EP 204 – Dayana Yermolayeva – co-Founder and CEO at JiPay – I’m Not Particularly Scared of Being Uncomfortable

by | May 28, 2022

The Asia Tech Podcast was humbled to have Dayana Yermolayeva join the show.  Dayana is a co-Founder and the CEO of JiPay, an app for families to manage their household spending.
Some of the topics we covered included:
  • Being from Ukraine and growing up in the UK
  • Doing a really cool, triple degree program at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Universita Bocconi, and the University of Southern California
  • Having a well-developed worldview as a result of living in many countries
  • Coming from a family of entrepreneurs
  • Consulting or investment banking?
  • Being a pilot and flying over the Grand Canyon
  • Domestic workers saving money for their families
  • Helping them save and invest
  • Does gamification help teach about saving money?
  • $1 MM of top-ups monthly
Some other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. I Did Not Think I Would Become an Entrepreneur So Early
  2. And Yet, the Employers Are Still Pretty Happy
  3. Once You Have Something to Say, the Age Thing Kinda Goes Out of the Window
  4. I Came to Singapore With No Network, No Connections
  5. If I Did It Once, I Could Do It Again

This episode was produced by Isabelle Goh.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:32
This is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Dayana Yermolayeva. I’m gonna do that again. Today we are joined by Dayana Yermolayeva a co-founder and the CEO of JiPay. Dayana, thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you doing today?

Dayana Yermolayeva 0:51
Hi, Michael. Thank you for having me. I’m great. How are you?

Michael Waitze 0:55
I am super. Where are you? By the way?

Dayana Yermolayeva 0:58
I’m in Singapore and based in Singapore.

Michael Waitze 1:00
Awesome. And before we jump into the main part of this conversation, can I get a little bit of your background? Just for some context?

Dayana Yermolayeva 1:07
Of course. Yeah. So I’m a co-founder and CEO JiPay, like you said, and I’m originally from Ukraine, I grew up in the UK, and I ended up in Asia during university. And I’ve moved to Singapore about a year ago to run JiPay. So that’s a little bit about my story.

Michael Waitze 1:25
Got it. I didn’t know that. Well, I hope your family and your friends and your just extended people that you know are okay.

Dayana Yermolayeva 1:32
Thank you. Thank you very much. Yeah, my family’s safe. So thank you.

Michael Waitze 1:37
Good. That’s good to know. Okay, well, that took a turn. I didn’t expect. I’m sorry. Don’t be sorry. It’s okay. I just want to make sure that everybody’s okay. This stuff’s really important to me and my family originally, if you go back a few generations, also from the Ukraine, so just an interesting tidbit. But yeah, it is what it is. I don’t know exactly. So my grandfather, when he was seven years old, stood up and walked across the continent of Europe, got on a boat and ended up in Boston, and then kind of did well enough. I didn’t say super well, but well enough to then bring the rest of his family or the people that were important to him into the United States. Right. Typical immigrant story. And then I grew up on the East Coast, not that you’ve asked, but and then moved all over the world. So I don’t know exactly where Yeah, and my grandfather died when I was, I don’t know five years old. Okay, so, yeah, so I don’t know. Where did you go to school, by the way?

Dayana Yermolayeva 2:35
So, um, well, I started my schooling in Ukraine. And then I did to the middle school in the UK and university, I did this program called the well bachelor in business. Slight advertisement, the it’s basically this super cool, triple degree program. It’s a co lab between USC and California HQ in Hong Kong, and Bocconi in Milan. So you basically do a year at each school, and then you choose where of the three to go back to for your senior year. And then you get three degrees, one from each university. So I was kind of all over the place. But I loved it.

Michael Waitze 3:07
Wow, what a great way to go to college, no, three different places. Where did you end up doing your senior year.

Dayana Yermolayeva 3:14
So that’s why I was in Hong Kong, I went back to Hong Kong for my senior year. But that’s when the world decided to turn itself upside down. And I was there during the protests. So my university was pretty heavily involved. And they eventually shut down the university. And so then I went back to Europe to finish off my final semester in Italy. And that’s when COVID hit. So now I’m disclosing that I’m very young. But yeah, so I went back to Hong Kong, that was the intention. But it didn’t last because, you know, political situation plus COVID plus everything. So um, I haven’t really been back much.

Michael Waitze 3:49
Are you an Italian speaker as well.

Dayana Yermolayeva 3:52
Now I am Yeah, I had a lot of spare time on my hands on in my final semester of university, because obviously, with all this moving around and stuff, so I actually talked myself with learning fluent Italian. And they did so. So now I can order my pizza and my pasta.

