Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For pulling in younger shoppers by creating a modern twist on layaway

Rare is the person who would see innovation in layaway, the old-school system in which retailers allow shoppers to pay for purchases over time, in small increments. But Nick Molnar is that rare person—and rare in more ways than one.

Molnar’s circuitous path to becoming Australia’s youngest self-made billionaire began in his bedroom, selling jewelry online. He quickly locked in as one of eBay’s top jewelry vendors in the country and maintained the side hustle through college and while working as an investment analyst at private equity firm M.H. Carnegie & Co. When Molnar talked about launching his own jewelry website, his boss told him he didn’t know why he was working there and even offered to hold Molnar’s job for a year, in case his plan didn’t pan out. 

Things worked out just fine: Molnar’s Ice Online is now Australia’s largest online-only jewelry retailer. But the serial entrepreneur didn’t stop there. He noticed that many people put items in their online carts but didn’t complete the transactions. So he decided to offer cash-strapped, credit-averse millennials an easy way to follow through on their purchases.

In 2014, just two years after leaving his finance job, Molnar co-founded Afterpay, launching what would become the buy-now-pay-later trend known as BNPL. Users pay one-quarter of the purchase cost upfront and the remainder over three biweekly, interest-free payments. Afterpay’s revenue comes from late fees and merchant commissions.

Since going public in 2016, Afterpay has expanded into North America and Europe, with more than 100,000 merchants globally now using the service. In November, the company unveiled a concept store, Edit Collection, infused with tech: interactive changing room mirrors, gesture-controlled screens, and Bluetooth chips on individual garments to capture real-time data on the most-tried and most-sold pieces. The pandemic-fueled e-commerce craze saw Afterpay’s stock price jump 1,300 percent, launching Molnar into a new bracket of personal wealth.

"I have had the most fortunate life and so much luck," Molnar told the Daily Mail. "But at the same time, I get punched in the guts every single day, and it is all of my failures which I turned into opportunities, which in hindsight taught me the skills I needed to build Afterpay."

This year, Jack Dorsey’s Block (formerly Square) acquired Afterpay for US$29 billion—the largest sale in Australian corporate history. Yet as is his wont, Molnar isn’t letting up. Now he’s taking the BNPL phenom into IRL shopping: extending Afterpay to more brick-and-mortar merchants.