Payleven, the heavily funded, Rocket Internet-backed digital payments company, is making its Chip & PIN card reader available for anyone to purchase off the physical and online shelves of Apple’s retail stores.
It earlier reached a similar agreement with operator Telefonica O2 Germany and expects to announce more partnerships soon.
Payleven is duking it out in Europe with the likes of iZettle, PayPal and SumUp, in anticipation of Jack Dorsey’s Square finally making its way to these parts. Being able to give its Chip & PIN card reader an Apple-flavored retail boost is key to payleven’s strategy in that regard.
The startup says this marks the first time that it has been possible to buy a Chip & PIN card machine on the ‘high street’, significantly lowering the barriers to entry for merchants with a plug-and-play solution.
The payleven card reader, which costs £99 with no monthly fixed fees or contract and includes £20 credit for payments, links up with an iPhone, iPad or Android device via Bluetooth to make it quick and easy to start taking debit and credit card payments from major providers like VISA and MasterCard. Payleven charges 2.7 percent of payment transactions.
The company says Apple has chosen to retail payleven’s card reader thanks to its “high security standards, market potential and availability in several European core markets”. Aside from Brazil, payleven is currently available in Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, The Netherlands and Poland.
Retail can be a critical aspect of any hardware+software payment combo business, as Square has demonstrated in the United States, having inked similar deals with Apple, Best Buy, RadioShack and other retail partners.
Indeed, Square’s card reader has been on Apple’s physical and virtual retail shelvesfor over two years now, but payleven’s card reader is the only Chip & PIN-supported solution – a crucial feature when it comes to handling payments in Europe – to be carried by Apple in this way.
We caught up with the startup’s co-founder and CMO, Konstantin Wolff, to talk more about the agreement with the Cupertino electronics giant, and the progress payleven is making across Europe:
TNW: To our knowledge, you’re one of the first to hit Apple’s real-life and virtual retail shelves with a card reader solution alongside Square, and the very first to do so with a Chip & PIN solution.
How long did it take for you to reach a distribution deal with Apple?
KW: That is correct. Apple specifically chose our Chip & PIN solution for their European stores, both offline as well as online.
This is indeed the first time ever that a Chip & PIN device has hit retail stores. Regarding the timeline, of course deals like this are not made in a week. We started talking to Apple even before we launched our Chip & PIN card reader in February 2013. Now we are excited and happy to see our solution finally on the shelves.
We know Apple takes its retail environments very seriously, and has rigorous quality assurance for any product that gets distributed through there. What were some of the company’s requirements that surprised you the most?
Very true. Apple has many requirements, ranging from product design/quality, to availability and packaging. During our negotiations with them there were clear requirements we had to meet before starting to ship devices to their stores.
We absolutely understand the need for strict quality control measures. In the end, the Apple brand stands like no other for innovation and state-of-the-art technology. Ultimately, the ability to meet their specifications as well as being a Pan-European player, were key success factors in this deal.
The fact that payleven is retailed by Apple will help not only our merchant numbers but also the payleven brand significantly.
We earlier wrote about some smaller retail-related deals you’ve inked. All in all, how many retail partners do you have today, and what is the general reach those agreements are giving you?
It is true that we have already established multiple cooperation partnerships.
Apple is, however, the first large retailer we have won for payleven. Of course, we are working on more deals in similar fields which we will announce in the coming months. Our current cooperation partners include, for example, Micros, the global leader in POS systems, who have recently integrated our technology into their tablet based POS solution.
This cooperation is already active in the UK and will be launched throughout Europe in the coming months, giving us enormous reach especially in the hotel and restaurant industry. Also, we are working with O2 in Germany as well as various other associations and companies, particularlyin the transportation as well as hotel, food and beauty industries.
We’re going to assume you plan to work with more retail partners down the line. What can we expect in the future, in terms of names and geographies?
Yes, there will be more retail partners. They will be communicated during the coming months.
So far, the only supported country outside of Europe is Brazil. Any plans for further expansion in Latin America, or an entry into Asia or the United States for that matter?
Again, it is difficult to share details at this moment. What I can say is that expansion is a core part of payleven’s agenda for the next year.
Can you share how many merchants are currently using your solution, across the supported regions?
Given that we are a privately held company, we do not communicate any merchant numbers. However, looking at our figures we notice strong growth every month.
As you can imagine, the introduction of Chip & PIN has helped us tremendously to accelerate our growth path. The general interest in mobile card payments is something all of our markets have in common and is continuing to grow every day.
We, as well as all other players in the finance industry, expect this development to accelerate further in the near future.
You recently announced that payleven will not only be for business anymore, as you’re also allowing individuals to transfer money to one another. How is that working out for you?
It would be a shame to reserve the Chip & PIN technology for businesses only. This is why we recently decided to open up the service and since then we have witnessed a number of registrations from private individuals.
Now we are interested to see in what circumstances and situations private individuals use our solution. Our core target group, however, remains the small and medium-sized merchants.
Retailing the solution with Apple will help us to further increase our visibility for both groups.
A bit of a broad question to finish, but what frustrates you most about the digital payments space, both in Europe and beyond?
I do not feel any frustration but instead see a wide space for creation. We are very lucky to face a situation, where different elements such as the strong raise of mobile, advanced digital technologies and fast data infrastructure enables us to change the finance world.
It is our vision to deliver more than just a payment method. We are working on a holistic solution for the merchant, acknowledging his needs for a mobile, flexible and safe solution in multiple areas of business such as marketing and bookkeeping.
The future holds huge potential for young companies like us.
Top image credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images