Michael Waitze 4:07
That’s amazing. Wait, so you’re an English speaker, obviously, since we’re having this conversation, English and Italian speaker, Russian and Ukrainian, I’m guessing. Yeah. Wow. So do you think that traveling around from university to university has added a little bit of depth and kind of a worldview? That makes it I wouldn’t say easier because none of this is easy. But that makes it actually more interesting to build a company from scratch, no matter where you are in the world, if you know what I mean.

Dayana Yermolayeva 4:35
100% I always say that the program that I did, and just generally like my life experience to date has kind of positioned me to do exactly this, right, like not necessarily the industry that I’m in. But I think the founding journey is just solving new problems that you’ve never had before every single day and like doing the same the next day as you wake up. And to be honest, my university experience and things like that kind of have prepped me for that right now. Every year I switched continent country, but also education system, also University, right. And all of those scenarios, you kind of have to adapt, right and like, still get your high JiPay, and so on and so forth. So I think when I stopped for finished university, and just before I started JiPay, I was kind of figuring out what I was going to do. And I realized that like a traditional career path, where everything is static and not confusing, and you’re not kind of thrown in the deep end every single morning, it just wasn’t going to be super fun. And so when the time came for me to move to Singapore to start in Renji Bay, it was this like, totally natural extension of having been all over the place for the past five years. So I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 5:39
I mean, I don’t think I’ve heard of a program like this before. You know, when I was in college, I think it was back in the 1930s, or the 40s. I can’t remember. But when I was in school, I did a study abroad program, which I thought it was life changing for me, right. But what you did, I think was really, like really different. Isn’t it? Yeah, I feel like all universities should be like this, right? If it’s meant to be a learning opportunity, or a learning experience, why not go to three or four different places? And that’s the best way to learn anyway? No.

Dayana Yermolayeva 6:11
I mean, I agree entirely, right. Like, I think if I was studying something that requires you being in the same place, I don’t know, like law, right? It’s you need to learn one legal system or something like that, then fine, but I kind of decided, Okay, I’m gonna do a business degree, which is quite generic in itself. And not like that groundbreaking, right? And no one really wants to be in a financial accounting class. So if I’m going to do that, I might as well have this worldly experience doing it. And I think that the things that I learned that are the most valuable were not financial accounting, right? It’s kind of like, how to do business in Asia? Or how is that different from doing so in the US or in Europe? And you know, I visited like, 30 new countries in the process. And I think that is definitely the most valuable.

Michael Waitze 6:51
I mean, in a way, I would submit to you that one of the things that you learned, nuanced and subtle as it is, is just how to exist in different environments at different times in different cultures with different people, if that makes sense, right? In other words, business does get done differently in every country and every city in the world. But part of the reason why is because the embedded culture there that that generates that business is just different. Yeah. And you did say young, I’ll leave the age thing to you. But the earlier you learn that I think the better off you are, if that makes sense, because then it just becomes normal. Yeah.

Dayana Yermolayeva 7:25
Yeah. 100% 100%.

Michael Waitze 7:27
Agree. So did you always intend to be an entrepreneur? You don’t even like you went to business school, you went to all these different countries in different places, you said 30 countries pretty amazing. At your age. Did you always intend to be an entrepreneur or not?

Dayana Yermolayeva 7:40
I think that was definitely always the end state. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, both my parents are entrepreneurs. My mom runs dental clinics, my dad does real estate and industrials. And so I think coming from Ukraine, we’re also you can’t really be like wealthy by having a regular employed job. Yeah, I always knew the long term in order to succeed, however you define success. Yeah, I would end up being an entrepreneur of some shape or form. Did I think that that would come so early in my life? Absolutely not. But I think so originally what I was going to do, so that I was going to become a consultant. So there’s a couple of things here. And obviously, when you start a business degree, you kind of have to decide, right, arbitrarily, are you going to be an IT consultant or an investment banker? So I was like, consultant,

Michael Waitze 8:27
that is, those are your two choices.

