In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Antonio Sena, a Sales Manager at PingPong Payments discusses how he discovered global trade in China, shares his eCommerce expansion story. PingPong Payments is a global payment processing platform.
One difficulty e-commerce entrepreneurs have when they want to take their businesses global is the issue of payment. It can get really tricky to do business in several different currencies with several different bank accounts. Yoni Mazor of PrimeTalk discusses a great solution to this issue with one of the Sales Managers at a global payment processing platform.
In today’s episode, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Antonio Sena, a Sales Manager at PingPing Payments, an innovative payment service provider for cross-border e-commerce sellers. PingPong has helped over 600,000 e-commerce sellers since its inception in 2015 to save money on all kinds of cross-border transactions.
Antonio Sena tells listeners about his interesting journey from California to China and back again and how his experiences in e-commerce led him to PingPong Payments. So if you’re in the e-commerce space and want to expand your brand into other countries, then this episode is for you!
Learn more at PingPong Payments.
Learn about GETIDA’s Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.
Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I’m really excited to have a special guest. I’m having Antonio Sena. He’s the sales manager at Ping Pong Payments, which is a global payment processing platform. Anthony, Antonio, right? Or Anthony? What should I call you?
Antonio Sena 0:21
Antonio or Tony. Never Anthony. Never Anthony.
Yoni Mazor 0:23
Never Anthony. All right. Tony, welcome to the show.
Antonio Sena 0:27
Thanks for having me, Yoni. Good to see you again.
Yoni Mazor 0:29
Same here, same here. Thank you for having me a few weeks ago at the webinar, I had a blast. A good time. So today’s episode is really going to be your episode. It’s going to be the story of you. So you’re going to share with us your background. Where’d you grow up? Where did you go to school? Where’d you get educated? When did you begin your professional career and how did you end up in e e-commerce and so forth? So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Antonio Sena 0:54
Alright, well hopefully I don’t bore too many people in tears and they’re able to stay awake through my whole life story here. Yeah, no, I was born and raised in California. I’m from Thousand Oaks City, a little bit north of LA. I kind of split my time there and in Culver City growing up.
Yoni Mazor 1:09
What’s Culver City famous for? Remind me, it sounds, it rings a strong bell.
Antonio Sena 1:13
Now Culver City used to be a kind of a dump but a lot of tech companies have moved there. It’s kind of a cheaper version of Silicon Valley.
Yoni Mazor 1:20
Ah, Silicon Valley. I got it. Yeah.
Antonio Sena 1:23
Yeah, so yeah, I mean, I studied history at UC San Diego with the plans of going to law school and ended up moving to China. Moved to China…
Yoni Mazor 1:32
Hold on hold on. What year did you go to school? When’d you graduate?
Antonio Sena 1:36
Oh okay. So yeah. All right. I graduated in 2001 from UC San Diego. So they’re a very good school. A lot of nerds you know, but right by the beach, but we had some fun schools around so a good combination of hard studying and hard-partying.
Yoni Mazor 1:52
The partying part we can probably have a whole episode. But that’s a different day. So what did you take in school? Where’d you learn in university?
Antonio Sena 2:00
Yeah so I studied history. So I was always really passionate about history. So I kind of focused on American contemporary history. And then I randomly had a minor in modern Chinese history and just cause I had a great professor. I kept taking his classes, and at the end, I’m like, Oh, you qualify for a minor in Chinese history. I said sign me up, I’ll take it!
Yoni Mazor 2:18
Sign me up. Yeah, wow. Lemme guess. And that was the beginning of your interest in China?
Antonio Sena 2:24
Yeah, sort of, I mean, it kind of piqued my interest more. What really actually got me interested in China, because, I think it was a year or two prior to graduation, China joined the WTO. And my goal was actually post-university was to go to law school. Yeah. WTO the World Trade Organization. Do you know?
Yoni Mazor 2:43
Oh WTO. Yeah. Yeah, sorry.
