Barbara Bibas Montero is an investor and one of the early founders of SafetyPay, a venture capital-backed global payments solutions company. During her tenure at the company, she held multiple roles, including COO and CMO, in addition to serving on the SafetyPay Board of Directors. In 2022, payment platform PaySafe acquired SafetyPay for $441 million as part of its mission to grow its Latin America presence.
In her upcoming Founders Network global keynote on April 27, Barbara detailed the journey behind SafetyPay’s startup-to-sell success. During the talk, she recounted how a multi-faceted team evolved the company to successfully fill a gap in the fintech industry. She will also share her tips for leveraging PR to grow any business.
Here’s a sneak peek of her startup journey.
To learn about breaking into the fintech industry and effective startup marketing strategies, check out our video from the event, and see if you qualify for membership to join Founders Network.
The Road to SafetyPay
Barbara started her career working at American Express as part of the Latin American division. During her tenure, she witnessed the fallout from economic crises in the region. The experience offered her a first-hand look at the work required to keep a struggling division afloat, and the skills necessary to build back ‘leaner, meaner and stronger’.
The desire to succeed built grit and passion in Barbara who saw the possibility of untapped connections in the fintech industry. It also led her to meet her husband at American Express, who shared the same zeal. Barbara’s husband, Manuel Montero, was a seasoned corporate executive who had spent years building businesses that made an impact.
The idea for SafetyPay was born when one of its founders was not able to buy a simple computer part from the United States on his American-issued American Express while in Chile. This led an early team – including Barbara and her husband – to create a market-ready fintech product to address this challenge.
As luck would have it, the early 2000s were ripe for a dotcom boom. With both the tech opportunity and financial experience under their belt, the early team led by Barbara’s husband began exploring how to build a system to better enable cross-border transactions. In the end, they were able to successfully tap into the growing cross-border payments market, valued today at $156 trillion.
From Idea to Production
SafetyPay started to take off in early 2006, but saw its largest test during the 2008 financial crisis. The setbacks of global market instabilities left the team in search of a path forward. However, after some trial and error, the team found its sweet spot outside the U.S. market.
Barbara and her co-founders used their networks to identify a market entry point that presented itself at a BBVA financial institution in Peru. It was the first step in their expansion into Latin America and Europe.
“Our expanding team included many who were colleagues from our American Express days. We raised some seed funding from friends and family. Eventually, we secured funding from bigger investors, one of them being the International Finance Corporation, IFC, which is part of the World Bank,” Barbara says.
After 15 years of hard work, SafetyPay was acquired by PaySafe for $441 million in 2022.
Looking back, Barbara says the triumphs between startup and acquisition were enduring.
“It’s all part of being an entrepreneur. You have to go through that hero’s arc to get to where you are,” she says.
PR as a Growth Strategy
Among SafetyPay’s early successes was effectively marketing the payment system as an industry leader from the start. Barbara leveraged her years of marketing expertise in the financial sector as the secret ingredient to establish the company’s credibility.
Breaking into a company’s target market and spending time and money effectively are critical tactics for startups. Despite this, many founders, struggle to manage advertising and PR effectively.
Barbara believes the key to getting PR right is to know your market, know what you are good at, and invest intentionally to grow your credibility.
Today, Barbara uses her learnings from SafetyPay to mentor fellow founders on how they can find their niche within the tech landscape.
Barbara’s Founders Network keynote covered:
- Advice for breaking into the fintech landscape
- How to identify and break into your target market
- Tips for effectively positioning early-stage PR campaigns
- How to market your business as a landscape leader
To learn more about breaking into the fintech industry and effective startup marketing strategies, check out our video from the event, and see if you qualify for membership to join Founders Network.