Dayana Yermolayeva 8:29
That’s how it feels. I mean, if you speak to like other students, I think especially nowadays, and like top schools, right? It’s like, are you gonna work for McKinsey, or Goldman Sachs? And it feels like those are the only two like success like states. And so I thought, Okay, well, consultant consulting is the one but I wanted to be a little bit special. And, within consulting, the thing that I felt passionate about, was aviation. And that’s because when I was younger, I got a pilot’s license. I still love flying, really, you know, passionate about the industry. And I thought, Okay, I have these two interests, right, like my business degree, I want to be a consultant, but then I also love airplanes. So I’ll do this thing. And so what bothered me though about that career choice is kind of like, am I going to like own an airline? Like, would I like start like an airline? Like, I’m not going to do that, right. But it’s pretty, it’s pretty far fetched. And so that’s why eventually I started questioning those choices and kind of ended up going into charge of ownership right out of college, because I felt like why wait, right, like COVID is happening. Life’s too short. So I kind of just went ahead with it.

Michael Waitze 9:30
Or your mom and dad both pilots as well.

Dayana Yermolayeva 9:33
No, no, no, no, my mom will not get into an aircraft with me. My dad is very keen, but he does not know how to fly

Michael Waitze 9:40
thing. So where does the flying thing come from?

Dayana Yermolayeva 9:44
I just thought was pretty cool. Um, one thing that happened was I went to the US when I was 17. To do one of those like high school, college summer programs. And I remember that all of the American kids they all had these like really set hobbies they were like, I am a lacrosse player. or like, I do water polo or something? And I didn’t have I thought, Wow, that’s so weird. You know, when people asked me like, What do you like to do? What are your hobbies, I kind of just, you know, go to school and see my friends and go drink with them and Friday nights. And so I thought, you know, I should probably get a hobby. And so took a pilot like yeah, to give a flying lesson. I loved it. And I was like, why don’t more people do this is so much fun. So I got a PPL, which is the private pilot’s license. And then I moved to California the next year for uni right. And they’re flying is relatively accessible on much more affordable than a Europe. The infrastructure is phenomenal. So me and some other students like we would rent little planes and you know, go to Santa Barbara or like, go to the Grand Canyon. And it’s amazing.

Michael Waitze 10:47
Did you fly to the Grand Canyon?

Dayana Yermolayeva 10:50
I did. That’s like my proudest story. I flew from California from Long Beach airport, over the Grand Canyon, and into Utah into the Bryce Canyon, with like two friends in a tiny airplane when I was 18.

Michael Waitze 11:01
So So yeah, so the most amazing flight I’ve ever taken is into the Grand Canyon. So I took a helicopter I didn’t like obviously cannot fly a helicopter, but I’ll never forget that feeling of like just being right above the tree line. And then diving into the canyon. It must have been amazing to fly that plane by yourself. No,

Dayana Yermolayeva 11:21
it was super cool. It was super cool. We were like 14,000 feet above ground. And the view was amazing. Yeah, it was incredible.

Michael Waitze 11:29
Is there a risky side to you? Do you know what I mean? I mean, flying is not that risky. But it seems risky to people that don’t do it. Is there a risk taking side to you that has to be satisfied?

Dayana Yermolayeva 11:39
It’s pretty risky. I would say I’m flying a plane. Yes, definitely. Not that I’m like a crazy Daredevil like, I’m not trying to always do something that’s like intentionally dangerous. But I’m not particularly scared of being uncomfortable, I would say. And in fact, I’m very easily bored. I think so like, on the one hand, I don’t know, when I spent a year in London during COVID, which is where I kind of grew up. I was really happy. But on the other hand, I always felt like missing anything new. Right. I’m challenging myself anyway. And I think that’s definitely important to me. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 12:11
So I’m the same way. And I would categorize risk not as like doing things that are crazy, right? Because there’s always upside downside and risk analysis, right. And that’s the reason why I ask and I think when people think about doing risky things, they do think about like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. But actually, that’s not risky. That’s stupid. Yeah, risk is a different thing. Right? So I just want to make that clear.

Dayana Yermolayeva 12:32

Michael Waitze 12:34
How do you get to G PE? Right? In other words, if I just listened to everything you’ve said about doing businesses traveling a lot, you know, trying to find a hobby, which ends up being flying? I don’t feel like it ends here. How did he get here?

