Pi Pay Mobile Application. How We Did It

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In an economy where 70% of the currency is in cash, logistics remain a hurdle, and just 48% of Cambodians have access to smartphones, many would think building an e-commerce app like Pi Pay would be crazy.

Enter Mäd.


Backed by one of the largest conglomerates in Cambodia, Pi Pay would become one of the breakthrough apps to elevate Cambodia up the digital chain. Surprise! Their intentions are simple, yet ambitious:

To replace cash transactions with digital transactions, by offering a mobile application that can act as a secure digital wallet.

The Pi Pay brand was produced from an 8-month process which concluded with a bold bet on the color pink, aiming to own part of the color spectrum that no-one else was claiming in Cambodia.


Pi Pay then commissioned Mäd to design and build their mobile payment application, working with Wirecard AG, one of the world’s largest and most renowned payment processors.

The key to success lies in thinking differently throughout the user interface design and the build process. A unique approach ensured that this business was going to be a breakaway success.

The Challenge

This project was stacked with challenges:

  • Working with a fast-growing startup like Pi Pay, that scaled from a handful of employees to over a 150 during the project timeframe.
  • Working on a project with over half a dozen teams spread across three time zones.
  • Building with scale in mind. Pi Pay was never going to have a quiet market entry (and it didn’t, reaching a processing run-rate of over $30M/year in the first month of beta!)

Mäd had to build and design the Pi Pay app with an initial user base that would quickly end up in the 100,000+ range. Obviously, this presented its own set of challenges.

The initial UI had to be done at breakneck speed so that all parties had a shared UI library to start working on their individual modules (such as the Point of Sale system.) We had four weeks to complete the initial UI phase of the project.

Pi Pay’s interface design needed to find a compromise which pleased all parties, in addition to keeping in mind that the end user is paramount.

The key challenge in building Pi Pay was deciding between a traditional application or do something that would really stand out in the market.

As we shall see, making the correct decision ended up paying off in a really big way.

Our Approach

The question we asked ourselves that really made up everyone’s mind:

When is the last time you checked your banking application prior to going out to eat, shop, or have some drinks?

The Answer: Never.

And yet, Pi Pay is now used by tens of thousands of people every day to decide where they will eat, drink, shop, and travel.

As we were building something completely new, we set up a sizable cross-disciplinary team for this project.

Developers, designers, copywriters, photographers, analysts, and testers were embedded right into Pi Pay’s office. We collaborated in the same physical space for over six months.

We’ve got an incredible mix of cross-functional talent at Mäd, so we’re able to leverage the best thinking across disciplines. This is where the magic happens.

The Pi Pay Design and Concept Phase

In Cambodia executives value and enjoy being presented with choices. We went on a two-week binge where we told the design team that anything goes, and the only constraint was that everything had to fall under two concepts:

  • The corporate route of a functional application that placed the payments features first. This would also lead us down the path of developing a completely different type of mobile app.
  • Or, we could make Pi Pay a place of discovery, communication, friendship, and…fun!

Guess which route we ended up taking?

Pi Pay Winking Monkey Emoji 🙂


These are some of the ideas, mood boards, and concepts that we presented to the Pi Pay executive team.


In the end, a simple, fun look was settled on that would leverage illustrations and iconography. This makes it easy for anyone in any language to understand how to use Pi Pay. The app also used digital design as a differentiator to all the other financial applications in the market.

We designed custom emoticons, specifically designed for the Cambodian market. We also included a tie-in with Phnom Penh Crown Football Club (another of Mäd’s clients), and their Lion Mascot in Pi Pay.


Specification Phase

Our team wrote up hundreds of use cases which ensured an overall consensus on the main feature-set. Any member of the team could drill down and understand how a particular feature-set worked.

We created a series of documents for Pi Pay:

  • A vision statement – A document that outlines the reasons behind the Pi Pay application (the “Why.”) This also defines what success should look like.
  • An actor list – A document that lists out all the different Actors. This can be end-users, Pi Pay Staff, and even other software systems that we connect to. It discusses their roles and relationships;
  • A list of uses cases – A Use Case is a document that outlines what an Actor is trying to do.

We have a particular model for our use cases, that allows us to capture enough information to ensure that everyone is aligned.



The Results


The final result is an entry into a crowded market space with a truly disruptive product. A few key statistics of the first sixty days:

  • The 7th most downloaded application in Cambodia on the App Store.
  • 150,000+ transactions
  • $3.5M+ processed.
  • Generating a $30M/year payment processing run-rate. ($80,000+/day)
  • Over 65,000 active users

See the Pi Pay app in action (with some sneak peaks at future developments!)



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