Fintech Leaders
Fintech Leaders
Doug Ricket, CEO of PayJoy – The $300 Million Revenue Global Juggernaut with a Mission to Empower a Billion Clients Around the World

Doug Ricket, CEO of PayJoy – The $300 Million Revenue Global Juggernaut with a Mission to Empower a Billion Clients Around the World

Miguel Armaza interviews Doug Ricket, CEO & Co-Founder of PayJoy, a global fintech with $300+ million in annual revenue serving 10+ million customers in eight countries.

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Doug Ricket is the CEO & Co-Founder of PayJoy, a global fintech with $300+ million in annualized revenue that provides credit to over 10 million customers across Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Founded in 2015, PayJoy reached profitability in 2023 and has raised almost $200 million in equity financing from USV, Core Innovation, Greylock, Invus, and DNX.

In this episode, we discuss:

How his years at the Peace Corps in Africa shaped him and fueled his ambition to work with emerging markets

Doug grew up in Silicon Valley, but early in his career, before his time as a Google engineer and well before launching PayJoy, Doug spent two years serving for the Peace Corps in the Gambia. This crucial experience clearly shaped him and taught him valuable lessons and principles of resourcefulness that have translated into his days as an entrepreneur. Moreover, living in a rural village without basic amenities, expanded his world view and deepened his empathy for people living in radically different conditions than his. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the relationship he built with his host family and the community had a direct impact in the founding of PayJoy. When you talk to him, his passion for the topic is palpable and it’s easy to trace a direct line between his time at the Peace Corps and his desire to make technology accessible and beneficial across diverse socio-economic landscapes and try to do good through entrepreneurship.

Lessons on building your team and the importance of the first 10 hires of a startup

”If I think of the first 10 people who joined me for PayJoy, more than half were pre-existing relationships.”

For entrepreneurs planning to build out their initial team, Doug is a big advocate of tapping into one's existing networks. These networks often come with a pre-vetted pool of potential team members, significantly simplifying the hiring process. Not only can this approach expedite recruitment, but it can also bring a level of initial trust and proven track record into the team dynamics early in a startup's days. That said, there are also pitfalls of mixing personal friendships with professional roles, and founders should think about candidates being a fit for the business beyond personal affiliations. Doug’s strategy involves external validation (e.g., having candidates interview with others to confirm their fit) before mixing personal and professional lives. This does not always work, but the approach has served PayJoy well and there are a few early hires who are still with the company today.


Strengths and weaknesses on the transition from engineer to company CEO

There's that dangerous valley in the middle, where I come from tech and I want it to happen in two days, but I'm far enough that I've lost sight of the actual details that make it take two weeks. Learning how to delegate, hire, and agree on ownership and deliverables. Those are the challenges.

Doug’s initial years at PayJoy involved a hands-on approach to coding and direct involvement in technical projects, but as the company grew, he faced the challenge of stepping back from these tasks to focus on a broader strategic leadership role. This transition has required learning to trust his team to handle technical responsibilities, a shift from being the person directly implementing solutions to one who guides and oversees. Ricket opened up about the difficulties of adjusting his expectations about how long technical tasks should take when he is no longer involved in the day-to-day coding. When this happens, learning how to delegate effectively and trust your team is the hardest chasm to cross.

Executing a business model pivot and why in startups there are no magic elves and you have to do all the work yourself… and a lot more!

"As a business leader, I didn't know that it was the right call. All I could do was say was, I think this thing isn't working and that thing looks like it'd be better. Super scary to shut it down."  

PayJoy’s initial business model focused mostly on licensing its smartphone security and credit scoring technologies across multiple markets to different providers. But as the pandemic significantly impacted most partner operations, PayJoy realized the limitations of this approach and decided to pivot to a direct lending model, where they would handle the entire operation and vertically integrate their value chain. The team understood that controlling the entire lending process would not only ensure higher profitability but also greater control over the customer experience and led them from $10 million in revenue four years ago to $300 million today.

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Miguel Armaza is Co-Founder & General Partner of Gilgamesh Ventures, a seed-stage investment fund focused on fintech in the Americas. He also hosts and writes the Fintech Leaders podcast and newsletter.