Dayana Yermolayeva 12:49
Definitely. So I was in Hong Kong. And that’s really where I was first exposed to domestic work. Got it. Back in Ukraine back in Europe, like no one really hasn’t live in domestic worker. Sure, I had one or two friends, you know, who are particularly wealthy parents, and you know, maybe they have like a live in healthcare, but it’s super rare. And so I was one struck by just how many domestic workers they were, and how important of a role they played in society, right? Like, literally, like, a wife can go to work traditionally, because the family has a helper, right? Not for any other reason. And so I was really confused as to why there’s so many of them. It’s such an important part of society. But this is such a problematic industry, right? These helpers are suffering, they are excluded from the financial system, they’re abused by government on their floors. But employers, not all of them abuse their helpers. But employers are pretty unhappy. The hiring process is awful. The management process isn’t streamlined. So honestly, the first food wasn’t even mine. We I was at dinner with some friends. And one of my friends said, like, oh, you know, why isn’t there kind of like a card for your helper, or for once helper? And so that was the initial idea. And I went ahead and interviewed a bunch of helpers, a bunch of employers like in the hundreds, to try to figure out what were the pain points in the relationship between the two. And to be honest, well, I’m still to this day surprised by this initial thesis of the a double sided product, which is an expense management system for the family for their helper and a payroll remittance system for the helper. That’s exactly what a product is today, right? Usually someone has an idea. And then the end state product ends up being something totally different. Here. It wasn’t like even after all the user interviews and all the research, that is what we’re doing today. So yeah, I think I was able to see the problem from kind of a bird’s eye view. There’s so many people that’s what I’m surprised by, right? There’s so many people it’s in Singapore who work in like payments and fintech and financial services. And there are these you know, bankers or accountants, but then when it comes to their helper, they have a notebook where they write, you know, kind of debits and credits. And it’s, it’s such a kind of stark contrast between them, their work right where everything is digitized and like Yeah, like API payments, and then the whole words like Notepad, let’s go. And because I wasn’t part of that, and because I hadn’t had a helper for 45 years, I think I just kind of saw how kind of city it was.

Michael Waitze 15:13
So you mentioned earlier, like you gave away how young you are, which again, to me has a little bit of a relevance. But I’m curious what that experience was like for you. Going and interviewing the domestic helpers first, right? Because when you rock up, I’m sure they’re not expecting you to then build a business that changed their changes their lives.

Dayana Yermolayeva 15:34
Yeah, I mean, the initial interviews were all remote. So it was no one really knew, like who I was on. But I guess, yeah, that’s a wider question. I’ve completely gotten over it. I, like forget that. I’m younger than like the 50 year old men working in my industry. So I just don’t even realize, and when I when I go into conversations, whether that be with like partners, customers, fundraising, the time, but I noticed that this was a bit unusual, was actually this weekend. So it was a public holiday here in Singapore. And I went to Vietnam with my two friends, who are, you know, starting their careers and like the corporate world, and we met a founder friend of mine, and I kind of said, like, Hey, girls, like you gonna do you want to go meet one of my founder friends. And then after we met him, they kind of looked at me crazy. And they were like, You didn’t tell us this man is like 40 years old. Like, oh, like, Yeah, but he’s like, founder from you know, so So I think, yeah, I think what I’m trying to say is kind of like, Yeah, I’m pretty young. But when you work in this industry, and once you have like, something to say, for yourself customer base, right? Once you’ve achieved these little bit, I think the age thing kind of goes out of the window, right? Because it’s about your ability to execute, and like, explain what you’re doing rather than what’s on your possible.

Michael Waitze 16:54
Yeah, I agree. And I’m also curious, though, what the reverse reaction is, right? Because for you, you’re like, my perception of myself, and I am one of those 50 year old guys, right? Is not of being old. I feel like I’m a peer of yours. So when you feel like you’re a peer of mine, it makes perfect sense to me. And you can tell when I have a conversation with you. It’s not as like an elder to a younger, it’s more just like, Oh, you’re doing this thing, which is kind of cool. How can I learn from that? And how can I figure out and, you know, where do we get the energy? But I’m really curious what it was like from the other people, because when they, you know, again, when people look at me, they sometimes think, Oh, my God, that dudes old, but when they look at you, they must think, oh, my gosh, that woman’s young. Do you know what I mean? But does it change over time? So like, the first time you walk into interview a domestic helper, or talk to a venture capitalist or a potential partner, they must look at you and think 22, whatever it is, and I don’t care, but yeah, 24 now, yeah, but then at some point, they’re just realize, founder, do you know what I mean? How does that transition take place in their mind? And from your perspective?

Dayana Yermolayeva 17:58
Yeah, I think honestly, a lot of it is about first impression, right? If you come in, and you don’t really know what you’re saying, it doesn’t really matter what your age is, you’re gonna leave a bad experience, like negative impression on the person you’re talking to. So I think it’s good. Like, nowadays, I think people aren’t super biased. And most people would like take, I would say, take me seriously from the outset. With regards to fundraising specifically, the only place where I think being young is potentially disadvantages is people don’t believe your execution ability as much as someone who has been in the industry for like, 1020 years, right. For example, I always get the question like, how are you going to expand to like the UAE, for example? Or how are you going to build this business out in Hong Kong? And my answer is like, Well, look, I landed in Singapore with no network, no connections, and like, my little Pomeranian.

