Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Leo Rocco

Wise Words

Leo Rocco is the founder of Pago, an app which enables users to order and pay for goods before collection at local stores.

Leo Rocco is the founder of Pago, an app which enables users to order and pay for goods before collecting them at local stores. Having graduated from Kettering University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and MIS, Leo went on to work at PTC, (a provider of Product Lifecycle Management Solutions), and then at IBM, working with customers such as Intel, Cisco, HP, Oracle and eBay.

Pago launched in August this year and has already established partnerships with over 50 venues. Users of the app can browse the goods and services available from these venues, place an order and pay through the app, then visit the store when their order is ready for collection. Social media integration, meanwhile, means users can post reviews and recommendations of their transactions on Facebook and Twitter, and the app’s built in loyalty scheme enables users to trade in points — which are earned with each transaction —for discounts and deals.

1. Where did the idea for Pago come from?

I was at AT&T Park with a few friends and we were following Barry Bonds’ historic 756 home run record. It was bottom of the 5th with 2 outs and Bonds was eighth to bat. He was in a slump and having a bad game; there was low expectation that he was even going to get a chance to bat again. Taking that into consideration, it was my turn to get the beers and I got up to go to the concession stand. Next came the worst experience any baseball fan could have — as I was waiting in the long line there was a roar in the crowd… it turned out that Bonds hit the historic homerun and I missed it. It’s funny because when I returned to my seat my friends told me that we needed the system that I always dreamt of and talked about. Today, that system is called Pago.

2. Why do you think that consumers will go halfway towards eliminating the inconvenience of shopping locally, rather than doing so altogether by shopping online?

It depends on the product and service. Online stores have been very effective in selling common and specialty goods. This was the phenomenon of the 90s. Businesses could operate on a lean cost budget and sell products at reduced margins and pass the savings onto the consumer. However, consumers still love brick and mortar. The benefits of face-to-face customer service, instant product availability, and instant gratification are still highly valued. Today, the smartphone is driving the convergence between the brick and mortar and online worlds. Both online and brick and mortar businesses want to be where their customers are – on smartphones. We see this trend continuing as consumers look for ways to transact in a more convenient way, while getting a fair price, and receiving recognition for their patronage and loyalty.

3. Can you describe a typical working day?

My day starts at 7 a.m. I review top items of the day and how we are tracking for the week. I have what we call Synch 1 with my team leads by 8 a.m. and continue to work on the business thereafter. We operate in a very results-oriented environment, so being in touch with my team helps avoid any surprises and allows us to manage, steer, and make adjustments quickly. Most of the day I’m in business development meetings with partners and customers. Around 4 p.m., I catch my first (and only) soy latte of the day (thank you Neto Caffee in Mountain View) with my team leads for Synch 2, where each of them gets to provide insight on how are we tracking and if there are any obstacles. I participate in as many team meetings as possible, providing support and challenging them to think differently, be maniacal and take ownership of their tasks. I believe in having a very positive, high-energy work environment. Being in high-pressure situations allows people the opportunity to rise to greatness. My day wraps up around 2:30 a.m. when I flag down one of the few taxicabs back to my apartment. I can’t wait for tomorrow to start.

4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Pago?

My girlfriend balances me out. She takes me away a bit and is incredibly supportive. She gets it and understands that being an entrepreneur is one of the most difficult things a person can do. I see her on the weekends and we have a great time cooking — actually she cooks and I wash dishes; you’d be surprised how enjoyable washing dishes can be — and enjoying the beautiful city of San Francisco.

5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?


6. What drove you crazy when building your business?

Many things … but here are a couple: 1) The number of people that tell you that they can help you raise money and in the end they deliver nothing. This drives me crazy! Remember, when it’s your company you need to go out and do whatever it takes to keep the business alive. Only a few people can really help, when you find them, you have truly found a real angel. 2) Employees that dream of the fantasy of working for a Silicon Valley startup, but in reality don’t understand the commitment or have the stomach to handle the emotional roller coaster. It literally takes blood, sweat, tears and an incredible mental stability.

7. What motivates you to keep going?

We are going to change the world and I have a great team doing it with me!

8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Early on, find people who truly understand what self-sacrifice means, who can take ownership, are incredibly hungry and have the eye of the tiger. Can you eat Ramon noodles for a month… or how about 6?

9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

Based on industry feedback on our application and a really exciting partnership that is on the horizon, I see Pago being one of the lead companies driving the mobile payments revolution. We will get there through continued business development activity and the releasing of industry-leading, pixel-perfect technology. We are well aware of our competition, but choose to look at them from the rear view mirror.

10. If you weren’t working on Pago, what would you be doing?

Leading another start up. Probably in healthcare. What a mess!

11. Tell Springwise a secret…

Ah! This is a tough one. It will come out in my book 😉

12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be persistent and don’t give up. Listen to what’s happening in the marketplace and adjust your business model and messaging accordingly. Paranoia about your competitors keeps you ahead. Invest in Prilosec.

You can read more about Pago in our article here, or visit the Pago website here.