Gem of an idea sparkles online

The Australian Financial Review
AFNR
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Copyright 2015. Fairfax Media Management Pty Limited.

Nick Molnar gave up a career in investment banking to sell jewellery on the web. Now he's offering a way for internet shoppers to buy now and pay later.

As the founder of two online businesses at just 26, Nick Molnar says he is a lucky man.

There have certainly been some strokes of good fortune in his successful development of jewellery retailer iceonline.com.au and the launch of his new payments company Afterpay - but that is not all there is to it.

Life is usually what you make it. You have to be able to recognise a good thing when you see it and snatch opportunity before it passes you by.

UK psychologist Richard Wiseman, who researches the influence of luck on success, says lucky people generate their own good fortune in four ways: by creating and noticing chance opportunities; making lucky decisions by listening to their intuition; adopting a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good; and creating self-fulfilling prophesies from their positive expectations.

According to this last point, the very fact that Molnar think he is lucky helps to make him so. Molnar's first lucky break would have to be his family. As a teenager, he worked in the Sydney jewellery store, St Michel Internationale, owned by his parents, Michele and Ron Molnar, who taught him about the business.

He started selling excess stock from the shop's suppliers online through eBay in his first year of university and, by his second year, he was the biggest Australian jewellery retailer on the site, moving about $1.6 million worth of stock. "I also ended up selling jewellery online in America from my girlfriend's auntie's bedroom," he says.

Molnar studied (on a rugby scholarship) for a degree in finance and international business at the University of Sydney, deciding he wanted to be an investment banker, but the business he had started as a sideline wasn't going to let him go that easily.

He was going through a graduate interview process with investment bank Lazard when then chief executive, John Wylie, thought his old partner Mark Carnegie might be interested in the young man running an interesting business from his bedroom. Carnegie is an investor and corporate advisor with a platinum pedigree, having trained on Wall Street with James Wolfensohn, working with Lloyd Williams at Hudson Conway in London before launching private equity firm Carnegie, Wylie & Co in 2000 and selling it to Wall Street bank Lazard seven years later.

Molnar joined MH Carnegie & Co at a time when there were just three people in the office, allowing him to get up close and personal to the straight-talking (to put it excessively mildly) and social-campaigning venture capitalist. This was Molnar's second stroke of luck.

"Mark was tough but fair and opened my eyes to what was a real opportunity," he says.

Molnar spent a year working for Carnegie, who ended up as one of Ice's backers: "He wanted to come along for the ride and stay involved".

Molnar started off selling through eBay, but when other retailers of the brands started to complain about this online upstart, he negotiated an Australian licensing deal with the US manufacturer and online site Ice.com and is now selling more than $2 million per year through his Australian-based website.

There are six people employed in his jewellery business and Molnar says sales are growing at a rate of 100 per cent year on year.

Molnar's third lucky break came as a consequence of packing jewellery into bags in unsociable hours.

Glancing out his bedroom window in the early hours of the morning, he would see another light burning from a window across the road in Sydney's Rose Bay.

His neighbour, Anthony Eisen, was also hard at work as the (former) chief investment officer/executive director of the Guinness Peat Group (now Coats Group), then the second-largest shareholder in accounting software group MYOB. "We quickly became quite close and he followed my growth straight through from eBay to working with Mark Carnegie to building an online jewellery business," Molnar says.

Eisen became a co-founder of Molnar's next venture, Afterpay, an online product that allows shoppers to buy, but pay later.

According to Molnar, it is like layby, except that you can take the goods straight away, rather than having to wait until you have paid for them. "We pay the retailer straight away. We remove any fraud or credit risk for that retailer ... All over America and Europe, this kind of payment is the primary form of payment," he says.

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