Michael Waitze 18:48
And I’m in your office now. Like, I must have done something right kind of thing. Sorry. Go ahead.

Dayana Yermolayeva 18:52
Yeah. Right. Like, yeah, like, I’m, it’s fine. So how am I going to do it in the next country, like, I don’t have a 100 step plan, I have a five step plan. But like, I just needed to trust me that I did it once. So I can do it again. So I think is that the only times where you can’t i can’t convince people otherwise, is I think, where you just have kind of a prejudice, right? So for example, one time I had an investor asked me on a phone call, and that’s more of like, a sexism question. For example, what my father thinks of me being here, and I was like, sorry, excuse me, that, you know, my dad likes, like, I thought, like movies that you my father or something. And he was like, Yeah, you know, like, you’re in Singapore. This is fine. And you know, we’re considering investing in your company, but we need to know that you’re actually going to stay in Singapore. So how does your father feel? And I was like, What are you like this he let you be here. And I kind of explained that. Well, you know, my father has actually nothing to do with this number one. Number two, if you aren’t so curious. My dad is like my number one fan. Super, super kind and supportive with regards to my founding journey, and Frank It’s like none of your business, right? We’re not asked to my, like male colleagues

Michael Waitze 20:05
ever like this is like, yeah, the response to that at some level has to be like, I don’t understand why that’s relevant at all.

Dayana Yermolayeva 20:13
Yeah, like, you know, what does your father think of you asking me these questions like, I don’t know. So I can see where this question may come from, to some degree, like, especially coming from Ukraine. There are many communities where, you know, women aren’t encouraged to work as much as in the west or whatever. But yeah, I mean, they shouldn’t be asking about.

Michael Waitze 20:34
So I was on the phone with one of my business partners, I’ve got a few. And she’s obviously lady. We’ve been working together for a long time. And I listened to her talk to me about some of the meetings that she has, or some of the experiences that she have. You know, I’m 56 years old, right? I started working at Morgan Stanley when I was younger than you are now when I was like, 22. Right. So I’ve seen so much stuff. And it still shocks me that in 2022, somebody would ask you, in what I would consider, like a slightly condescending manner, like, what does your dad understand or believe or support what you’re doing? It’s just so strange that does it surprise you? And when you share that with your friends, are they just like, yeah, happens to me all the time? Wow, I can’t believe that.

Dayana Yermolayeva 21:18
I think different people have different experiences. Oh, wait, can you can you hear me? I can. I think different people have different experiences on this matter. And I think that my experience overall has been pretty positive. I know that founders in other spaces, might experience more prejudice, like, you know, women in the manufacturing sector, or things like that, which also seem more like male dominated. I think in the West, like UK, US, there has been a little bit more progress. Here in Asia, I think the startup scene, the tech scene is very progressive. Where I think things are lacking is perhaps the corporate sector. So for example, one of my friends was experiencing kind of like a semi harassment situation at work. And her HR department at like a big consulting company just didn’t know what to do. Right. Like, I think that

Michael Waitze 22:12
to happen. I just wanted to raise my hand for one second, sorry to interrupt you. Yeah, sure. Sure. I think harassment is like pregnancy, you can’t be semi harassed. I just want to kill you can’t be sorry, go ahead.

Dayana Yermolayeva 22:25
No, no, of course, of course. I mean, a male colleague was making her very uncomfortable, and you know, like approaching her at work and ways that are, you know, not not not okay. And she told HR and HR was kind of awkward about it, but didn’t solve the problem. So I think that’s where the problem lies, right? Because most people are not being ridiculous, those that are, are being dealt with, in some kind of like procedural educated fashion. I think that is still perhaps Southeast Asia’s problem?

Michael Waitze 22:52
Do you feel like there’s a role for you to play as you become more experienced and more successful and have the ability to have more impact, right? I mean, use the word bias a couple of times already, and use the word prejudice. And then we already talked a little bit about harassment, I don’t want to go all the way down into this topic. But do you feel like there’s a role for you to play as a female founder to be able to set an example for how the environment should actually be built and support people like you?

