What We Discuss With Bisola Asolo
If a business has a subscription pricing model and wants to accept both fiat & crypto as payments, that would mean using a combination of fiat and crypto payment gateways.
For example, Stripe works for fiat, and Coinbase Commerce works for crypto payments.
The issue here is that the merchant has to manually reconcile payments flowing through these 2 payment gateways, and so far a unified web3 billing solution did not exist.
Enter Super, a Web3 Subscription billing platform acting as a bridge between fiat and crypto payments.
Super allows you to manage your subscribers' data and their subscriptions and helps you to get rid of the manual work involved in connecting fiat and crypto payments.
On Episode 51, I spoke with its Co-Founder & CEO, Bisola Asolo.
- Episode intro (00:37)
- Story of Bisola co-founding Super (2:20)
- Subscription billing platform v/s Payment gateway (3:53)
- Are web3 teams collecting payments in crypto today (7:14)
- Thank you to our sponsor Cryptoworth (8:31)
- What is Super, & features for subscription billing (10:05)
- Onboarding new customers (12:05)
- Finding 1st customers with Super (13:23)
- Use cases & how clients use Super (15:13)
- Thank you to our sponsor Convoy Finance (16:51)
- Roadmap & upcoming milestones (18:46)
- Challenges on adoption from web2 businesses (20:15)
- Lessons learned in scaling a business (22:48)
- Closing thoughts (24:37)
[00:00:00] Umar: Welcome to The Accountant Quits, brought to you by Cryptoworth, a crypto accounting solution to help you automate your crypto bookkeeping and Convoy Finance, a crypto accounting firm specializing to provide digital assets bookkeeping, and tax support. On this podcast, we discuss how blockchain will impact the accounting profession and how accountants should prepare themselves for the future of work.
[00:00:24] Umar: My name is Umar, your host, and even if some might refer to me as the accountant gone rogue, my job is to provide you with blockchain knowledge you need that will be relevant for the accounting industry as a whole.
[00:00:37] Umar: Welcome to Episode 51. If a business has a subscription pricing model and wants to accept both fiat and crypto as payments, that would mean using a combination of fiat and crypto payment gateways.
[00:00:51] Umar: For example, Stripe works for fiat and Coinbase Commerce works for crypto payments. The issue here is that the merchant has to manually reconcile payments flowing through these two payment gateways and so far a unified billing solution did not exist.
[00:01:07] Umar: Enter Super, a web3 subscription billing platform acting as a bridge between fiat and crypto payments.
[00:01:15] Umar: In short, Super is the ChargeBee of web3. It allows you to manage your subscribers data and their subscriptions and helps you to get rid of the manual work involved in connecting fiat and crypto payments. Today I have the pleasure to be speaking with its co founder and CEO, Bisola Asolo, a 26 year old fearless entrepreneur bringing on chain commerce to the masses.
[00:01:39] Umar: In this episode today, you will learn what's the difference between a payment gateway and a subscription billing platform, how web3 teams manage fiat and crypto payments, an overview of Super and how it automates subscription billing for web3 teams, use cases of web3 merchants using Super and much more.
[00:02:00] Umar: Bisola, welcome. And thanks for making the time to be here.
[00:02:03] Bisola: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me, Umar.
[00:02:06] Umar: To start, can you share a bit about your background, how you first became interested with blockchain and the story that eventually led you to co founding Super?
[00:02:15] Bisola: Yeah, absolutely. So my background is probably a classic one of a TradFi person being converted into crypto.
[00:02:23] Bisola: So I actually started my career in finance. So I spent a tiny bit of time at J. P. Morgan in Asset Management before spending the bulk of my career at Ernst & Young in consulting, specifically the advisory practice. That was then, that was when I really fell down the crypto rabbit hole, which would have been about seven years ago at this point.
[00:02:40] Bisola: And I think for me personally, as I was consuming more and more information, I find it very challenging to get access to higher quality technical information on how the blockchain actually works. So Merkle trees, hashing algorithms. That content just didn't exist. And so I felt the best way for me to contribute to the space was to begin writing.
