The Innovators — A Conversation with Frédéric Stiernon, CEO and Founder of CarPay-Diem

At this year’s Fintech Awards Luxembourg we recognised leading Fintech startups from around the world. In an effort to get to know these startups and their representatives better, we asked them a few questions as a part of our series of interviews: The Innovators.

Frédéric Stiernon, CarPay-Diem CEO

This time we caught up with Frédéric Stiernon, CEO and Founder of CarPay-Diem, who got a special mention by judges for their innovative payment solution.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your company?

I’ve worked in Luxembourg since the start of my career. Six years for Delphi Automotive Systems in Bascharage, then 12 years in banking software company Callatay & Wouters.

In 2012 I launched my first startup. It was a solution to digitalise loyalty cards and always keep them available in the smartphone. A few weeks later I partnered with the mobile payment solution FLASHiZ that was created almost at the same moment. We developed and deployed the mobile payment in Luxembourg, France, Spain and other countries like Indonesia. After two years we sold it to Fexco, an Irish company active in the payment industry.

With Flashiz I had the opportunity to work with various ecosystems such as restaurant, parkings, fuel stations and hyperstores. The fuel industry is the one I chose to work on next.

We are still paying for fuel like our parents did many years ago. There was probably some way to provide a better experience in fuel stations. And this is why, seven months later, I decided to launch CarPay-Diem.

CarPay-Diem allows any mobile app or connected car to activate any fuel pump and manage the payment from inside the car.

The user experience is very simple. When the car arrives at the fuel station the driver’s smartphone or connected car is automatically activated and asked to select the pump number. The driver is then invited to take fuel, and when they place the nozzle back a receipt of the transaction is instantly provided. CarPay-diem manages the whole payment and loyalty program. Drivers also received a commercial promotion from the fuel station based on its profile. They may then decide to leave the station, or to enter into the shop to take advantage of the proposed deal.

CarPay-Diem is not a mobile app. It is a service that integrates in popular mobile apps. As an example, CarPay-Diem will be integrated into the navigation app Glob (www.glop.vip) that counts 3.5 million drivers. Each of them will be able to take fuel with the Glob app after this summer.

Today, our platform is compatible with more than 85,000 fuel stations. This allows us to deploy quickly on the market.

You’ve been working in Fintech for 16 years now. What are the major positive or negative shifts you’ve witnessed during that time?

The positive shift is the emergence of many start-ups that are much more flexible and fast than the older players. They create great opportunities for new ideas to become true leading to disruption in some cases. On the negative side, I must point out the fact that most of the big players in the banking area simulate their interest in start-ups. They say that they believe in the proposed solution, but at the end, they often want to collect enough information to develop something similar internally.

CarPay-Diem seems like a slick and straight-forward product in comparison to some of your more infrastructure-heavy projects. How did it feel adjusting to that?

I’m glad you say that. It “seems” slick and straight-forward, and this is the main goal of CarPay-Diem. Behind the scene, it is another story. It took me 7 months to understand the entire fuel ecosystem. It is a very complex industry in terms of logistics, organisation, finances, margins and technology.

CarPay-Diem hides this complexity. It allows access the fuel pumps with a single API and manages the complexity for our partners.

The goal being to make it simple for everyone.

Obviously your history with payment platforms and loyalty programs has contributed to the concept, what were the other key pieces?

Without doubt I would say “MISTAKES” and “TEAM”.

“Mistakes” because during the FLASHiZ adventure, we made many of them and many fields, marketing, funding, market understanding etc. We were convinced that we had THE great idea and we move forward without listening the market anymore. This is lead us to difficult times. I learned a lot during these five years in the mobile business and I used that experience to design CarPay-Diem. The concept takes into account the errors we did earlier and the result is a solution that perfectly fits in its specific environment.

The CarPay-Diem concept evolved over time between the moment I started working on it and today. This is where the TEAM makes the difference. The CarPay-Diem team is made of experienced professionals and the concept evolved also thank to their experience. The concept is the foundation but it needs everyone’s input to become a reality that generates revenues. A concept without a good team is almost nothing.

What’s your view on the development of the payments industry? Any other interesting use-cases you are tempted to tackle?

The payment industry is evolving almost every day. This comes from regulatory changes and technological evolutions. It is only the start and it is very difficult to forecast where it will go but for sure, many start-ups will start and many will die in the next months. Payments touch everyone’s life, that’s why it is so interesting.

Concerning other use-cases to tackle my answer is very simple. Our technology and concept can be adapted to other industries than fuel but we won’t do it because we want to focus on fuel without being distracted. The only exception will be the CarPay-Diem connectivity with electric charging poles with which we’ll have a pilot operational before the end of the year. We stay focus and won’t look at other ecosystems. This is also why I don’t work on other start-up idea at all.

What motivated you to apply to the Fintech Awards Luxembourg?

We apply to several start-up awards or contests over the last weeks. CarPay-Diem is a brand-new link between the payment and the automotive industry. Our objective was see how professionals will rate our solution.

CarPay-Diem was first selected by Valeo, between dozens of start-ups from around the globe. This selection allowed us to participate to Vivatech 2017 in Paris, one of the largest innovation & technology event in Europe.

A few weeks later, we were positively surprized when KPMG announced the list of the finalists of the Fintech Awards. The competition was very high with great start-ups from around the world and we were still in the race. We received the “Coup de Coeur” from the jury made of financial professionals and this is for us a great recognition for the work done until now.

LHoFT CEO Nasir Zubairi, CarPay-Diem CTO Kevin Lloyd, Georges Bock of KPMG, Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna

Both events created additional visibility for CarPay-Diem and this is also something very positive.

What do you think is the most attractive feature of Luxembourg as a potential destination for Fintech companies?

The capacity of Luxembourg government and local regulation authorities to anticipate the future and to be ready for the changes before the rest of the world.

Any personal insight about the world of financial technology or entrepreneurship you want to pass on to readers?

Luxembourg has launched several initiatives in order to help entrepreneurs to start their own business and this is not only for the Fintech. There is no more excuses not to start now. ;-)

I’m sure that many of your readers have great ideas of new businesses but are afraid to quit their job to try to make it real. Only the first step counts. I believe that it is worth trying than have regrets later on…

Yes it is a risk and yes it isn’t easy every day. But yes, it is a lot of fun and every step in the good direction is a small success we are all proud of.

I’m convinced that everyone is able to launch his own business and I would even say that everyone should try.

Luxembourg has launched several initiatives in order to help entrepreneurs to start their own business and this is not only for the Fintech. There is no more excuses not to start now. ;-)

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