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APX Voices

Lama: Sharing expenses sucks, so these founders created a way for people to pay together

Meet Lina, Edward and Elena. The founders of Lama, who make sharing bills a “one tap” affair.

Let’s face it: finance is inherently social. You pay for things with people as frequently — if not more — as with yourself. However, today financial platforms are stuck in the post-payment management world, making sharing experiences a hassle and an awkward experience.

You know how it goes. You’re having a great time with your friends and the bill arrives. The awkward silence fills the room as no one wants to front the bill and chase people for money back. The waiter is looking at your friends scouting for a volunteer.

The amount of times this happened to Co-Founder and CEO Elena Churilova with her friends, colleagues and partner was endless, and yet there was no way around it. She realized that the problem was at the get-go, that people were not able to pay together so they were dependent on several solutions. “If people can play together, shouldn’t they be able to pay together?”. This was when she first thought of a shared debit card that pays & splits each payment, instantly.

The concept was almost stupidly simple: a group of friends share a card that, when used for say, a dinner, only pulls their share of the total dinner charge from their bank account. This happens all in the background and the waiter is oblivious that the payment has been split. The setup is as easy as creating a group on WhatsApp, it only takes seconds. The shared virtual card can be used like a regular card to your heart’s desire: at restaurants, cafes, for flights, hotels, rent, utilities and the list goes on.

Elena and Lina’s idea is actually pretty obvious — why hasn’t anyone come up with it yet? “Now it’s perfect timing,” says Elena “we’re at the intersection of the shift in consumer behavior and tech advancements to make a product like this possible. Since the pandemic, younger people have switched to contactless payments and Google Pay has finally rolled out across all of Europe. Meanwhile, open banking initiated payments made it possible to build new payment flows”.

Elena and Lina met in Amsterdam where they quickly realized they had the same frustrations around how money was managed, but for different reasons. Elena was concerned about all the steps and apps she had to use to manage her shared finances after making payments, while Lina felt that tools aside, the conversations to get paid back, or pay people back, were so awkward that she would put them off. Ideating the solution came naturally.

They equally had varying backgrounds which allowed them to tackle opposite sides of the business. Elena, having built the first virtual card solution back at TripActions, sketched the first payment flows & architecture while tapping into her payments network to establish key partnerships. Lina leaned into her background in monetisation and architecture to focus on building profitable business models and create a human-centered experience for users.

The next step was to find the right technical partner who could bring the automagical vision to life. In other words, a CTO was needed. Edward Poot was an evident fit — no stranger to payments, as he was coming from Adyen and had already acted as CTO at hyper-growth startup Felyx. A coder at heart, he had been building apps for fun since the age of 7.

The founders are laser focused on bringing their MVP live, starting with the virtual card solution. But they won’t stop there — on a mission to simplify payments once and for all, they are already working on their next product that will fully enable account-to-account payments. Elena says, “It’s an exciting time to be able to build the future of consumer payments with open-banking at its core. Our vision is to drastically streamline payments, enabling people to pay account-to-account everywhere.”

To get early access to Lama, click here and you will be able to register for their waiting list.

Follow Lama’s journey on LinkedIn.

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