Dayana Yermolayeva 23:19
100%? I mean, I think it all starts with also like education, and what people should or could be doing out of university, one of the things I feel very, very strongly about is, why was I made to feel like I shouldn’t be going into banking or consulting, right? Like, why wasn’t I at age 18? Like, why did I feel the way I do now, like, super empowered, like, I can build anything I want, you know, like, whenever I want. So I definitely want to set an example. Like no matter how JiPay pans out, like I as an individual definitely want to set an example to, you know, people like me, who are perhaps one generation younger than me. So they know that they absolutely can and should start a company out of college. Right? That’s definitely number one. And number two, I think, yeah, like, it’s about empowering female colleagues, right? Or even when we have, like interns during the company, I don’t want them to kind of just like, do the job, learn some skills and leave. I want to see those people succeed and do something similar and bigger or better, kind of going forward. So absolutely. I think that people see my experience. For example, even the kids from the program that I did, we have these like inter cohort chats and things like that. And like I want more, you know, girls and boys doing the world last year in business to know that like, they are exactly the kind of people that should be starting companies and that it’s absolutely feasible for them to do it as well.

Michael Waitze 24:40
The universities that were involved were only those universities right. So you couldn’t it wasn’t a program where you could just choose to go to USC and then choose to go to Bocconi was just those were the universities that were involved. And if that’s true, did you kind of rotate with other kids that you liked, do you not I mean, like, did you make friends with people and just go like, Hey, let’s go to USC kind of thing.

Dayana Yermolayeva 24:58
So you start With a cohort and you start in USC, and so you move with those same, like 45 people for two years in a row. So you go together from USC to Hong Kong, from Hong Kong to Milan. And it’s only in the fourth year that you split up into the back to the three.

Michael Waitze 25:14
Okay? Yeah. Look, when I was going to school as well, it wasn’t really that big of a difference. You could either go to Wall Street, or go to what were then accounting firms, which then turned into some of your biggest consulting firms, right, like, yeah, Arthur Andersen turned into Andersen consulting, which then turned into Accenture. Right. So those were the same choices. I feel like it’s really sad that like 40 years later. But I felt the same way too. And I didn’t discover entrepreneurship until my 50s. Right, which I think is just terrible. But in a way, I feel like you do. Everybody should be encouraged to do this. But if you think that the world is kind of separated at scale into like, generals and soldiers, and both of these things have super high value. How do you convince because the generals want to be entrepreneurs, right? They just do. But how do you convince the people that are soldiers that they should also join smaller companies so that they can then learn more, build more and just have a better lifestyle as well?

Dayana Yermolayeva 26:15
Absolutely. Well, I think this problem also starts with early education. For example, I went to let’s take Middle School and a government school in the UK, I went to go school, it was a lovely school, super nice, cozy environment. But it was very, like girly. So they were encouraging us to study arts and design and stuff like that. And those, those those things are great. But I probably would have been better placed to do like, a STEM degree, you know, or something. And I kind of still blame is the wrong word. But I still think that it’s because of that earlier education experience that I didn’t go and study like engineering, right? Because I didn’t feel like I was equipped to do so. In fact, my school didn’t even have a teacher to teach further maths, right. It was like a good UK private school. But there wasn’t anyone that could teach that subject because like, no one was really expected to take it. So I came out on my GCSE year, and I was like, hey, I want to do math and further math. And my professors sat me down, and they just said, look like no one in the school knows enough math to teach further math. So that was kind of scary. So I think that’s number one, right? You’re kind of from an early age bucketed into like what you may do, even though it’s too early for you to decide, right? So that’s number one. And number two, well, part of it is pay. I think one of the main reasons people go into banking consulting is because it pays quite well from the start. And it’s pretty safe. So obviously, startup funding is doing a big job and converting people into doing other things, right? Because particularly in the US, you can go work for a startup make very good money, also get your ESOP. And when you’re young, that’s a pretty lucrative offering. Because if that startup works out, then you make bank right, and you feel like you’ve done something. So I think that’s great. In Asia, I think the problem is that often employees like startup employees don’t see the value of the ESOP, right of owning equity in the company, as much. So when they see the pay, they compare the cash to the cash, not the cash plus equity to the cash of a bank. And then number three is universities. I think that universities shouldn’t be telling freshmen how they should go work for a consulting firm or an investment bank straight away, right? They should either be keeping it ambiguous for the first year or two, or they should be giving them like 30 Different options not to

Michael Waitze 28:33
I’m just trying to think about where to start on this. But yeah, I mean, on career day, at least when I was in school, it was just all the banks investment bank, right. And the consulting companies, big accounting firms. Yeah, there’s got to be a place where university just decide that they’re not educating you to get a job at educating you. So you know, how to learn and build things. Does that make sense? And it’s subtly different, right? In other words, um, you’re not paying so that you can then go out and get a job that pays $150,000 a year to start. And and, frankly, if you’re graduating from college, and you tell me what you think, just based on your experience with your own friends, and you don’t understand, like just the discounted cash flows of future earnings that come with an ESOP, or they come with anything, any kind of investment than that you haven’t actually probably been educated properly about the value of money or the time value of money. No.

