The extraordinary journey of Switzerland’s richest businessman


Photography by Michael Buholzer 2019, all rights reserved.

Founder of start-up Checkout.com, Genevan Guillaume Pousaz is credited with an estimated $23 billion fortune. Based in London, his company has the largest global capitalization in the fintech sector. Portrait of a very discreet businessman.

This content was posted on November 01, 2022 – 08:53

Used to swinging between London and Dubai, Guillaume Pousaz (41) has everything of a rock star. Eternal white shirt, dazzling smile and athletic look, the Genevan emerges as the richest businessman in Switzerland. Credited with a $23 Billion Fortune by Forbes Magazineexternal linkhe remains perfectly unknown to the general public.

In 2012, this Swiss founded the company Checkout.com in London. Active in payment traffic, the start-up provides services to companies such as Netflix, Pizza Hut, Adidas or Sony. The company’s growth has been phenomenal. Today employing 1,700 people in 19 offices on all continents, the company raised a billion dollars in capital in January 2022. This fundraising carried out with big names in the investment like Franklin Resources or Tiger Global Management brought the evaluation of Checkout.com at about US$40 billion.

With the highest global capitalization in the Fintech (finding technology) sector, Checkout.com outweighs Swiss companies Logitech, Swisscom or SwissLife. Controlling two-thirds of the capital, Guillaume Pousaz is therefore the holder of 23 billion dollars.

“Guillaume Pousaz has become an essential reference for technological entrepreneurship in Switzerland”, comments Olivier Laplace, partner at venture capital firm VI Partners. The investor who lived with the details of Geneva: “The specificity of Checkout.com is that it only raised money after several years of activity, that is, too ‘late’ in the development of the company. At that time, the company was already very successful, profitable and growing very strongly.”

A spectacular first fundraiser

In 2019, the first fundraising amounted to a record amount of more than US$ 200 million. Investors having acquired a 10% stake in the company for US$200 million, the total value of the company corresponds to US$2 billion. “An investment of this size is extremely rare”, explains Olivier Laplace. In the journey of a start-up, the first contributions of venture capital usually range from one to US$ 5 million and arrive while the company is still a long way from profitability.

Currently, Checkout.com processes billions of dollars in invoices in over 150 different currencies each year. The company’s tour de force is to have created, under the supervision of Guillaume Pousaz himself, a platform that performs three levels of operation in a single step. The competition has to use subcontractors to manage the different elements of the transaction, while Checkout.com offers everything from a single source. As a result, the London-based company’s services are faster, more reliable, and bring in a higher margin.

In addition to companies, the clientele also includes prominent fintechs, including the Swedish Klarna and the British Revolut, as well as cryptocurrency exchange platforms such as Coinbase (United States) and Crypto.com (Singapore).

The genesis of Checkout.com goes through Singapore where Guillaume Pousaz founded the company Opus Payments in 2009. The aim was to process transactions for Hong Kong merchants. The company is profitable as of 2011 thanks to an agreement with the Chinese website Dealextreme that achieves huge online sales. In 2012, Opus Payments was renamed to Checkout.com and registered in the UK.

Another breakthrough came in 2013, when Checkout.com gained Visa and Mastercard membership. The company then secured a leading position at a global level thanks to partnerships with Chinese payment giants Alipay and WeChat. Aiming at a possible listing on the stock exchange, the company has now distanced itself from the pornography and gambling customers that were present at the beginning of its history.

An exceptional entrepreneurial profile

Guillaume Pousaz’s success is mainly due to his deep knowledge of the market and fundraising mechanisms, believes Olivier Laplace. “Guillaume Pousaz is a serial entrepreneur. With Checkout.com, he is already on his third fintech startup. He also benefits from an impressive international network and shows unfailing determination. In short, it’s an exceptional profile,” he says.

Guillaume Pousaz’s business acumen is matched only by his discretion. Our contacts went unanswered. The Genevan stays away from social media as well as public life. Anglo-Saxon media describes him as confident, open and balanced.

A workaholic, this father of three regularly works 80 hours a week, sacrificing Sundays. A pace that would have earned him a warning from his doctor. This sports-loving early riser told Forbesexternal link in 2019: “My wife is worried that I will keep up this pace in the long run and that this burden will drive me to the grave. Steve Jobs lived a trajectory of this style.

Young people on the Lausanne campus

After a childhood spent in Geneva, Guillaume Pousaz began studying at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and then branched out to HEC Lausanne. Studies left without a degree in the 2000s.

This surfer at heart flew to Los Angeles. In California, he got a job at a financial company (IPC), whose offices are located not far from the beach. This experience is the starting point of your career in the payments industry. Very quickly convinced that online commerce will revolutionize consumer habits, in 2007 he created his first company, NetMerchant. The start-up allows US merchants to transact in foreign currencies.

Then, in 2009, the entrepreneur bought a company in Mauritius called SMS Pay. When he launched Checkout.com the same year, Guillaume Pousaz had a clear vision in mind. In 2014, he moved with his family to Dubai to conquer the intercontinental market. Five years later, he chose London to relocate the company because it is the place where regulators are most fintech-friendly.

Alongside his activities at Checkout.com, Guillaume Pousaz founded a family-owned wealth management company in Switzerland that invests in young fintechs. The family office is called “Zinal Growth”, a name that echoes the Sierre-Zinal mountain race (31 kilometers and five peaks over 4,000 meters) that the Swiss often runs. Zinal Growth has demonstrated its talent in particular by supporting the Zurich-based startup Yokoy, which specializes in managing commercial expenses. Founded in 2019, the company was named “Startup of the Year 2022” due to its strong growth in the Top 100 Swiss Startup list.external linkorganized by the Venturelab support program for Swiss start-upsexternal link🇧🇷

Text edited by Samuel Jaberg

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