8 POS Payment Technology Startups to Check Out
If you ever get a chance to live abroad, see if you can make your way over to Hong Kong. It’s an absolutely fascinating place to live. If you were taking the bus home this week snacking on a mooncake, you might have seen the police blocking the road near Pok Fu Lam because of a giant fire dragon. That dragon has been dancing every mid-autumn festival for the past several centuries, and when the villagers don their life preservers and swim out to the sea with it, everyone will be blessed with luck for the year and all will be well in the world. In addition to feisty fire dragons, Hong Kong is known for its efficiency. Take the Octopus card as an example:
That card can be used for payment at 1000s of stores throughout Hong Kong. You simply place it near a receiver and it automatically deducts what you owe. If you live in London, you have the equivalent which is the Oyster card. Of course, the NFC technology used in either of those cards can be placed in just about anything like a watch or a keychain. This begs the question, while are we still lugging around pieces of metal and paper in our pockets to pay for things? The answer to that question probably lies in your smartphone, something that Samsung and Apple are working on solving. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some startups working on various payment technologies.
Banking Anywhere in the World
If you travel as much as we do, then this next product sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Founded in 2015, London startup Revolut has taken in $86.36 million in funding to develop an app-based platform that allows users to transfer, exchange, and spend money in 26 different currencies wherever Mastercard is accepted. That makes sense because they count Mastercard as a mentor. Revolut has adopted a “freemium” business model so you’ll need to pay extra for the below perks:
There are no fees and they claim to use the “real exchange rate”. If you’ve ever sat in front of a Bloomberg terminal yelling at John in Mumbai about how the “real exchange rate” is something entirely different from what he’s quoting you, then you’ll understand why this is so important.
Update 02/24/2020: Revolut has raised $500 million in Series D funding at a post-money valuation of $5.5 billion to bolster its current offering in existing markets, as well as launch lending services for retail and business customers. This brings the company’s total funding to $837 million to date.
Point of Sale Financing
If you recall our recent article on Affirm then this next company will probably sound familiar. Founded in 2014, New York-based startup Bread has taken in $140.3 million to offer pay-over-time solutions. The idea here is to provide the customer with a financing option at the point-of-sale which results in additional sales for merchants and of course interest on the loan which can top out at almost 30% APR. Of course, since millennials don’t know what interest rates are, it doesn’t really matter now, does it? Charge ’em whatever the heck you want. You’ll need to input the information below at the time of checkout to see what
interest rate monthly payment you’ll be charged:
Bread differentiates themselves by offering their solution as something merchants can put their own brand on which helps build customer loyalty and increases conversions. Customers will choose this option over a credit card because of lower rates and/or the appeal of fixed monthly payments.
Social Payments for Europeans
Founded in 2015, Silicon Valley startup Verse has taken in $30.6 million to enable person-to-person (P2P) commission-free payments to take place across mobile platforms with support for iOS and Android. Also referred to as “social payments”, this idea is hardly new considering that Venmo (now a subsidiary of Paypal) has been doing this for a while now. Verse sees themselves as dominating Europe and is further spreading themselves across our small globe with a presence in at least 29 different countries so far across Europe (you have to be physically located in Europe to use the app).
Verse claims to be the easiest payment platform online that can be done in the time it takes to send a text. The platform can also be used for creating events such as birthday parties that automatically shares expenses between users. Does anyone else think this might come in real useful for nefarious transactions?
Smartphones for Everyone
How are you going to tell all your friends every detail of your mundane cookie-cutter existence if you don’t own the latest smartphone? The answer might be found with our next startup. Founded in 2015, San Francisco startup Payjoy has taken in more than $20 million in funding to develop a smartphone financing platform that aims to put smartphones in the hands of people who can’t afford modern electronics. Here’s how it works:
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once food and shelter are squared away the next thing you need is a smartphone. There are several billion people in the world who
want need a smartphone and can’t get financed for one. PayJoy plans to sort them out and currently operates in Mexico and the U.S. though there are plans to expand abroad to countries like Indonesia and Africa. Speaking of Africa.
Update 05/27/2019: PayJoy has raised $20 million in Series B funding to expand, secure more partners, and develop new technologies. This brings the company’s total funding to $72.1 million to date.
Credit Lines for Africans
Founded in 2015, Branch International, a startup based in California has taken in $9.2 million in 2 rounds of funding. Branch offers a new way to access credit over a smartphone by allowing access to loans using the data on a person’s phone to calculate a credit score.
Update 04/08/2019: Branch has raised $170 million in Series C financing to support their international expansion, which could include Brazil and Indonesia, This brings the company’s total funding to $254.7 million to date.
The company uses machine learning algorithms to analyze information in your phone such as GPS Data, SMS logs, etc. to be processed as data points and used to assess your credit profile. If that concerns you, then wait until you see what they charge for interest:
We’re the last people on the planet that you’ll find berating those evil capitalists for perceived injustices, but seriously, 260% APR?!? Then we thought about what sort of return we’d need to loan out money to random people in Tanzania and thought to ourselves, those rates are probably about right.
A Credit Card for Real Life
If you’re worried about someone getting their hands on your credit card, then this next startup is for you. Founded in 2014, Oakland startup Final has taken in $4.1 million in 4 rounds of funding to develop a “credit card made for real life”. A zero-dollar annual fee and 1% cashback don’t make it special but the “virtual card” feature does. Essentially you can give every single merchant a unique credit card number or use a disposable one-time-use number for one-off purchases:
Final makes money when customers use their product in the same way that all payment card products generate revenue. The catch is you’re going to need good credit to apply.
Returns Made Easy
Founded in 2014, Returnly is a startup based near San Francisco that has taken in $3.22 million in a single round of funding to make online returns a seamless experience by offering an “Instant Refund” system that turns product returns into instant cash for repurchases. Instead of having to wait the several weeks it takes for the product to reach the merchant, you can get your refund right away. The catch is that you need to spend those dollars with the same merchant. As it turns out, people seem to like the arrangement and are more likely to make another purchase right after their refund. According to Returnly, the average time it takes to process a refund has been around 21 days with 91% of shoppers who return something not repurchasing. They make a small commission on all sales and have already signed up 100s of merchants.
Update 01/30/2019: Returnly has raised an additional $8 million in Series A funding which brings the company’s total funding to $11.2 million to date.
Credit Card Rewards on Roids
Founded in 2016, San Francisco startup Zero Financial has taken in $2.5 million so far to create a debit card based on the assumption that users should not be required to take on debt for them to acquire cashback on their spending. Hence, the company developed a debit card, also supported by a mobile app, that offers the rewards of a credit card without all those interest rates. Coming in four levels of reward percentage and minimum annual expenditure qualifications, Zerocard acts like a debit card but processes on credit card networks that allow for unlimited rewards automatically deposited on a monthly basis:
It’s a solid metal card which is cool but just how hard is it to use rewards cards and pay them off every month? Pretty hard apparently, because they had 25,000 people sign up for the product before they even began selling it. It’s worth noting that Zerocard provides higher cashback than traditional credit cards and is usable anywhere major credit cards are accepted. We’re not sure how they make their money but all that data they’re collecting is certainly worth something to someone.
All of this is moving towards a cashless society, and in China now, some stores won’t even take cash. Whether or not you think that’s a good thing doesn’t matter because it seems to be where things are headed. At least we’ll always have fire dragons dancing around every autumn to make sure everything gets sorted.
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