Dayana Yermolayeva 29:29
Definitely. I mean, I think it really depends on the background of the person at hand. So in my instance, for example, I was incredibly lucky, right? My parents were in a position where they could support me, even if like JiPay fell through, right, I can come home, there’s going to be a roof over my head like it’s going to be okay. I had friends who were not in that position, right. So they absolutely needed a high paying job out of college because if not, they will be on the street. Right? So I think there it gets very hard. Like it’s very hard to convince someone to do a risky job right or like an East Help them might amount to zero if they literally just need cash to survive. But I think that’s where the universities and the government can and should come in, because that’s what you know, scholarships are for and stuff. And actually, I was very lucky in that sense too, because HK USC, for example, they gave us and one of our like, earliest funding, they, they gave us a grant, and they helped us connect to Cyberport, which is the Hong Kong government incubator, which also gave us some grant funding. And I think there we should be seeing more of that in the most efficient way possible, because with those things, often comes red tape, which is d incentivizing.

Michael Waitze 30:33
Yeah. Talk to me now about GOP, if you’re trying to have impact, and these are my words, not yours, right. So I’m not trying to put words into your mouth. But there’s a financial inclusion angle to this as well. If you walk through Central, at least the last time I was there on a Sunday afternoon, there’s a massive gathering of domestic workers, most of them get Sundays off, they should have Saturday’s off too. But that’s a discussion for another time. Yeah. But you’re right, there hasn’t been a lot of financial inclusion for them. And for the most part, they were taking the money that they earned in sending back to their families. We know that overseas workers in places like the Philippines, not the only place in the world, but one of the good examples, you know, they just go down to Western Union and send money back. And you’re right, they had no digital way to keep track of the amount of money that they were spending or earning to be fair. But is there an inclusionary aspect to this business? And if there is, is there a movement sort of through I won’t even say up the value chain, but through the value chain, where the first thing you do is say, here’s how much money you have. And here’s how much money you’ve been spending, and here are the categories. But the next step is then to say, hey, let’s try to save a little bit. And if you save some, let’s try to invest some and if you invest some, let’s invest it smartly or wisely. Does that make sense?

Dayana Yermolayeva 31:49
100%. So first of all, JiPay’s moyto, like our mission statement is financial inclusion for domestic workers of financial success for domestic workers. So 100%. Yes, like all of what you said is accurate. So the problem, right, what is the actual problem because of financial inclusion, or the fact of having a bank account is kind of a means to an end, right, you have a bank account, so that something and the problem to me is that a helper like a Filipino woman will leave the Philippines to go to Singapore, so that she can work here for five or 10 years, in order to save up money and be able to do X back in the Philippines that ex is usually buy a house, maybe open a small business, send their kids to university. But time and time again, these people leave the Philippines come to Singapore stay not for five, but for 35 years, and come back with no savings, right? So they’ve kind of just been away, like giving cash flow to their family day to day. But the end state is exactly as it was in in the first place and only very few, usually with additional support from the employer or, you know, NGOs or organizations that care, perhaps managed to actually save up and then achieve that initial goal that you set out to achieve. So it’s kind of the equivalent of Imagine if you went to university to get a degree went to a bunch of classes kind of existed, but then came out of it with no degree. Um, that’s kind of like the helper experience. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to solve for. So we started with the employer and the employers like management of groceries, which solves a pain point for employers. But really, that is just a way to get to the helper and a way for us to get the employer to endorse our product. When it comes to the helpers, we’re starting with payroll accounts exactly to say, hey, this month, you got paid 700 bucks. And here it is. And you can see the balance, you don’t need to count the notes every time we have the remittance feature, we have a spending feature. And what we also have is savings pots. So helpers are able to deposit a certain amount of money into a separate balance, which stays intact. And when she spends on her card, that money doesn’t go anywhere. So it’s like a bolt is difficult to use interest alone to incentivize saving, because on small amounts, low amounts of interest don’t go a long way, right? So for example, if I save $100, and I have 2% interest per year, and I come up with $102. It’s like okay, nothing happened. So, interest aside, we’re trying to gamify the experience as well. I’m show two helpers that look, if you deposit $100 every month for three years, this is how much you will end up with. And that means that your daughter can actually go to the university, right? So it’s really relating these month to month incremental actions to Big Picture results and showing that this isn’t just a dream, right? You really can save up and open a shop, right or you really can buy a tractor for your farm. It’s not unachievable.

