Case study: Selina

Developing a future-proof payments solution

Illustration of aperson looking at a laptop frome home

When your customers are always on the move, they expect to be able to pay however they want, wherever they want.

– John, Treasury Director, at Selina.

Founded in 2015, Selina is on a mission to redefine the way we travel and work. An ecosystem catering to digital nomads, guests can reserve mid-term stays at any of Selina’s 150 owned properties and onto thousands of local authentic activities and experiences.

After a successful funding round in 2019, and a presence in 19 counties, Selina’s focus is to expand its global footprint by opening more properties and reservation channels. But the team required a payments solution that could keep pace with their growth plans.

“When your customers are always on the move, they expect to be able to pay however they want, wherever they want”, says John, Treasury Director at Selina, “the problem was that our payments system wasn’t able to grow with us.”

We sat down with the project team from Selina, Payvision, and payment consultancy firm, PaymentsOp, to hear how the project went and how 2020 brought more than anyone had bargained for.

Simplifying a complex infrastructure

By pulling everything into one flow, it’d be easier to add more channels later. But it was going to be complex

– Keren, Co-founder, and CEO, PaymentsOp

In January, Selina sought advice from PaymentsOp, who saw that the legacy system was holding Selina back. “The system couldn’t keep up with the channel offering Selina already had, let alone what they wanted to provide,” Maria, Head of Payment Projects at PaymentsOp, tells us. “It was becoming a hassle for the product team to add new channels and onboard new properties.”

With a multichannel presence, plus numerous payment methods and currencies, even the reporting was enough to make anyone’s head spin. Unifying the channels under one PSP was the answer.

“By pulling everything into one flow, it’d be easier to add more channels down the road. But it was going to be complex,” clarifies Keren, Co-founder, and CEO, PaymentsOp, “we knew Payvision would hit the sweet spot when it came to their unique technology and cultural fit, so we put them in touch.”

A brand match made in heaven

Even if you’re in payments, it’s a complex world, so communication is key.

– Bradley, Technical Integrations Manager, Payvision.

At face value, fintech and hospitality seem more like chalk and cheese, but Selina and Payvision have a lot in common. Appreciating customization, attention to detail, and social responsibility is what sets Selina apart from the hospitality industry. While Payvisions’ ‘street smart,’ ‘curious’ and ‘supportive’ cultural values were the recipe for success to help find practical solutions to Selina’s requirements. In February 2020, Payvisions’ Bradley Hossack, Technical Integration Manager, and Lars Franz, Business Development Manager, flew to Tel Aviv to kick off the project.

From the get-go, it was clear that building the right solution would need involvement from several stakeholders and Selina has a big product team who work remotely. ‘We thought that the best way to start was to get everyone in the same room” Bradley explains, “even if you’re in payments, it’s a pretty complex world, so communication is key.”

After three days of interviews, Q&A’s, and enjoying beers in the sun, timelines were set, and it was decided that Bradley and Lars would be back regularly to help oversee the project. Lars laughed, “Bradley and I were so excited for the project and that we’d be getting away from the rainy Netherlands and work in the Israeli climate. Then, COVID-19 happened.”

A sudden change in directions

We had to pivot the business strategy, and to do it fast.

– Dina, Project Manager, Selina.

The COVID-19 pandemic took place straight after the kick-off, which hit the hospitality sector incredibly hard. Selina focused on pivoting their business strategy by focusing on digital nomads and the new wave of remote workers who needed longer-term, co-living arrangements. Consequently, the payments solution project was pushed back by a few months, and much to Lars’ dismay, meetings went remote to accommodate the new direction.

“It was a tense time,” explains Dina. “Travel ground to a halt. We had to pivot the business strategy and to do it fast. We did this by offering longer-term co-living”, she explains.

Illustration of a laptop

Navigating complex collaboration virtually.

When teams are naturally solution-oriented, collaboration is easier. That’s why Selina and Payvision click

– Lars, Business Development Manager, Payvision.

When the project was ready to progress, the team faced a new challenge: Virtual collaboration. “The project was complex, and the disruption from COVID-19 had an impact on the momentum” Dina, Project Manager at Selina, says, “but Bradley and Lars were there to help.”

One standout moment was when Payvision was hosting a video call with 150 hotel managers to see how a scalable solution would work. Lars chimes in, “but we found out last minute that there was a language barrier as most managers primarily spoke Spanish.” He laughs “Bradley and I know payments inside-out, but explaining it in Spanish was a bit out of our league,” explaining, “we thought the simplest way was to have Pilar, our Product Manager who’s a native speaker, host the Q&A, which was a real hit.”

The biggest challenge for Bradley was onboarding Selina’s operations team to eventually train the hotel staff on the new system. Bradley explains, “I prefer to do onboarding face to face, it needs to be spot on, or the team won’t be successful with using the solution.” Dina continues, “but Bradley went above and beyond with this; he made the training interactive and also hosted demos with the product team, so everyone was always on the same page.”

Bradley mentions, “Selina’s team isn't afraid to ask questions, and everyone wants to understand how to maximize its potential.” Lars agrees, “when you have teams that are naturally solution-oriented and aren’t afraid to be direct, collaboration is easier. That’s why Selina and Payvision click.”

A future-proof solution, ready for growth

We can hit the ground running with our growth plans thanks to Payvision

– Dina, Project Manager, Selina

The project is now nearing its final phases. Selina’s payments are now unified into one flow, and a new reporting dashboard that gives transparency over each channel. With a successful MVP that’s being rolled out to Selina’s properties, Bradley says, “we’re onboarding properties to see how it goes and iron out any kinks, but all in all, the project has gone really well despite COVID-19”. Bradley goes on, “Selina’s product team are awesome to work with; they roll things out quickly. I think we were only 2 days over the deadline, and everyone was working hard to make it happen.”

And what’s the best thing about the solution?

“We have our time back,” says Dina, “the product team can easily add new channels and we can monitor their performance” Dina elaborates, “it’s like removing the blindfold. We can hit the ground running with our growth plans in 2021, thanks to Payvision.”

Lars concludes, “I think we can all agree that this is a project that we are especially proud of. Despite the hurdles, we got it done. I’ll be planning my next trip to Tel Aviv for a launch party when this is all over!”