[00:02:59] Bisola: I've always said that if I wasn't in tech or startups, I'd be a writer. So I ended up bootstrapping and running what essentially became the web3 media publication and I quit my job to do it full time. And so I think a bit like you, I suppose, except it would be Consultant Quits. But seriously, I ended up selling that business to work on a bigger problem.
[00:03:17] Bisola: But specifically solve some challenges that I faced when it came to accepting fiat and crypto payments. So I ended up joining an accelerator in London called Entrepreneur First, or EF, with a mind to solve these challenges. And that's where I met my co founder, Adrian. So initially we hacked on some projects together.
[00:03:31] Bisola: Funnily enough, one of them was a no code smart contract platform where we made a bit of revenue. So in that project, we ran into the same problems that I faced previously when it came to accepting fiat payments. And that's when Super was really born, because it was a case of, like, if we keep running into this problem again and again...
[00:03:48] Bisola: Someone should probably go solve it
[00:03:53] Umar: So now, before we speak about what you're building with Super, I want to provide the listener with an understanding of the difference between a subscription billing platform and a payment gateway. So, like I mentioned in the intro, Stripe is often used as a payment gateway for fiat.
[00:04:09] Umar: So if my business has a subscription pricing model, why is it not sufficient to simply collect all my subscribers data and payments through Stripe? And I would just add, what are some of the propositions of using a different tool like a subscription billing platform?
[00:04:26] Bisola: Yeah, there's definitely a nuanced difference between, you know, a gateway and a billing platform.
[00:04:31] Bisola: I would say personally that, you know, the core differentiator today is the primary function of a gateway really is to authorize and process a payment between a merchant's bank account and a customer's bank account. And that could be for goods and services sold, whereas the actual core function of a billing platform is helping recurring payments in managing, you know, what I call the subscription life cycle.
[00:04:52] Bisola: So that would be everything from having certain billing models out of the box, for example, usage based billing, where a customer is being charged for how much they used, or flat based, where you charge a customer the same price every month, as well as a long tail of subscription services, like discounts, like payment reminders, like tax management, and more.
[00:05:11] Bisola: Billing platforms do not process payments themselves, but instead they integrate with gateway providers like Stripe, or Adyen, or Checkout.com, whereas gateways tend not to have the same depth of functionality that a billing platform would have, hence why the two tend to coexist together. And so what I would say is that the two core reasons why a merchant would use a billing platform on top of Stripe as opposed to just being reliant on Stripe is two fold.
[00:05:35] Bisola: So the first would be essentially to get access to more advanced billing functionality like Dunning or tax management. So for example, being able to automatically sync your subscription payments into your accounting tool like QuickBooks or Xero. So this is a functionality that Chargebee, which is a leading billing platform, offers out of the box immediately.
[00:05:53] Bisola: Whereas Stripe actually doesn't do that, which is quite surprising. But that would be a pretty good example of more advanced functionality that Stripe doesn't do, hence why a merchant would want to use Chargebee to be on top for billing. And the second reason really relates to being able to access multiple gateways and methods.
[00:06:08] Bisola: So today, if you were to use Stripe alone as a gateway, you become limited to Stripe and the payment method that Stripe supports. Whereas with a billing platform, because you can integrate multiple gateways at the same time, so Stripe, Adyen, Checkout allows you to offer more payment methods that your customer can pay you through across all the jurisdictions that you sell into.
[00:06:29] Bisola: And so I would personally say with the rise of APMs or alternative payment providers, you're seeing the flexibility become more important to merchants and being able to offer more diverse payment methods.
[00:06:39] Umar: You mentioned dunning, for people who are not familiar with this term, can you give an example of what a dunning feature would be in a subscription billing platform?
[00:06:48] Bisola: Yeah, absolutely. So dunning simply relates to essentially trying to recover a late or a failed payment. And so if I signed up for a Netflix subscription and I don't pay one month, Netflix might send me some reminder emails to pay. Or if my card is actually about to expire, Netflix might send me a reminder to update my card information.
[00:07:08] Bisola: So dunning would be essentially the attempt to recover or prevent failed payments from happening.
[00:07:13] Umar: All right. Very interesting. Now, from what you've gathered about the web3 industry, how are projects with a subscription pricing model collecting payments today? Are they mostly doing it in fiat or if it's being done in crypto, how are these teams doing it?
