Laurent Le Moal, Circle and myPOS

Portfolio Profile

A payments leader for small merchants: Laurent Le Moal, Chairman of Circle (myPOS)

Rebecca Burn-Callander

May 09, 2024

“Let’s make this interesting,” says Laurent Le Moal. “These business stories are often so boring, aren’t they? Who reads them?”

A deal is struck: no acronyms, no business-speak and no cliches. “You want to feel like you’re giving people something of value,” he explains.

It is clear from this discussion that payments industry veteran Le Moal is a formidable negotiator. The former consultant spent over a decade at PayPal, latterly as Vice President EMEA, before joining payments provider PayU as chief executive in 2016 and masterminding its journey to IPO. Holding an MBA from London Business School, he has also been an advisor to the World Economic Forum on the future of global financial and monetary systems.

Today, however, we’re talking about myPOS, the global payments provider serving sole merchants and small businesses. In January, he joined as executive chairman of Circle, a platform formed by Advent to facilitate its acquisition of myPOS, announced in November 2023. He is tasked with working alongside the CEO to supercharge growth.

Le Moal and Advent have something in common. They both have an illustrious history in the payments space. Over the last 15 years, Advent has invested more than $6.6 billion in 17 payments and fintech companies globally. Recent investments in the sector include Mangopay, Medius, Thredd and Planet.

Advent established its reputation in the sector with foundational deals such as its carveout of Worldpay in 2010, which showed that payments divisions could become global champions when separated from their parent banks.

“Advent has a strong track record in payments,” says Le Moal, as we sit in the private equity firm’s London office. “They understand the market, and they know how to source top industry talent – and great portfolio companies. I was delighted when Fabio Cali at Advent gave me the opportunity to work with myPOS.

From humble beginnings

“In fintech, you often see companies with a little bit of revenue, constantly raising money on the promise they are going to change the world,” says Le Moal. In contrast, myPOS has avoided the pomp and bluster, quietly winning customers across the globe.

“How many fintechs actually reach profitability?” he adds. “How many companies from any industry do?”

Founded in 2012 by Hristo Georgiev and Yavor Petrov, Bulgarian fintech myPOS has become the provider of choice for hundreds of thousands of users across 30 countries – from taxi drivers to beauty consultants to food truck solopreneurs. “What myPOS has done really well is to give a cost-effective payment solution to very small sellers,” explains Le Moal. “These are the businesses that banks overlook entirely.”

When you are a sole trader, the last thing you need is more admin to distract you from running your business. The purpose of myPOS is to process digital payments “with no hassle”, explains Le Moal.

Le Moal was excited by the opportunity to join a business with a proven concept, he says. His role is to help myPOS reach the next stage in its growth. “You have to be careful not to break what works, but to enhance it,” he says.

Advent invested in myPOS because its success in winning small merchants – customers that are all unique and therefore often difficult to target – make it an ideal candidate for a platform play. “We could build a whole suite of software-as-a-service products on top of our current infrastructure,” says Le Moal

Bringing a wealth of experience

“I’m half French and half Italian,” Le Moal says, and it shows. His outfit is classic smart/casual – black leather sneakers, a charcoal grey polo shirt and blazer, which complement his trimmed salt-and-pepper beard.

His chairmanship of myPOS came at the right time, he reveals. “I had just left a CEO position and I wasn’t ready to become a professional board member.” Why? “Because I like to execute, to be involved. Sitting on a board, you are limited to the overrated art of asking questions.”

The business he had just left was another payments firm called PayU, part of the South African multinational Naspers. He joined as CEO in 2016 when it was “small and had no strategy to speak of”.

It was a risky move, he admits, but – succeed or fail – he was confident he would learn on the journey. “It was my first experience restructuring a business,” he says. “We had to cut costs, shake up the team and simplify the structure.” Le Moal took PayU from revenues of $150 million and losses of $100 million to $1 billion in revenues and an EBITDA of 10%.

Before PayU, he spent 11 years at PayPal. “I had a new job every 18 months, but, in essence, my role was always to open up new markets,” he says.

He is taking the lessons he learned at PayPal and PayU into myPOS. “At PayPal, it was all about creating a playbook for growth. Rinse and repeat,” he says. “But I also learned that when you open in new markets where the culture is fundamentally different, sticking to your playbook can be dangerous.” From PayU, he learned that “there are no shortcuts,” he says. “It took me eight years to achieve all my goals.”

The next chapter for myPOS

Originally a small provider in central Europe, myPOS has already grown to a pan-European organisation within its niche. Le Moal wants to go one step further, by bolting on a new SaaS suite of products and services, all catering to the small merchant and sole trader. “Today, I can give you a way to accept payments,” says Le Moal. “Tomorrow, I will help you access all the services and products you need to manage your whole business.”

At myPOS, the leadership team are also turning their attention to brand and marketing in earnest for the first time. “Right now, we are shifting our attention to qualitative rather than quantitative elements,” he says. “What is our NPS [Net Promoter Score]? Let’s invest in our brand… It’s not just about being a fast follower. Yes, we want to remain cost-effective but we want to be the best, leading from the front.”

In the short term, this means focusing on talent – both upskilling existing team members and recruiting skills from outside the business. “We want to bring in people who have the skills required within a business that is five times the size we are now,” reveals Le Moal. “It’s never easy to do that, to hire ahead of the curve, but that is what is needed here.”

Over the years, Le Moal has taken roles that stretch his abilities and teach him something new. What is he hoping to learn from myPOS? “I’m fascinated by the process of building a team, bringing together the new and the old elements and defining a new culture. That will be difficult but will become one of our primary differentiators as we grow.”

At 53, he is keen to see demonstrable impact from his skills and experience. “I’ve always been lucky in my life,” he says. “I have seized opportunities that have given me a great career. That has taught me that if someone offers you a seat on a rocket, you jump on. If we get myPOS five times bigger, in terms of profit – if we move from a low-cost provider to a truly innovative leader – that will be my legacy in this business.”

Quickfire Q&A

What was the last business book you read?
Business books are a complete waste of time. If you really want to hear from the world’s best leaders, find their podcasts.

What mistakes do you see leaders make again and again?
They forget first-principle thinking, lacking the ability to break problems down into individual components.

What stands in the way of growth?
Complex hierarchies with too many people hiding behind frameworks and acronyms.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Don’t think that just because you’re at the top, you’re too important to be bothered by the details. You need to be able to zoom in and out – to see the big picture and the tiniest of details. That’s what defines a truly great leader.

Rebecca Burn-Callander is a freelance business journalist. Former enterprise editor of The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, she now hosts the award-winning podcast Sound Advice: Entrepreneurs Unfiltered. She is also the author of the Daily Telegraph Guide to Investing.

© 2002-2024 Advent International, L.P. All rights reserved

LinkedIn Instagram youtube