Brett White, CEO at Zapper
Despite the fact that many CEOs carry MBAs, some of the most recognized business leaders in the world have technical backgrounds (think Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Ellison, just to name two). Brett White follows this path – having risen from being a software designer and developer to leading the thriving payments company Zapper.
Zapper is a mobile payment, customer insights, digital loyalty, and marketing platform. While most customers know the company for its fast, easy payment solution, the business has grown to offer merchants a safe and effective marketing platform where they can network their deals to a growing tribe of loyal customers.
Working in every department, understanding every angle
Brett took some time to share his journey as well as his experience of leading a company that is not only at the forefront of digital innovation, but that enables others to enter the digital economy. Here, he takes us along his unconventional path to become the head of the business.
“When I joined I really wanted to get some control over the way the app looked and how it worked. My time working with the product and design team showed that I was able to problem-solve and see and move on opportunities. I got involved with the sales team and their conversations with clients. I saw a gap between what was discussed from a sales point of view and what was possible from the technical side. I got involved in the marketing side of things, making sure we were putting the right message out there and promoting the products correctly. It wasn’t long before I was running the sales component as well.”
Brett goes on to explain how his technical experience assisted in the evolution of the offering: “Getting involved in the sales side of things really helped with the product development. It made sure that what we were building and the solution we were providing were real solutions that were commercially viable and that were scalable. The team was able to check themselves that we were building the most appropriate product for our customers, rather than just making decisions in a vacuum as is so often the case in a siloed company.
“Most people working in this space are very close to the technical aspects of payments. The rules around how different card types work and what the different interchanges are and so forth. They build technical solutions that adhere to requirements, but they don’t put the customer first. The customer experience is almost forgotten in the need to build only around technical or regulatory requirements. It’s this focus on building solutions that solve real consumer problems in whichever vertical we are working that keeps me excited about this organization and space.”
An example of the innovation coming out of Zapper is the cashless parking solution launched in South Africa early in 2020. The cashless QR code payment system solves an immediate user challenge – after all, no one likes standing in queues to pay for parking. But it also goes a step further to allow the mall owner to unlock valuable consumer data, enabling customer and tenant loyalty and engagement opportunities. It is this sort of innovation that Brett believes is a result of the company’s new integrated and end-to-end collaborative approach to product development.
Creating a lasting legacy built on customer centricity
Brett has only been in the CEO seat for a year. He says his primary focus was to realign the business, to ensure the company was fit for purpose and that the teams were designing features, not just because they thought they were cool, but because they worked, were functional and were scalable.
In order to do this, the company pivoted to build out a platform offering. This solved the problem of long and often painful integrations each time a new partner was signed.
The new platform architecture allows third parties to easily and securely integrate with Zapper at scale without impacting capacity.
“I hope to be remembered for creating and nurturing a team with collaboration at its core. Although we are a lean team, we have moved away from the siloed mentality of other companies. Working together to solve a common vision will ultimately mean that we are delivering a better product for the end-user.”
In Part II of the Zapper story, Brett takes a deep dive into his vision of the future, sharing with us how he sees technology will evolve as well as his views of the digital economy.