[00:07:29] Umar: I mentioned using Coinbase Commerce in the intro.
[00:07:32] Bisola: Yeah, that's a, that's a great question. So from what we've seen and from where we sit on the fiat side, Stripe definitely dominates. I think most teams use Stripe as a primary gateway of choice when collecting fiat payments. On the crypto side, you know, without a doubt, it's Coinbase Commerce.
[00:07:47] Bisola: And then you have a couple others like BitPay or CoinPayments. And, we do have upcoming contenders as well, like Loop, who are looking to offer native recurring payments. In terms of the split between crypto payments and fiat payments for a web3 merchant, it really does vary actually. I would say it depends on the segment.
[00:08:05] Bisola: So we've seen segments where it's 80 percent fiat and 20 percent crypto, but say in the crypto publication niche or the auditing and security niche, it could be 100 percent crypto or 90 percent crypto. One thing I'll definitely say having been in the space for the past seven years and watching it develop, there's been a steady march in the number of projects supporting crypto payments out of the gate, which has been really interesting to see actually over time as the tool, tooling gets better with stable coins, et cetera.
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[00:10:05] Umar: So for the past month, you've been working on a new category in web3, labeled as Web3 Billing, to assist merchants who accept crypto payments alongside traditional fiat payments.
[00:10:16] Umar: Can you tell us a bit about the features of Super for subscription billing, whether it's for one off or recurring billing and basically how Super is consolidating the data from both these fiat and crypto gateways?
[00:10:30] Bisola: Yeah, absolutely. So really how Super helps when it comes to subscription billing is we integrate with the fiat sufficient gateways that a team or a merchant is using.
[00:10:39] Bisola: So on the fiat side, that would be Stripe. On the crypto side, that would be tools like Coinbase Commerce, for example, although they don't offer necessarily subscription out of the box, it's more manual one time payments, but that is a modified version that we essentially help teams with today and how Super really solves this problem is we bring all that data into one platform, through Super by consolidating both the Stripe payments and the Commerce payments.
[00:11:03] Bisola: But the other unique thing that Super is also really good at is we push that data into any platform that a team might want to use as their source of truth. So a team doesn't have to necessarily use Super as a source of truth. We can also push the crypto payments coming from Coinbase into Stripe. And so a team can then use, also use Stripe as a source of truth if they so wish.
[00:11:22] Bisola: And so really the core problem that Super is solving is web2 payment gateways and tools do not communicate with the crypto side. And so Super really is that bridge that allows the information, the data to flow more easily. And so I would say more broadly, though, the problem of Web3 billing isn't just limited to Stripe.
[00:11:40] Bisola: It also encompasses other fiat payment methods like bank transfers or PayPal, essentially any popular way that a web3 merchant might want to get paid. And so Super really is doing what I would class as the tough but necessary work integrating all of these different payment methods and gateways to give merchants as much flexibility as possible.
[00:11:59] Bisola: And today we mainly do that through publicly accessible API keys that these gateways and methods have.
[00:12:05] Umar: Could you tell us how onboarding currently works with Super? Like if I have a subscription pricing model and I want to accept, I'm accepting payments in fiat and crypto. And how should I start using Super?
[00:12:18] Umar: And maybe what are the features that I will have instantly when I register?
[00:12:23] Bisola: Yeah, so onboarding is very straightforward. Today, we onboard teams by a call. But if you were to access our subscription billing module, all you would need to do is connect what we call sources that we will use to pull your data from.
[00:12:35] Bisola: So that would be Stripe on the fiat side or Coinbase Commerce on the crypto side, or even PayPal. Essentially, whichever data source you want to connect those subscription billing module to, you can connect that to Super. And so we would also set up your bank account information and wallet addresses as well.
[00:12:51] Bisola: Just so you have that data showing on your invoice that are being sent out to your customers. And so we onboarded several teams last week. It essentially happens over a simple 20 minute call. And so the features that teams get access to essentially is any feature you would expect in the traditional subscription management platform.
[00:13:07] Bisola: So that would be everything from upgrading, downgrading a customer, issuing refunds, the magic being, of course, that you can do that natively within Super, it affects both your crypto customers and your fiat customers. And so that is really the core functionality you get access to out of the box when using Super.
