand contactless payments. To stay competitive, we continue to stay agile, keep close tabs on the competition and learn from what they’re doing so we can improve from that.
Your final thoughts?
Ari Gardiner: Thank you for this opportunity. Things are changing in the world, but there are also a number of opportunities for innovation, and we’re excited to be a part of it.
Suresh Palliparambil: Thank you for the opportunity. Being a startup is fun; it’s challenging, but we enjoy the thrill of it. It’s not easy to be an entrepreneur during these trying times, and you need to consider a number of different aspects to stay in the game. At the same time, as an entrepreneur, your destiny is in your own hands, and you have the opportunity to shape your own future.