Renowned New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman once wrote, “The day of average is over. Average only guarantees below average results.” Khaled Mazeedi, founder and CEO of Swipemint, is a man who does not think in average ways. Only 34 years old, Mazeedi described his business, Swipemint, as “a business disruptor for the new age” because of its aim “to revolutionize traditional banking services” by not only providing metal credit cards, but also “democratising rewards, benefits and privileges.”
In an interview with Insider Monkey, Mazeedi talks about his recent venture in establishing fintech company Swipemint, and reflects on his upcoming book, “The Glitch”, an avant garde read about his insight on how one can “achieve anything they want in life” by “finding and exploiting the cracks.”
IM: Tell us more about your latest delve in entrepreneurship, specifically Swipemint. Are you naturally talented in entrepreneurship and has it always been a key area of your life?
SwipeMint upgrades existing bank issued debit and credit cards into personalized metal cards, and we also provide our customers access to benefits, rewards, and privileges without requiring qualifications. We aim to revolutionize traditional and premium banking products and services that are currently offered by financial institutions by making them accessible to the average person.
The idea came to me when I noticed the growing number of people that crave premium credit cards like the Amex Black Card and how challenging it was for people, in general, to qualify for them. They wanted to have, specifically, the metal credit card because it was a marker of success and wealth. More so, because most people are unable to afford the exorbitant sign-up fees (for example, American Express charges up to $10,000 for its black card), I figured that if this demographic of people could access these cards without the hassle and at an affordable price, it would offer them an interesting proposition. I began researching how these cards were manufactured, immersing myself in the industry, until I was confident enough to create my own prototype. Fast forward a few years, and we now have fully functional and personalized metal credit cards, and some of our cards have benefits, rewards and privileges.
Entrepreneurship has always been in my blood. Since I was young, I was always conjuring up ambitious ideas. My first exposure with business started at the age of 15, buying and selling whatever I could get my hands on to turn a profit. Soon after, still as a teenager, I started day trading and was heavily vested in the stock market, gaining valuable experience that I still apply to this day. I approach entrepreneurship with a “do or die” mentality and in reference to the great Tariq ibn Zayed, who crossed the strait from northern Africa with an army of about 7,000 men. When they arrived at the shore, he said to them, “Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy.”
This is how I approach much of my life including entrepreneurship, with courage and constancy.
IM: You found your way into professional sports before leaping into entrepreneurship. Did being a professional athlete influence the way you conduct business?
I remember the day I went to France to try out for Le Havre AC in the French Ligue 1. I was a young and idealistic 20 year old.
When I drove by the club’s stadium for the first time, en route to its training grounds, I was enamoured with its grandeur and imagined fans chanting and celebrating the moment we scored a goal. I was determined to make the team and aspired to be one of its most prolific players. I was on a mission to prove that athletes with my background had the mentality and skills to compete at the highest level, and becoming the first Arabian Gulf professional football player in Europe was the first step in proving that.
Although I made the cut and was an exceptional player, the dream I had was different from the reality I experienced. Just as with any other profession, professional sports has its own shortcomings including its toll – years of physical wear and tear on an athlete’s body and internal politics, with clubs, coaches, players and agents, that players constantly have to endure.
Over the years of playing professionally with a number of teams, I became a student of the game and learned skills I would have not learned otherwise. Being a part of a team that competes and performs at an elite level teaches you valuable skills, including consistency and discipline. You have to make sacrifices to maintain that high level. I also learned very quickly that no matter how good you are at something, you should always be willing to learn from others with greater experience. I had the great privilege to interact with a variety of sports professionals including star players, coaches, and club board members.
Ultimately, the most valuable lesson I gained was about leadership. By scrutinizing the coaches and players around me, I studied what constituted a “great leader” and what made a bad one. I became a student of the game and learned the importance of teamwork and the mindset required to win with a collective group of people, and learned management philosophies that encourages a positive team culture.
These past experiences in professional football improved my leadership skills and have made me a better leader today.
IM: What are the different products that Swipemint offers?