[00:13:23] Umar: I want to ask you in terms of your product market fit as a founder, what were you searching for to find product market fit in web three billing, it is an emerging category. And how did you get your first customers on Super?
[00:13:37] Bisola: Yeah, that's a, that's a great question. Honestly, using my past experience running the crypto media publication that I alluded to earlier has been a phenomenal help.
[00:13:48] Bisola: Because we're essentially building Super to solve a problem that we as founders have personally experienced. So we use that as a guide to help prioritize, you know, features along with customer feedback. So our first customer actually comes from that crypto media background. You know, as you're kind of building that space, you form a network and the connections.
[00:14:05] Bisola: And so it was a case of saying, Hey, look, you know, we all have this problem. I built a solution. You should use Super. And so that was really how we won our first customer was just through actually just solving a problem for ourselves.
[00:14:17] Umar: And in terms of pricing right now, how does pricing currently work?
[00:14:21] Bisola: Yeah, probably like most startups, using Super today is totally free. We're not charging quite yet. Our focus really is in accruing just great feedback from teams. But when we do decide to charge, it would be a subscription fee model as opposed to a transaction fee model. Again, because Super is not a gateway. A subscription model we found is the best way of really providing value to our users and capturing that value, if that's helpful.
[00:14:47] Umar: That makes sense. I want to speak also a bit about the use cases for the different clients you've onboarded so far. I mean, without revealing any of your client names, that might be confidential, but for the listeners, can you paint us a picture of the tech stack some of your clients were using before and how using Super now is helping them to automate the kind of manual work they had before to connect fiat and crypto.
[00:15:13] Bisola: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the bread and butter, you know, customers or use cases really is when a merchant, you know, is a SaaS company or a web3 SaaS company, essentially accepting crypto and fiat payments, right?
[00:15:25] Bisola: And so on the fiat side, I know we've said this again and again, but most teams really do use Stripe. Crypto side, again, most teams really do use Coinbase Commerce. And so, the problem that these teams have is, you know, 20, 30 percent of their payments is coming through, say, Coinbase Commerce, and then the rest through Stripe.
[00:15:42] Bisola: But as a scaling company, you want to have that payment data, that billing information all in one place, or else you are fragmenting your workflow between Coinbase Commerce and Stripe. And so what this team we're working with currently, what they were doing is they would manually recreate the invoice in Stripe, attach a Coinbase Commerce link in the member field.
[00:16:01] Bisola: And then send that via Stripe to the customer. The problem that is created though is the customer is manually, you know, every month creating this Coinbase Commerce checkout link and pasting it in the memo of Stripe. That's the first problem. And the second problem is once the Coinbase Commerce checkout has been paid.
[00:16:18] Bisola: The customer or the merchant then has to manually mark the Stripe invoice as paid. And so, in its, you know, alone sounds very simple, but as you're scaling to processing, say, 150 payments a month, it quickly becomes unfeasible. And so, this team, what they did, essentially used Super to automate the entire workflow.
[00:16:37] Bisola: Such that Super was able to automatically generate the Coinbase Commerce checkout link and more importantly automatically mark the Stripe invoice as paid later on. So that's how that's really one that i'll say the core use cases of Super is the automation between the fiat gateway and the crypto gateway.
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[00:18:20] Umar: I want to speak a bit about your roadmap and upcoming milestones. So we're still in the early days of Super you've achieved good traction so far. You've mentioned some of the names of the clients you've been working on.
[00:18:32] Umar: I mean, before we started recording today and congrats for that. I want to ask you, if you could share a bit about what's upcoming on the roadmap, some of the next features that are essential for subscription billing platform to have.
[00:18:46] Bisola: No, absolutely. I think this is part of the reason why the teams that we work with get excited to work with Super, because our goal isn't just to build a billing platform that web3 merchants can use to consolidate their crypto and fiat payments.
[00:18:59] Bisola: We're fundamentally building a better billing platform the world has ever seen, period. That is the objective. And so some of the features that I'm excited to be releasing soon is called quotes. So today, most merchants will first send a quote to a customer, forcing an invoice and the customer can then accept. In this process, there's a lot of back and forth.
