NextMontreal has a profile and Q&A session with Ferhan and Firoz Patel [Firoz pictured], the two brothers who founded Montreal’s AlertPay as a start-up in 2004.
You can’t really call them an unknown, or just another start up anymore — after six years in business, they’ve been getting the word out about their service and they’re now registering around 5,000 new accounts daily.
AlertPay situates themselves as an alternative to PayPal. One big complaint many people have had with PayPal is that multi-level marketers (think Avon, Amway, Mary Kay, etc.) who use the service are in violation of PayPal’s terms of service. This means that they get shut down, and now they can’t do business on the Internet.
NextMontreal: How was AlertPay originally financed? Have you ever raised external financing?
Ferhan: Believe it or not, during the R&D phase of developing the application for AlertPay.com between 2004 and 2005, we (founders) actually had to fire ourselves to maintain enough funds to pay for our developers. During this time, to make ends meat, I took on another job at an IT consulting company working there during the days, and putting in my nights and weekends to work on AlertPay. We’ve always been self-financed and put everything we had to get it off the ground.
NextMontreal: How is it different from PayPal? Seems like a big gamble to go after a giant like that.
Ferhan: We’re different from PayPal in quite a few ways and we’re also quite similar. We’re different in terms of our business model, the types of businesses we support, more funding options, more withdrawal options, more currencies, and we support more countries than PayPal to receive payments. When we first started AlertPay, we never planned to compete against PayPal. We planned to just service a market need that PayPal was neglecting or
NextMontreal: Having been in business for 6 years, what’s the #1 lesson learned you can share with other startups?
Ferhan: Read, research, and ask questions. There are no easy answers, and unfortunately, trial and error is still the best teacher. You will end up wearing multiple hats during the course of growing the business; I personally learnt to handle HR, payroll, accounting, product management, business analysis, marketing, and system administration. Pretty much if a role needed to be filled and we didn’t have the required staff to do it, I would do it myself. I thrive at challenges, and just because I don’t know something or don’t have the training, it never meant I couldn’t figure it out. The way I see it is that if someone out there knows the skills, and they didn’t need to do years of school for it, I can train myself.
You can read the full interview here.