Antonio Sena 2:44
Yeah. So China just joined. I wanted to go to law school, I wanted to do entertainment law. And I thought I want to do entertainment law, like kind of focused on Asia. So that’s kind of where that kind of happened. But I decided to take a one-year break between law school, move to China, teach English and then come back and go to law school and start my life right? Hadn’t really traveled a lot, not from a very wealthy family or anything. So I’d never been outside of the US other than Mexico to see family.
Yoni Mazor 3:09
Got it, got it. So 2001 you graduated college and when did you shift into China? Right away?
Antonio Sena 3:13
Right away. I moved two months later.
Yoni Mazor 3:15
Two months later. And where Mainland China? Hong Kong?
Antonio Sena 3:18
I did Hong Kong for one month and then I was in Gwangju. Yeah. Where all the factories are, used to be where all the factories were.
Yoni Mazor 3:28
Electronics is there in Shenzhen for, you know, in the Guangdong area, it’s heavy loaded with electronics. Even today, as far as I understand it.
Antonio Sena 3:34
Yeah, for sure. Guangdong and Shenzhen are heavily electronics. Back when I was there, everything was in Guangdong. I mean Guangdong was like the industrial heartland of China. There are factories everywhere, but like, the real bread and butter where it was there. And that’s kind of so I taught English my first year, and I got lucky to be teaching at a school with a lot of kids whose parents own factories. And I was roughly the same age as them. So I started meeting them, meeting their parents. And kind of a bell went off my second year and said, there’s a business here, you know, I could work with these Chinese factories and help them sell to Westerners. And then I would look at their catalogs and they would have a mattress next to the refrigerator. But that’s probably not what you want to be doing to sell these things. So kind of fair enough doing that helping them fix their English and then move to kind of doing sales for Chinese factories. So I went to the Guangdong or Canton Fair so many times. Hired, I got like a team of translators that worked under me that I would then farm out to people. Yeah, you know, built up a customer base.
Yoni Mazor 4:33
This was your own business? Are you working on the shadow of a big factory?
Antonio Sena 4:37
I was my own business. It was kind of…
Yoni Mazor 4:39
You said, lemme help these factories and do freelance on this, you know, I have my own agency connecting all these factories, you know, and connecting between the East and the West in the early 2000s.
Antonio Sena 4:50
Exactly. It was like I mean, I wish I could say like I’m just a genius and I knew it was happening. It was just kind of dumb luck. Right place, right time. And enough free time on my hands to do things.
Yoni Mazor 5:01
In Hebrew, actually, we translate like into three components. We say (Hebrew), which is three letters. So it’s the right place at the right time. And you said you said the right things. And you said, I think you said, I think there’s an opportunity to help here. Not even to do business or make money. I think I can help you guys. That’s because when you’re helping you, you’re providing value, providing value. And if you do any good one, oh, it probably pays you financially, so it is gonna reward you. So it made sense, right?
Antonio Sena 5:25
Yeah, for sure. That’s always been an important thing for me. Anything I’ve done is like, as long as I’m learning and helping the people I’m either selling or working with, I’m doing something positive, like the last thing I want to do is be selling snake oil, and, you know, just doing anything transactional and then running across. So that was actually one of the good things about being in China because you know, a lot of people just didn’t have the trust dealing with Chinese factories. So I was able to insert myself and help build a level of trust. And I got to a level of Chinese where I could do business in Chinese. So I was able to go back and forth. I mean, I can’t read or write, but I was able to speak Mandarin pretty well. So I was able to be a good intermediary for everyone. So there’s a good trust on both sides. So yeah, I mean, this got built pretty well. I did it for about six years. At one point I think I had 22 employees, quality people, and everything. It was, I mean, a very exciting, fun time. But at one point, it was after six years, I realized, no, it’s I need to go back to the US, I need to go home. And the real reason was I was standing in line for the bus and an old lady like trying to cut in front of me. And I just kind of threw an elbow. That’s what you do when everyone’s cutting in line. And I hit it with ….yeah, in China. I hit her with an elbow and I was just like, kid-like, that’s not me. I gotta, I gotta, I gotta go home.