[00:19:17] Bisola: And so we essentially automated the entire thing by enabling customer to, you know, in a Super checkout, accept the quote and then quickly enter their billing details without further involving merchant. And so we really reduced the time to payment for a merchant which is a big feature for the merchants that we work with currently.
[00:19:34] Bisola: And then another feature we're very, very excited about is called invoice read receipts. Essentially letting a merchant know when an invoice has been seen by a customer and how many times. It sounds kind of creepy. But it does a great job in giving the merchant better predictability or when they're likely to get paid, which is super important. And so these are features that are great, whether you're a web2 merchant or a web3 merchant.
[00:19:55] Bisola: And these are features that don't exist in any other billing platform in the world. It's quite surprising to say. What's Super is the first. And so, we're really excited to keep innovating at the cutting edge with our road map, but hopefully those two kind of feature examples tell you that we're building is fundamentally new and hasn't been done and that's why teams get excited to work with us.
[00:20:14] Umar: The other recurring question on this podcast is around challenges for adoption. So, as a business today, what are the current challenges that you face for businesses to even start to accept crypto? There are web3 teams that are more, I would say knowledgeable about why they should accept crypto, but how are you planning to maybe get adoption from traditional web2 businesses?
[00:20:38] Bisola: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think this is kind of where, you know, where we sit in the merchant value chain. We're actually dependent on other teams who are doing phenomenal jobs. So I would say the two core problems that, you know, being solved that help speed up adoption would be custody and accounting.
[00:20:54] Bisola: So I would say on the accounting side, you know, there's, there's a plethora of tools. Like Cryptio, for example, who the function that they serve really is enables a merchant to feel more comfortable holding assets on chain. And when you're accepting crypto payments, if you're not off ramping immediately, of course, it becomes a necessary tool to have.
[00:21:10] Bisola: And so that's actually a very key component of speeding with adoption when it comes to accepting the payments. On the other side, it's definitely custody. So you have tools like, you know, Copper, for example, that essentially make merchants feel comfortable again, holding crypto assets in a secure way. And I would say those are the fundamental building blocks that are being solved.
[00:21:30] Bisola: That need to continue being solved to really enable merchants to feel comfortable accepting their payments. I've always said that payments is a game of volume. And so what we want to do essentially is access the largest merchants possible. And the largest merchants possible will never feel comfortable accepting crypto payments until you have tools, you know, like Cryptio, the Copper, solving those custody and accounting problems.
[00:21:50] Umar: Yeah, I completely agree with you. Because I'm an accountant, I can speak for the accountant, but I think it's like today, it's so important for the accountant to start understanding how to account for transactions on chain. And there's not a lot of platforms basically to where accountants can go to educate themselves.
[00:22:09] Umar: And I'm giving a little teaser, but with The Accountant Quits, I'm expecting or I'm planning rather currently to launch like a new product on this very soon where we can basically help more accountants learn on chain accounting.
[00:22:23] Bisola: Yeah, I think that's a phenomenal idea as someone who used to work in an accounting firm. It is a necessary function.
[00:22:29] Umar: Yeah, I completely agree. And it's not easy to learn on chain accounting. I mean, you spend hours learning how to use block explorers and if you're completely not familiar with it, it is, it's a steep learning curve.
[00:22:42] Bisola: Yeah, absolutely. I will be signing up for your course, Umar. Please let me know when it's live.
[00:22:46] Umar: I will. Bisola, Super is not your first entrepreneurial venture. You've previously bootstrapped and sold your first web3 startup at the age of 23 only, which was My Cryptopedia, which essentially is like the equivalent of Investopedia, a platform to learn crypto. What have been some of your learnings building these two products so far?
[00:23:08] Umar: And I'll ask you if, are there some influential figures you look up to in the context of scaling a business?
[00:23:15] Bisola: Yeah, that's a, that's a good question. I feel like you hear this a lot, but I think a big lesson that I've learned is maintaining and scaling extreme customer focus. So I always joke to my co founder that, you know, the classic organizational charts are wrong.
[00:23:31] Bisola: They tend to have the co founders at the top, followed by a bunch of employees. When in reality, it's the customer at the top, and then it's everyone else. We wouldn't have a job without them. And so I'm sure we have a graphic of this somewhere at the company. So I think Jeff was the inspiration behind this to me when he was running Amazon.
