How Waivr’s Carolina Nucamendi Is Transforming Subscription Payments
The Transparent Collective alum on creating a modern payment system.
Nowadays, subscription services are the norm. But when credit and debit cards were first introduced, they were a rarity, and as a result these systems aren’t set up for recurring payments. This can be a problem for both consumers and merchants.
“Thirty-five percent of recurring payments fail. That’s a pretty high margin,” says Carolina Nucamendi, co-founder and CEO of Waivr, a payment platform for subscription services. “We can bring that number down to a single digit. Waivr clears all the noise around how a payment can fail by adding transaction data visibility and moving payments through a hybrid RTP (real-time payment) and ACH (automated clearing house) network.”
We sat down with the Transparent Collective alum to learn more about the challenges of subscription payments, her advice for founders, and what’s next for Waivr.
How did you come up with the idea for Waivr?
We actually started as an overdraft solution. We would essentially track balances in real time and help people avoid overdrafts by making an instant transfer to their accounts. We had that product on the market for about six months. When we reviewed the data, we realized that the majority of the transactions we saw that were causing an overdraft or NSF were from subscription services.
We had this aha-moment when we realized that there’s a big problem with recurring payments because the systems that exist today are not built for that kind of frequency.
That led us to build a payment infrastructure designed for recurrency and subscriptions.
How does it work?
When you think of it, probably 99 percent of the subscriptions that you have are paid for with a card. Card networks were built in the 1950s for a one-time kind of payment. Recurring payments often fail today because there’s no ability within the network to verify that there are funds available up until the point that they fail.
A great example is your month-to-month subscription with Netflix. The network moves the payment blindly, with no visibility into the balance of your account until the moment that it realizes it’s not sufficient, at that point a consumer will be hit with an overdraft or the payment will entirely bounce.
Waivr introduces Pay by Bank. Instead of entering your card numbers, you enter your credentials to connect your bank account. At that point there’s an ability to see what the balance of the account is and what the past transactions are — which allows us to find the optimal billing date for that specific recurrent charge. Maybe it’s the third and 15th of the month because that’s when your paycheck comes in.
What are the benefits?
From the merchant perspective, Waivr confirms that the funds exist before the payment instruction is even sent, because there’s no point in billing your account if I know you don’t have the money to make the payment, as a result we’re able to decrease churn, virtually eliminate failed payments and substantially decrease their payment processing costs.
It’s also a much better experience for their users. As a consumer, without Waivr you might end up with an overdraft fee or a bounced payment that will cost you emergency money and become problematic. You might get annoyed at the subscription service and even churn out of it.
There’s also the level of security that comes with transacting with this type of network. It’s a lot safer and a lot less open to fraud because we’re able to verify ownership of the account.
And then lastly, what we think is the highest value proposition for the user, is that you can save money because the cost of that transaction to the merchant goes down by a substantial margin. The merchant is then able to pass some of those savings back to the user.
What was your experience like with Transparent Collective?
I left my job in February of 2021; I was working as a vice president at City National Bank at the time and I had this idea that became the first iteration of Waivr. I joined a batch at Transparent Collective very soon after I left my job.
I come from a business background, so I had a good idea of what it’s like to start a business — but not what it’s like to raise venture capital. If you haven’t done it before, there are just so many nuances and it can be very overwhelming.
James and Rohini really helped me understand how the world of venture capital worked. They helped me get comfortable having those kinds of conversations. We gained some great connections from the program, one of which ended up funding us a year or so later.
Why do you think Transparent Collective’s mission is so important?
I’m a female founder and I was born and raised in Mexico. I moved to the U.S. about 10 years ago. I went to business school, but I didn’t necessarily have a network of people who knew how the venture world worked. I had one friend who had started a company, but I didn’t have a network of founders to help me think through things.
I think for my demographics — a woman, Hispanic, and international — it’s pretty common not to have those kinds of networks. So when you get into a program like the Transparent Collective that’s able to bridge that gap, it’s incredibly valuable.
They’re a really good group to have in your corner from the beginning. Having people to root for you is something everyone needs early on because it’s very, very lonely in the beginning. It feels really good to be surrounded by people that believe in you and make you want to keep going.
What kind of advice do you have for other founders?
During the first year of running Waivr I became comfortable with not knowing whether or not things were going to work out. We were really passionate about what we were doing and decided to stick it out as long as we could.
So the piece of advice I would give is just keep working at it. If you have enough conviction, you’ll find a way to make it work.
What’s next for Waivr?
We just went live.
Our first customer is a beverage company based in Los Angeles that has a subscription product. Wells Fargo also became our bank partner, which was a very big step for us.
We’re getting very positive reactions from the market and seeing use cases we didn’t even imagine. For example, we talked to a buy now, pay later company earlier this week. Part of the value for them is that Waivr helps them combat some of the fraud that they see while making sure that they’re able to lower their default rates.
We’re excited to see people use our technology and explore all the problems it can solve for them.