Yoni Mazor 6:34
Hold on, hold on. So you said like over there it’s so crowded that people really elbow each other no matter who was in front of them or behind them?
Antonio Sena 6:39
Yeah, you know, things have gotten a lot different now. But yeah, back then. I mean, if you’d go to McDonald’s, there’s no such thing as queuing, it was just kind of like 100 people trying to get to a register and just be like… So I would have friends who come over and visit and they would just get so frustrated…
Yoni Mazor 6:53
So that basically, that trickled into your ear inside. You said, Okay, let me, I guess, reset myself. Let me suppose. I guess lack a better word. It’s a culture shock. After six years, you realize you’re in the shock itself. Yeah.
Antonio Sena 7:11
Yeah, exactly. I become so immersed. I was, you know, I was thinking, I mean, I was Yeah, I was immersed in everything. Which was lucky because I was able to meet some really good partners, people that I trusted. I had some partners in the business that were Chinese, which also helped move things along. But yeah, all in all, you know, really good experience, which actually kind of parlayed into what I did next, came back to the US joined a company where…
Yoni Mazor 7:34
So hold on, now we’re touching around 2007?
Antonio Sena 7:38
2007 Yeah. Came back to the US. I joined a company, a man named George Iny, a really cool guy, very smart, had been doing business in Asia since the 70s. So just really all around. I joined him and..
Yoni Mazor 7:49
Give a shout out to, what’s his name again, George what?
Antonio Sena 7:50
George Iny. I N Y.
Yoni Mazor 7:52
I N Y, Iny, okay.
Antonio Sena 7:55
Yeah, super interesting guy. Like he was born in India to like one of the last Jewish families in India. They had fled there from Iraq, like his grandparents. Just a really cool story. Moved to Missouri, met an American Jewish lady, married her. Like just stayed here. Just an amazing dude.
Yoni Mazor 8:13
And he’s based in Missouri or is he based out of somewhere else?
Antonio Sena 8:14
No, he’s in Santa Monica. Yeah, that’s what I worked out in Santa Monica with him. But yeah, so we would sell like large projects to say Oakley or someone like that. And then go to Asia, go to China, mostly to like Vietnam and manage those projects. So I mean, just…
Yoni Mazor 8:30
Give me some examples of a project for Oakley for example.
Antonio Sena 8:33
Yeah, so all of their sunglass towers, so any store you would go into they had these metal black towers which would display on the sunglasses, yeah the store fixtures. We also did..
Yoni Mazor 8:43
Was this already Luxottica Oakley? When did it get bought by Luxottica?
Antonio Sena 8:47
It was bought by Luxottica, but Oakley, Luxottica kind of runs all those as separate entities. So, Oakley is just based in Irvine, California, we were dealing directly with them, but they were under the umbrella of Luxottica sure, for sure. Yeah, backstory I think the guy was an orphan who started it. It’s amazing.
Yoni Mazor 9:05
Oh, I didn’t know that. You’re a history buff so we’re gonna have to discuss that in a different format, but for sure. Yeah, in my car. I have a built-in Oakleys and in my office I have built-in Ray Bans. I think there’s been okay with me.
Antonio Sena 9:15
Not too shabby.
Yoni Mazor 9:19
Oh, yeah. So okay, so you’re with Iny, you’re doing this type of project in 2007 and…Well, I mean, how long did you do that for?
Antonio Sena 9:25
Yeah, I was there with him for almost four and a half years. Really great experience. I mean, really like living on the factory floor. So gave me a really good understanding of like, how things are actually made? You know, so we have tight deadlines, I would sleep on the factory floor sometimes. Right? So.
