How This Tech Startup Built a Company Culture Through Physical Exercise

For many CEOs, the word “team” is a metaphor, a way to describe the attitude and level of commitment they want from their employees.

For Benjamin du Haÿs, the CEO of mobile payments startup Mobeewave, it’s a little more than that.

He says he’s trying to build a “company culture around helping each other and suffering together,” he says.

Before meetings, the Mobeewave team does pushups together, 10 for every person attending the meeting. There are also daily stretching sessions and a personal trainer who visits the office twice a week.

“On a normal day we do 50 to 200 pushups together,” he says. “The idea is to do some hard physical activity together.”

He says he wants his employees to think of Mobeewave as an Olympic team and he says that exercising together will help build the level of camaraderie and communication needed.

“We are in competition right now,” he says.

Du Haÿs, who was a rower for 20 years and competed at the highest national levels in France, as well as internationally, says that his focus on building a company culture around sport comes from this history.

Rowing, he says, is a team effort—there are eight people in the boat and all of them have to row together as one. He wants to bring that kind of teamwork to his office.

Du Haÿs is particularly active; he bikes to work every day year-round, making a two-and-a-half-hour commute even in the midst of Montreal’s frigid winters.

“To me, it’s a way to leave my stress and bad energy at the office and to arrive at home with a very open mind and new fresh ideas,” he says.

While physical activity has always been important for du Haÿs, he says he really brought that passion to the office when he St-Lawrence river by sailboat with the rest of his executive team.

The crossing, north of Quebec City, took two days. It was the first time any of them had sailed.

“You have to stay away during the night and you have to be active to make sure that the boat is going in the right direction, so we decide at one point to do some pushups to stay awake and to stay active,” he says. “We did perhaps 2,000 pushups during the two days … we discovered the power of doing pushups together.

Exercise “is part of the human experience here at Mobeewave,” he says.

As the company grows, it’s a way to break down some of the barriers that might emerge between management and employees. After all, everybody is equal when they’re down on the floor, doing pushups.

“To me, the most important thing is building the team,” du Haÿs says. “We have to put everyone in the mindset that only winning is everything.”

Mobeewave Wants to Turn Smartphones into Payment Terminals

The way we pay at retail stores has changed pretty dramatically in recent years.

Credit and debit cards have eclipsed cash as the preferred form of payment, especially here in Canada, and even those technologies have seen changes, with embedded chips replacing magnetic strips.

But even now, as contactless payment technologies are beginning to supersede chips, the way merchants accept those payments hasn’t really changed since digital terminals replaced the old carbon copy swipe machines.

While a few companies have introduced tools that allow merchants to accept card-based payments using phones and tablets, they’re all hardware accessories that requiring merchants to have an additional device.

There can be other limitations. Some of the most popular card-reading dongles can’t be used with Interac, the most-used form of payment in Canada.

But a Montreal-based startup is trying to change that and it’s already won over Visa, MasterCard, Interac and one the world’s largest phone makers. Mobeewave has developed technology that will allow merchants to accept credit and debit card payments on their phones – without the need for additional hardware – using contactless near field communication.

It’s something that will “define a new stand standard,” says Maxime de Nanclas, Mobeewave’s COO and co-founder.

In mid-July, the company plans to launch a pilot project that will see 6,000 and 10,000 Mobeewave-ready smartphones released for merchants to start “accepting payment in the field,” de Nanclas says.

While Mobeewave’s solution is primarily software-based, specific hardware is required to use it.

The pilot project will be launched in conjunction with a smartphone maker and while de Nanclas wouldn’t say who Mobeewave is working with, he did say it was of the three largest phone makers in the world. While the need for new phones may slow adoption, de Nanclas doesn’t expect it to slow things dramatically, after all, the turnover rate for smartphones is one-and-a-half to two years, he says.

The pilot project will also see Mobeewave work with banks to help get its phones into the hands of merchants. It’s the strategy de Nanclas says the company plant to take – targeting banks and service providers rather than directly courting merchants.

“We’re not Square,” says de Nanclas. “Square could be a customer.”

Things are going well for Mobeewave, which raised $6.5 million in February but it’s been a long journey to reach this point.

The company spent over two years developing its technology, securing several patents in the process. Security was a major focus but there were also other technical challenges.

Some phone makers “have tried and failed” to do what Mobeewave has done, de Nanclas says.

“It takes a lot of different expertise,” he says. “You have to think differently.”

They also had to get industry giants on-board.

“In our space there are a lot of big players,” de Nanclas says. Winning over banks and the original equipment manufacturers that make parts for smartphones was the first step.

“When we see their eyes at the OEMs and the banks, we know its big,” he says. 

Those partnerships helped get the big credit card companies to approve Mobeewave’s product.

There will be some limitations during the pilot project, right now, contactless payments can’t be used in Canada for purchases over $100. The next step will be to allow customers to enter their pin codes in the Mobeewave, app though that will come later.

With the launch approaching, Mobeewave is growing fast, de Nanclas says the company plans to double its headcount from 25 to 50 people by the end of the year and he’s currently on the hunt for talent.
“It’s tough but it’s fun,” de Nanclas says. “We know we have a game changer.”

Mobeewave Raises $6.5 Million Series A Round to Advance NFC Payments

Mobeewave has secured a Series A investment.

The $6.5 million round was led by SBT Venture Capital.

The Montreal-born startup says the funding will “fuel rapid growth and support new market openings worldwide, while fast tracking the roll out of its products roadmaps.”

The Canadian company claims to be the world’s first and only provider of dongle-free NFC mobile payment terminal solutions enabling payment acceptance on smart devices.

“The strategic investment from SBT as a FinTech-focus fund and financial-networks oriented actor will be key to our success, for example by supporting the simultaneous deployment of new markets,” said Benjamin du Haÿs, CEO of Mobeewave.

“This new funding will encourage the development of our growing team while boosting the roll out of our various product maps,” said Maxime de Nanclas, COO of Mobeewave.

“We believe Mobeewave has the potential to become the leading provider of mobile payment acceptance services,” said Mircea Mihaescu, Managing Partner of SBT Venture Capital.

Mobeewave was founded in 2011 by du Haÿs and de Nanclas.