How the pandemic made this 30 year old Australia youngest self – made billionaire

Nick Molnar is something of an Australian icon.

You can’t really digest what’s happening
because a lot has happened very fast.

The 30-year-old is credited with reinventing
the spending habits of millions of millennials,

earning a spot on his country’s young rich
list in the process.

on that we wouldn’t watch the share price.

And now, as the pandemic supercharges his
payments business,

its soaring stock price has shot him to billionaire status.

My wife always says just don’t look down.

Nick is the co-founder and co-CEO of Afterpay,
a “buy now, pay later” platform that allows

users to stagger the cost of their purchases
over regular, interest-free installments.

Here’s how it works: Say I want to buy
these $200 trainers,

but don’t want to part with all the cash upfront.

I can make an initial payment of $50, followed
by $50 every two weeks

until the full cost is paid off.

If I miss a repayment, I’ll be charged a
late fee and blocked from the platform until

my payments are up to date.

We pay the retailer the next day and then
we assume all the risk, so it’s our responsibility

to recover the funds from the customer on
the due date.

The business was born here in Australia back
in 2014 and in just six years has turned into

a multibillion-dollar public company.

It now has more than 11 million active users
and almost 64,000 merchants.

From a little idea … it’s been amazing
to see it really catch on.

Nick, a commerce graduate from the University
of Sydney,

noticed that young people’s spending habits
were changing.

His theory?

That young people are growing skeptical
of traditional financial products,

like credit cards, which can lead to spiraling debts.

So Nick teamed up with co-founder Anthony
Eisen, an investment officer, 18 years his senior,

to create a millennial-friendly alternative for deferred payments.

I actually started Afterpay with my neighbor.

Anthony and I got to know each other and we
started speaking about this trend

So, becoming an adult during that period of
time was pretty telling when you saw parents,

or friends of parents, lose their jobs.

And essentially, the millennial cohort as

According to a survey, just one in three adults
aged 18 to 29 owned a credit card.

That compares to more than half of 30 to 49-year-olds

and around two-thirds of those aged 50 and above.

After launching in late 2014, the business
saw quick growth.

Cash-tight consumers liked the four equal
installments model, while retailers,

keen to boost sales, were happy to pay a small
commission to get on the platform.

completely on its head.

Where, rather than charging the consumer,
you charge the retailer a small fee.

Within two years, Afterpay managed to raise
$18 million on the Australian Securities Exchange

in a heavily oversubscribed initial public offering.

Even the Kardashian sisters are fans.

An endorsement from Kim Kardashian on her
social media accounts in 2018 to her millions of followers,

boosted the company’s international profile
among millennials and Gen Z.

Her sister’s cosmetic brand, Kylie Skin, is
now one of thousands of major retailers,

including Lululemon and Adidas, that have piled
onto the platform as consumer habits evolve.

During the spring lockdowns, Visa credit card
transactions in the U.S.

fell by more than 30% year-on-year.

While debit card transactions also plunged
as consumers piled on retail and home
improvement goods during their stay indoors.

If you look at what’s transpiring in the
current pandemic, similar to what we saw in

the 2008 Financial Crisis, there’s this
distinct shift away from credit to debit cards.

That has also supercharged Afterpay’s growth.

After dropping to A$8 in March 2020, the share
price was up 1,300%

to hit a high of A$105 in November.

Meanwhile in May, Chinese tech giant Tencent
paid more than $200 million

for a 5% stake in the company.

That has made Afterpay one of the hottest
stocks in Australia and catapulted

to billionaire status.

Sometimes the share price goes up or goes down.

I don’t think it means we’re any better
or worse business over those periods of time.

Morgan Stanley is now predicting the stock
could hit A$120 by the end of 2020.

Afterpay’s rapid growth hasn’t been entirely
well-received, though.

Critics have argued that the platform encourages
excessive and unsustainable consumer spending.

Currently, buy now, pay later platforms such
as Afterpay, Affirm and Klarna
Hianyang Chan, a Sydney-based senior consultant
at market research firm Euromonitor, told me more.

it as how buy
now, pay later platforms allow consumers to

be more conscious and cautious about their spending.

But at the same time, it can also be seen
in another manner where, because of the lack

of regulations, it might also put vulnerable
people in a position where they might be spending

more than what they actually have.

Afterpay reports that 90% of its transactions
are paid on time.

Overall, late fees accounted for less than
14% of the company’s total income in 2020,

with the remainder coming from merchant fees
– the 4 to 6% commission it charges retailers.

The most important point about our business
that many aren’t too familiar with is that,

the moment someone goes late on one
installment payment,

they can’t keep shopping until they pay that late
payment back.

Regulators are also concerned that small businesses
are unable to absorb the merchant fees

as easily as larger businesses, hurting competition.

I think the regulatory bodies are seeing not
only how can we protect the consumers,

but also how can we protect the merchants as well.

I think this is something that is going to
be an ongoing conversation for many years to come.

Nick said the company is currently in voluntary
discussions with regulators about such concerns.

Even as the industry continues to grow apace,
Afterpay has yet to turn in a profit.

In 2020, Afterpay’s revenue doubled to $382
million while losses halved to $16.8 million.

The business is now focused on driving that
growth forward.

Key targets for that include the U.S., the U.K. and Europe.

To that end, Nick will be based in the States
to lead their international expansion,

while his co-CEO Anthony will be based in Australia.

Different regions are in different phases of growth.

In Australia, one in three millennials use
our service every month.

In the U.S., we processed over $4 billion
of volume in the past 12 months.

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