Yoni Mazor 9:38
Wow. Which region in China? So you went to China basically to make sure production gets done, you know, to the brim, especially for these super brands. When you come across them and which area? Same area? Guangdong? All over?
Antonio Sena 9:53
Yeah, so we were Guangdong, up there in Shanghai, (other cities in China).
Yoni Mazor 9:57
But you were just visiting for the project and you’re back in the States? Or you stay towards your HQ at that point?
Antonio Sena 10:02
Yeah, headquartered in Santa Monica, but had an apartment there, but I was spending six months, seven months out of the year in China. So I had another apartment in Gwangju just because that’s the part of China I had all my friends. So it’s like I’m gonna, really I’m gonna have a place where I can have fun on the weekends with friends and then work really hard…
Yoni Mazor 10:18
You facilitated yourself for long enough to be, for you to call it your second home, right? For sure.
Antonio Sena 10:23
Yoni Mazor 10:24
Alright so, 2011ish is where we’re looking right now, what was the next station?
Antonio Sena 10:28
2011 you know, the economy wasn’t doing great. So I said, Hey, now it’s time to do an MBA. You know, I studied history, so I don’t really have much of a finance background. You know, I got an engineering course from George, did like the soft skills, was good at that, like finance was kind of a mystery to me. So getting an MBA actually, instead of doing something traditional. I moved to Spain and did it in a school called IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. You know, amazing school…
Yoni Mazor 10:52
How’d you find that? How did it come into your life this opportunity?
Antonio Sena 10:55
A good buddy of mine was getting his Ph.D. at USC and he’s like, Hey, I just had a presentation from this school in Spain. I think you should check out they were ranked I think number eight or nine in the world at the time..
Yoni Mazor 11:06
You’re saying IE is for international exchange?
Antonio Sena 11:08
No, IE is for Instituto de Empresa, but they rebranded to just IE…
Yoni Mazor 11:12
Instituto de Empressa is the company just for the English translation.
Antonio Sena 11:16
Yeah. Business institute. Yeah so they’re a privately owned MBA program out there and they’re really good.
Yoni Mazor 11:23
And you said Madrid was the city?
Antonio Sena 11:25
Yep. in Madrid. Yeah. A huge Real Madrid fan. So it’s perfect. You know, I’d go see soccer.
Yoni Mazor 11:30
And you said this is 2011 so Rinaldo was there already? I assume he was right?
Antonio Sena 11:32
Rinaldo was there.
Yoni Mazor 11:36
Who else was there? Zidano was there? When did he retire?
Antonio Sena 11:38
Zidano was gone. Pretty much all the Galacticos were gone. It’s like Rinaldo, then Marcelo was there, Ramos was still there. Many other guys. But yeah the first game I went to Cassidy was still in goal. In the first game I went to I saw Rinaldo scored a hattrick against Malaga. So it was perfect.
Yoni Mazor 11:56
Amazing, I saw Ronaldo in Brazil. 2014 USA vs Brazil in the World Cup in Manaos. So that’s when I saw him, he scored a..he actually helped to score the second goal which tied it 2-2 so. You know, US teams always mean victory.
Antonio Sena 12:11
I do a lot of people victories I think.
Yoni Mazor 12:14
We’re still rooting for them. So okay. Wow, that’s far out. So you were there for about a year or two?
Antonio Sena 12:20
Yeah, I was there for a year and a half. Oh, it was great. I mean, the Spanish know how to live life, right? I mean, they work to live, they don’t live to work. So I mean, it’s just great bars. Great food.
Yoni Mazor 12:33
And you knew you already knew Spanish from home, I would assume? You have…
Antonio Sena 12:36
My Spanish is okay. My grandfather spoke Spanish to me. But my parents didn’t speak Spanish. So partly it was one of the reasons also why I went there, I wanted to get my Spanish better.
Yoni Mazor 12:43
So your grandfather was from with heritage?
