After almost a decade in sales and client account management roles, Jack Mangnall was appointed Head of Partner Growth at payments fintech Cardstream in August 2020. He spent nearly two years in the role, before joining Acquired.com as a Senior Partner Manager for ISV in May 2022.
Now, the British entrepreneur is aiming to leverage that experience as he embarks on a totally new venture: the launch of his own payments business, Shape Technologies. “Our mission is to get payments businesses to market quicker,” he tells FinTech Magazine, “delivering a dynamic payments-platform-as-a-service (PPaaS), which is fully customisable for PSPs the world over.
“My experience in payments enabled me to identify gaps within the industry – for example, payfacs struggling to build technology, gateways with poor UI, acquirers with legacy platforms and processes. I don’t mean to demean what specific companies in those areas have achieved; in fact, in order to achieve success, these companies have had to neglect their merchant-facing interfaces in favour of building out core processing capability and global connectivity.
“But that is where we saw our opportunity. I believe that Shape’s modules used in various combinations can add value for so many PSPs and enable them to provide their partners and merchants with a full merchant journey they’ll be proud of.”
The founder experience in challenging times
There is no easy time to start a business – but, perhaps, these last few months have been harder than most. In the UK, where Shape is based, the headline rate of inflation is – at the time of writing – hovering just below the 7% mark, three percentage points or so higher than in the US. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the UK will have five more years of high interest rates, as well as the slowest growth of all G7 economies.
Add to that a series of UK government U-turns – first, a delay to a planned ban on new diesel and petrol cars, which was expected to come in 2030 but will now be pushed back until at least 2035; then, the cancellation of a major leg of a national high-speed rail project – and business confidence in Mangnall’s home country is not at its highest.
So what does he make of the founder experience in today’s volatile economy? Mangnall tells us that, were he trying to start a business in an industry with lots of competition and little differentiation, he wouldn’t have even attempted it. But he’s confident in the problems that Shape are aiming to resolve, and believes in his company’s ability to generate value for clients.
“We’ve seen huge amounts of money raised, but that money carries a huge burden and sadly in many cases, large investment rounds have been followed by big detrimental impacts to businesses and the people within those businesses,” he tells us.
“Thankfully, we’re uniquely positioned. Our technology, our approach and our route to market means that there isn’t a bad time to launch. We align with the vision of major card schemes and acquirers and are serving a part of the ecosystem that nobody else is – not to our extent, anyway. Therefore, we decided that the sooner we launch, the better. And so far, that decision is paying off.”
The pressure is real in growth-stage businesses
As Shape continues to scale, he will be able to draw on his time spent at growing businesses, which have taught him a thing or two: “In an early-stage start-up, every single day you’re making what feels like huge, life-changing decisions,” Mangnall continues. “You’re reacting to events that could bring your mission to a halt, putting at risk many things including the welfare of your family. A little dramatic I know, but that’s how it feels. The highs are like no other, but the lows hurt and instantly remind you of the fragile position you’re in.”
Those tentative first few weeks are now behind him at Shape, which has now been trading for six months, meaning Mangnall – and fellow Co-founder Nick Walpole – can focus on scaling the platform they have developed. And he intends to take no prisoners in the process.
“A previous manager once told me I’m ruthlessly ambitious, and I took that as a huge compliment. Don’t get me wrong, I care about the people around me and will always do my utmost to help them, but nothing can ever stand in the way of Shape achieving its mission.”
Mangnall is a family man at heart: he has young children and a partner whom he adores. As many founders will attest, having the right support network – including loving family around you – is vital to relieving the stresses of building a business from scratch. He also tries to keep fit, training before every working day – not just for the physical aspect of it, but to set him up mentally for the day ahead too.