Michael Waitze 34:40
Yeah, it’s not just this aspirational dream. It’s not a dream somewhere out of the ether. It’s actually something that is achievable. And this gets back to the conversation we were having before. You know, I talked about discounted cash flows and the time value of money but in reverse, right. Compounding is something that people don’t understand. They’re like all I have is $1 to invest. It’s not going to get me anywhere. Well Oh A few dollars together compounded over a five to 10 year period of time is worth way more than a few dollars. Right? So building that system is actually really is there a full Are you going to build like full stack, excuse me, for domestic workers. And this is actually a two sided marketplace, really, it could be more in a way. But it helps the families that employ because they can then keep track of the expenses that are associated with their family and the places where the their help is participating. But also for that family as well. Right. And you have to, you know, my grandfather once said, Me, when you get married, you don’t marry one person, you marry an entire family. And I think in in a way, it’s like, when you hire that domestic helper, you’re not just hiring him or her. You’re essentially hiring or have a business relationship with their entire, I’ll say extended family. And to the extent that you can help them by building financial security for them and the financial inclusion, well, then you’re doing something with real impact. Yeah.

Dayana Yermolayeva 35:59
Yeah, exactly. I mean, look, these workers are breadwinners for extended families. So helpers don’t just make money for themselves. They feed their kids, they feed their parents, they feed their aunts and uncles. And one of the reasons again, that that saving behavior doesn’t happen is because families aren’t conducive of the savings. So you know, families will keep cooling helpers overseas and say, hey, send more money, or, Hey, we also have this, they are not savvy with their spending. And often those people don’t work, right. So they’re kind of just relying on this woman to send the money from overseas while they sort of hang out. And so that is problematic. And that is it’s not an easy problem to solve. But it all starts with the helpers, having financial independence and being able to say, well, actually, you know, this money isn’t a savings pot, and I can’t take it out. Right. So I’m not sending it to you. And that does good for everyone. In long term. It’s just you know, sometimes people need a nudge.

Michael Waitze 36:50
I agree. I wish someone had taught me about savings when I was a kid. But that’s one of the that’s one of the problems of growing up in poverty. There’s a small way where that fits in, but it’s not obvious. What is the status of JiPay right now? Like, when was it founded? I know you got funded as well. And what does growth look like to you?

Dayana Yermolayeva 37:08
For sure, so we launched our product about eight months ago. Okay, so we’ve been running with the expense card. So the grocery system for Yeah, for that amount of time, we are launching our remittance feature in just a couple of weeks. So very soon helpers are going to be able to get paid on to a JiPay account and send the money back to the Philippines or into Indonesia. And we’ve we’ve grown a lot. So we’ve I mean, we’ve more than 10x overseas in the last six or seven months, we’re at about a million dollars monthly, in terms of our like, top up spending volume. So yeah, it’s been it’s been a super fast ride.

Michael Waitze 37:44
And do you see raising money again, soon for growth? or No?

Dayana Yermolayeva 37:50
Um, right now, for the next couple of months, I want to focus on the business. I think it’s very, very important. When I’m fundraising, it’s a full time job. But why I mean, absolutely right. We are definitely gearing up for pre series A or Series A, and trying to hit those additional metrics, additional milestones to show how our story has changed and evolved and progressed on syntheses. And why Jeep is going to continue to grow as it as

Michael Waitze 38:17
got it. If there’s anybody out there that wants to partner with you, what’s the best way to contact you or get in touch with you and your team?

Dayana Yermolayeva 38:25
message me on LinkedIn. We have a get in touch form on the website, but we’re pretty slow to respond to that. So yeah, just like email me it’s dayana@jipay.app. Or yeah, LinkedIn also works.

Michael Waitze 38:36
I will respond. Got it. Dayana Yermolayeva. Co Founder and CEO of JiPay thank you so much for doing that. I really appreciate your time.

Dayana Yermolayeva 38:44
Perfect. Thank you so much, Michael. Thank you for having me.

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