Antonio Sena 12:45
He’s…my grandfather, actually, both sides of the family are from Mexico. They’re from Guadalajara. Actually, my father’s side is from New Mexico, for like 10 generations. So pretty, pretty, pretty entrenched there. Yeah. So it was amazing, you know, studied marketing and international business there. Kind of…
Yoni Mazor 13:04
It was all in Spanish the studies, correct?
Antonio Sena 13:07
No, this was all…My program was in English.
Yoni Mazor 13:08
It was in English? Got it, okay. Just for context reasons. Okay, good.
Antonio Sena 13:10
Yeah. So actually there’s where I kind of started understanding a little more about e-commerce. One of my classmates started the website, Nouveau which is now called talent.com. So I was kinda like sitting behind him as he’s watching web traffic going, like, what the hell is this stuff, man? And he showed me like, Oh, this is showing our traffic. And while I was there, they got their first seed investments. I was like, Okay, this is really cool. I don’t know if I want to sit behind a computer all my whole life, but it’s a really interesting area. So yeah, I started diving into that a bit, took some digital marketing courses, took some stuff that kind of…
Yoni Mazor 13:42
Took a while you were there in Spain?
Antonio Sena 13:43
Yeah, they had some good professors who were teaching that stuff, though they do think it was interesting. And yeah, I mean, you could tell it was the future because it was also kind of the thing with digital marketing. And e-commerce is if someone tells you, they’re an expert, you can just call them a liar. There’s no expert, you just try to stay ahead of the curve. And
Yoni Mazor 14:01
Yeah, it’s so fluid, so hyper-dynamic. You maybe know your stuff today. But tomorrow is a brand new day.
Antonio Sena 14:06
Yeah, especially with Amazon, right? I mean, big changes, though, how they do things and their TLS and everything else by the minute and half the people on Amazon don’t know what the hell’s going on. So
Yoni Mazor 14:15
It’s so true. Painfully true. It’s so…it grew so fast, so quickly. And there are so many variables that you might be, you know, it’s almost like anatomy, you know, a doctor can be an eye doctor special, but he has no idea what’s going on with gastro or heart, nothing. Nothing. He’s an expert in one niche, and there are so many other niches, and to really get the hang of it, you need a lot of components to make it all work.
Antonio Sena 14:36
Yeah, much like doctors. If you don’t constantly study and go to things you’re not going to stay upright because just because this is like what they knew about the eyeball three years ago, they probably know twice as much today.
Yoni Mazor 14:47
So true, so much innovation and always innovation because it’s connected to science. And e-commerce essentially is in the tech sphere. So as the tech grows and develops, hyperdynamic. So 2012 already we’re heading into right? When you’re living in Madrid and What was the next station there?
Antonio Sena 15:00
Yeah, so in 2012, I moved to the US and I joined a pre-funded startup, which was a great idea, in theory, a bad idea when you have student loans. So you know, no, no money coming in. So at the same time, I started a consultancy, where I actually started working with some Chinese factories, helped them set up their initial Amazon stores.
Yoni Mazor 15:17
Hold on, let’s get back. Hold on. So you did two things at the same time?
Antonio Sena 15:20
Yeah, two things at the same time. I joined a startup as the director of marketing and sales. So kind of, we were making a television show for China but filmed in the US. So my job was to come up with a promotional plan, as well as sign-on brands who like them do sponsorship and product placement. Really fun, got to build a sales team, got to put all those learnings in the NBA into practice, because, you know, I still help the team with like, pitching investors. So doing some of that financial analysis, learned a bunch from the people around me because half of them were Cambridge MBAs and the other half were movie people. So kind of like real creative as well. So really a fun time. Stay at a house in the Hollywood Hills. So very, very fun to me.
Yoni Mazor 15:58
You were definitely in the right state, you know, or kind of city LA ish. Exactly.
Antonio Sena 16:02
Yeah, but it’s a really good casting crew. Unfortunately, you know, things didn’t pan out. But yeah, I was there for a couple of years. Um, at the same time, yeah, I was doing a consult