Swipemint’s value proposition is simple: Upgrade your current bank issued card to your choice of three distinct offerings; the Monarch, Thales and Vertu cards. The Monarch metal card gives customers a variety of metal finishes, including brushed and polished options in steel, rose, gold, and black with unlimited designs and personalisations available. The most accessible of the packages, the Monarch is geared for anyone looking to position themselves above the pack to elevate their brand, personal or executive, with a credit card.
The Thales card comes in gold, platinum, and black finishes and offers benefits, rewards and privileges that in my opinion outperform the Amex Black Card in a number of areas, for a fraction of the cost. These include having access to eight hundred WeWork offices from around the world and private wealth advisory, which Amex does not offer. No institution offers anything like it.
Our Thales card is a multi-layered design sporting a logo of Thales of Miletus, inspired by an ancient Greek philosopher who created the world’s first monopoly in human history. Its background layer has Swipemint’s recognizable monogram. The card has its perks, its metals are durable and manufactured to the highest standard, and it was designed to be as iconic as the most popular premium credit cards in the market. Thales is said to be reforming premium credit card services that banks currently offer, and that indicates that our fundamental model is disrupting the industry and that Swipemint is leading this segment in premium banking.
The Vertu card is reserved for our most sophisticated clients. Its composite materials are derived from the world’s rarest diamonds, gems, and other exotic minerals. These cards are delicately handcrafted by our expert jeweler and come with a lifetime of services that we prefer to keep confidential at the moment. We have very important individuals as clients, and we commit to their anonymity, however, we can say that a number of prominent celebrities and several royal family members are among our most dignified Vertu clients.
IM: Can you tell us about Swipemint’s total revenues and what challenges did you have to face to get to where you are now?
We developed Swipemint into a major player in the Financial Technology sector and innovated a very unique product. The business is the first of its kind in Asia, with revenues exceeding US$ 1 million.
The main challenge we faced in the beginning was our client design process. Initially, the designing process for our customers’ personalized card was time consuming and our methods were labor intensive, and we ensuingly had to have face-to-face consultations with our clients prior to production. This hindered our production and sales capabilities. We thought the solution would be to continue hiring additional designers, but ultimately it was a technology solution that fundamentally solved this challenge, which was automation of the design process.
We integrated an online builder into our website to automate the card personalization through a detailed five-step process that can deliver countless variations, in which users have various options to select card card type, color, border trim, and custom logos. Once you go through the builder, the final product is a very personalized design, and most of the feedback thus far has been positive.
IM: How did you overcome the challenges to improve your business?
Three months after we automatized the design process on Swipemint’s website, we increased the sales and conversion rate by 300% and within ten months our revenue reached over $US 1.5 million for the year. The online builder gave us a number of advantages, particularly the simplification of and speeding up the process for customers to customize their credit cards. The lesson here is that by automating product design and giving users a seamless ordering experience, sales and conversions can drastically improve and increase profitability.
IM: You’ve decided to become an author of a book early into your entrepreneurial career. Can you give us the scoop on your upcoming book, “The Glitch”?
“The Glitch” is a powerful idea that has been brewing in my mind for years as I developed innovative methods to improve my professional career and personal life.
When everyone around me started to know me as the man who was able to ‘glitch’ anything and make the impossible happen, it struck me. With so much limiting our potential to become the best version of ourselves, in a world where we constantly face so many obstacles, I figured what if I was able to share, in a world with growing complexity, unspoken methods that favourably solve these obstacles, that people can take back their power and their lives.
Our lives are hindered by countless limitations that have been imposed on us by governments, corporations, the media and society, and sometimes to move up the ladder you have to find cracks within these systems and manifest outcomes in your favour.
The main take-away from my book, “The Glitch,” is that a person has the power to take control of their lives and recreate their identities, regardless of any imposing limitations created by the world. More so, I explore further the idea of “glitching” in a way that actually can improve, rather than harm, our societies. With all these new possibilities, don’t you think the world would have more people pursuing their dreams?