[00:23:47] Bisola: You know, he always said you should invest in the long term needs of the customer that will never change and always be true. So for example, merchants will never say, Hey, I want to pay more in fees. Great. How do we then invest on reducing or simplifying transaction fees for our merchants?
[00:24:02] Bisola: Or merchants will never say. Hey, I want it to take longer for me to get paid. Great. So how do we invest on reducing the payout times? And so I would just say extreme customer focus is the biggest lesson I've learned in investing in the long term needs of merchants that will always be true and never change is when the breakthrough innovation really happens.
[00:24:21] Umar: Bisola we're already coming to the end of the podcast today. As closing thoughts has there been anything that we've missed so far that you'd like to share with the listeners or perhaps to wrap up a few key takeaways that you'd like the listener to remember about subscription billing.
[00:24:37] Bisola: Yeah, I mean, I think we definitely covered most of it Umar and thanks for having me.
[00:24:40] Bisola: I think as a, as a closing offer, I'll definitely say, you know, look in payments as a wider space, crypto payments is one of the most exciting categories today. You have a ton of companies being started, innovations happening, whether it's Super, a bunch of others as well. And, you know, I'm super blessed and excited to be building in the space, but I have to do a shout out to Web3 Billing as a category as well.
[00:25:01] Bisola: Because, you know, what is happening right now is a problem that the early internet companies faced in the mid to late 2000s, when they were getting started. Billing platforms did not exist, and so you saw the ascendance of the likes of ChargeBee and Zora come up to solve that problem. The same exact thing is happening today, in that you have a new type of company, web3 merchants, who accept both fiat payments and crypto payments.
[00:25:24] Bisola: But these merchants do not have the tools to help them. And similarly, you're seeing the same ascendance of a new category web3 billing rise to solve that problem. And I'm super pumped and excited every day to be working in this category.
[00:25:36] Umar: Like for businesses to start using more crypto in general. And so far they've been lacking the tools to do so. And I'm super excited for what you're building with Super.
[00:25:45] Bisola: No, absolutely. Thank you so much Umar.
[00:25:47] Umar: There's a last question on this podcast, I like to ask my guests before they leave is, do you have a favorite quote or maxim that you live by?
[00:25:54] Bisola: That's an interesting one. So I think the quote that I live by is. You don't know as much as you think you do.
[00:26:01] Bisola: It's a bit of an odd one. So even though I never practiced, my background is actually as a trained chemist. It's what I studied. And so I've always been aware of how little we know, not just about our universe, but even our own biology as humans. So that quote for me elicits the desire to continuously go out there and find the truth.
[00:26:19] Bisola: You don't know as much as you think you do. So don't fall into the assumptive state and pretend that you do. It's an interesting one, but that's a quote that I live by personally.
[00:26:28] Umar: It's very interesting. Bisola, thanks a lot for making the time to come today. I didn't know much about what subscription billing platform entailed before, to be honest.
[00:26:38] Umar: So just personally for me, it's been great to learn about this topic. About this new category now in Web3 billing, I think you're doing a phenomenal job and Super will be at the forefront for Web3 merchants who want to accept both fiat and crypto. I can't wait to hear more about the companies you've onboarded.
[00:26:55] Bisola: Likewise. And thank you so much for having me. I'm a very big fan of the podcast and excited to support by having an episode go live.
[00:27:02] Umar: For people who want to reach out to you and learn more about Super, how should they do so?
[00:27:07] Bisola: Yeah, they can find out more information on trysuper.co or they can connect with me on LinkedIn.
[00:27:12] Bisola: My name is Bisola Asolo. I'm always posting interesting thought pieces. I'm sure as you're aware Umar, so do feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or say hi on our landing page on trysuper.co.
[00:27:23] Umar: Perfect. Well, thanks a lot again, Bisola, and we'll, I'll see you in Singapore at Token 2049.
[00:27:29] Bisola: Yes, I will see you there. Drinks on me.
[00:27:32] Umar: All right. I would like to thank everyone for listening to this episode. You will find all the links of the episode, show notes, and transcript on the website of The Accountant Quits at theaccountantquits. com. Please note that this content is for general information purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.
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[00:28:17] Umar: We hope to have you with us next time. Bye for now.