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Galileo’s Cole Wilkes: ‘With Instant, we wanted to see how quickly we could go from zero to cards-in-hand’

  • Galileo powers the debit cards for many of today's top fintech firms.
  • The company recently launched Instant, expanding its market into non-financial companies that want to launch a card.
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Galileo’s Cole Wilkes: ‘With Instant, we wanted to see how quickly we could go from zero to cards-in-hand’

A few weeks back, payments API firm, Galileo launched Instant, which dramatically simplifies and accelerates launching a debit card — taking what can be a multi-month process and turning it into a couple of weeks. Galileo claims it had hundreds of companies signed up for a beta when it went live and the interest is still very strong.

Galileo Managing Director Cole Wilkes joins us on the podcast today to talk more about Instant.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Building Instant

Instant is a simple solution for businesses to create their own debit cards and bank accounts. We set out to lower the barrier to entry for creating cards and accounts, and delivering card and accounts payments solutions. It’s not just limited to fintech — it’s particularly useful for new businesses, too. Now, businesses outside of finance have an easier way of delivering financial products.

The alternatives

Instant’s counterpart is called Galileo Pro. That’s what Galileo’s done for the past 20 years. Traditionally in card issuing, there are a number of different roles to be played — you’ve got KYC, card fulfillment, processing, program management, issuing banks and associations. All these companies need to work to piece together a card program.

With Instant, Galileo takes on the role of payments expert. It includes a lot of the components and we take care of that for the clients — it’s not limited to just processing. We really take on those other roles, as well.

They are two solutions that complement each other very well. We’ll still continue to serve the fintech, very large fintech and payments companies that require more customization. On the Instant side, we’ve got firms that simply want to issue cards or make a payment.

Issuing cards to make a payment

We’ve definitely looked into what it means for a company to make a payment on to a card. There are lots of businesses that need to make payments to individuals — for example, we’re living in a modern world where millions of people are generating income from gig economy jobs and creating content. You’ve got Uber drivers, Youtubers, and Twitch streamers — they all need to be paid. These people get paid today with paper checks and ACH — some of the traditional payment mechanisms require a lot of time for an individual to receive payment. It could be a couple days for ACH or a couple weeks for a paper check.

We saw a big opportunity for Instant to play a role in that space — you can now have a company like Twitch make a payment directly on to a Twitch card using Instant.

Technical hurdles

This was a new concept for Galileo and our bank partner. There was a lot of learning along the way as we tried to package a solution like this that works out of the box. From a technical perspective, we have a lot of talent and knowledge we leveraged to build Instant.

Customer demand

I had a conversation with our business development team pre-Instant. We looked at the number of perspective clients we were losing because they weren’t ready to dedicate more resources to a payment solution. We turn away 75-100 businesses every year because of this. So, we started thinking about creating a product for non-fintech businesses to participate in a card and account-based solution.

As we got going, we launched our beta at the end of last year. Nearly immediately, we were getting a lot of inbound interest from businesses that wanted to do proofs of concept or they had a small set of cards they wanted to issue or they had the need to make a payment on their own cards. That was the first box we wanted to check — we wanted to see how quick we could go from zero to cards-in-hand. You can do this in as few as 14 days.

Inbound interest

It absolutely surprised us. In the course of 6 months or so, we had about 450 companies that enrolled and entered into our dashboard — our web tool that helps drive the self-serve nature of the business. Over the past couple months, we’re approaching double that number. The interest has been awesome, for sure.

Use cases

We’ve seen two primary use cases. The first is an early stage fintech startup that’s doing a lot of proof of concept and early development. They have the aspirations to go with our Pro product long term but are starting with Instant. The second use case is a company that simply wants to make a payment on their own card.

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