Exclusive interview with Thunes and Limonetik – unfolding the strategy behind the recent acquisition

Tuesday 3 August 2021 08:30 CET | Editor: Raluca Constantinescu | Interview

We sat down with Peter De Caluwe, the CEO of Thunes, and Christophe Bourbier, the CEO of Limonetik, to learn more about the recent acquisition and the road ahead

What was the primary reason behind this acquisition, and what capabilities/reach does Limonetik add to Thunes? 

Peter De Caluwe: Thunes has laid payment infrastructure in emerging markets for the last five years, focusing on creating interconnectivity across borders and currencies: we try to solve the problems surrounding cross-border transactions. In emerging markets, moving money across (and even within) borders is incredibly complicated, difficult, expensive, and slow: for example, many people in emerging markets do not have a bank account, but instead hold funds in e-wallets, which are not connected to correspondent banking networks such as SWIFT and often are not even able to send funds to other e-wallets. This creates a lot of complexity for parties that want to transfer money to people in emerging markets. 

This is where Thunes comes in: we try to build individual pipelines to each of these players instead of going through the corresponding bank network. After building these pipelines for five years, we have full coverage of more than 110 countries. Additionally, we have dedicated several years to developing the capability of converting currency in-house. This puts us in a good position to process the payments for remittance companies, cross-border merchants and marketplaces, and paying foreign employees. Our business model is very simple – we charge a fee per transaction, and we charge a markup on the currency exchange. 

However, there is one key capability that we have been unable to develop so far: collecting payments from emerging markets. We can send money everywhere, but collecting money requires a whole new set of skills and knowledge. This is where Limonetik enters the picture: in the whole world there are only a few players who can really deal with collecting in complex payment situations, such as emerging markets, and Limonetik is one of them. With their unique skillset and expertise on board, we are suddenly only months away from offering collecting capabilities to all of our customers worldwide. 

Christophe Bourbier: Thunes allows us the perfect way to expand out of Europe. We were very happy to see that we share an entrepreneurial spirit with Thunes. Furthermore, every client that they could have could be one of ours as well: we both focus on banks, fintechs, marketplaces, and SMEs: basically, anyone except for consumers. 

How will the acquisition play out in terms of technology integration? Do you plan to join forces in the sense of becoming one single brand? 

Christophe: Limonetik will continue under the Thunes brand, but we are very excited to do so. The other two founding members of Limonetik and myself will be partners of the founding team of Thunes, and we are excited to start operating on a global level. 

Peter: We do not want to interfere with what makes Limonetik great: this is a mistake many companies make after the acquisition. We have no intention to come in and start dictating what the team at Limonetik is going to do: they have been doing amazing things for years – things that we cannot do. There is a huge market in front of them, and we want to help them conquer it. Together, we aim to eventually offer one single access point, one API for our customers for collecting and disbursing. 

Thunes already has a payments licence in Singapore and one in the UK. Are you planning to obtain a new licence in another European country? If yes, what type of licence? 

Peter: Thunes currently is in the process of applying for licences in Hong Kong, the US, and France. The licence in Hong Kong is close to being completed, and the US licence is extremely close: it will be a matter of weeks before we have that finalised. 

However, in Asia, the types of licences are limited: you can basically get either a banking licence or a financial institution licence. As a result, we often do business under regulatory approvals instead of licences there. We run most of our business on our UK licence, as this one is very well-developed, and thus is well-known and respected in a lot of countries. The rules of the UK licence are very strict, which can be challenging, but it also keeps us honest. This one is a payment institution licence, and the one in France will also be a payment institution licence. 

What will be Thunes’ main focus in terms of growth in the near future (which markets and segments)? 

Peter: Our main focus is expanding and laying as many new pipes as we can in as many countries as we can. We do not process giant transactions: we focus on any B2B (and C2B) transactions between USD 15 and USD 40,000. Zooming in on that market, about USD 15 trillion is still being processed over the old-fashioned correspondent banking system. And that is what we are after: we want to process as much of that 15 trillion as we can. 

In May 2021, Thunes announced a USD 60 million Series B growth round, bringing the company’s total funding to USD 130 million. After acquiring Limonetik, what’s next for Thunes? 

Peter: In other words, how will we use that money? Our biggest cost is expansion: we have doubled in size and revenue every year for the past five years, and that takes a lot of new people to be recruited. Presently, we are 200 strong over 30 countries, representing over 40 nationalities. We like things to be local and decentralised, but it takes time and money to build a network like that. It is also good for us to have 100 million in the bank, especially when dealing with central banks and the likes: these organisations prefer doing business with well-capitalised players, which increases trust in us. 

The money also allows us to keep expanding freely, without worrying too much about being profitable overnight. On a unit-economics level, we are already profitable: we make money on each transaction. However, due to the high rate of expansion, we are expecting to become profitable as a company in a few years. 

About Peter De Caluwe 

Peter De Caluwe is a leader in the global B2B payments industry, with decades of experience leading fintech businesses, a serial entrepreneur, and a successful angel investor. For the last 25 years, Peter has been a driving force in the payments ecosystem, scaling global businesses, building high-performing teams and gaining deep knowledge about the industry. 

About Christophe Bourbier 

Christophe Bourbier is a born entrepreneur and an executive with over 15 years of experience in competitive and disruptive strategy. Competitor at heart, captivated by international affairs, Christophe, before he founded Limonetik in 2007, had created different companies in High Tech and Communications. 

About Thunes 

Thunes is a B2B company that powers payments for the world’s fastest-growing businesses. Thanks to a single API connection, customers reach new markets and multiple payment options in over 100 countries without the need for countless integrations to multiple systems. Today, more than 100 banks, payment service providers (PSPs), money transfer operators (MTOs), mobile wallet operators, platforms, and fintech companies around the world use us to process cross-border payments in a cheaper, faster, more transparent, and more secure way. 

About Limonetik 

Limonetik is a full-service payment aggregator that offers, via a unique API connection, acceptance of more than 285 international payment methods and advanced services – from collection and settlement management to reconciliation and account management – to enable new payment experiences (marketplaces, omnichannel model).

Free Headlines in your E-mail

Every day we send out a free e-mail with the most important headlines of the last 24 hours.

Subscribe now

Keywords: Limonetik, Thunes, acquisition, cross-border payments, SMEs
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce

Industry Events