Card payments are to stay in the future

24 August

SumUp co-founder Mark-Alexander Kriste visits Bulgaria for the annual DIGITALK conference


SumUp tries to make POS payments easier for small merchants


You go to the local snack bar and pay with a debit card. Then you are at a hairdresser where you also pay with a card. Finally, you get a taxi and pay  with a card again. This simple scenario, even if it sounds simple, is not that easy, at least in Bulgaria. Even in the era of non-contact payments, NFC technology and internet, the merchants who accept card payments are still few. The small merchants - even less. Based in London but with offices across Europe, including Sofia, SumUp strives to change this situation.

Instead of massive POS terminals, the company sells small and, and more important - cheap devices to make mapping and contactless technology as accessible as possible. "When you are a small merchant and you need a card sale terminal, you go to your bank, where they send you to someone else who comes to your store, signing a few contracts - Visa, Mastercard, for the terminal itself, and you are finally overwhelmed and burdened from contracts and payments", says Mark-Alexander Krist, co-founder of SumUp for Capital. He is in Sofia for the annual DIGITALK Technology Conference organized by Capital and the LAUNC Hub and NEVEQ funds. "We want to make all of this more accessible."

Price is the key factor in SumUp. In the case of small traders like taxi drivers, most banks refuse to sell POS terminals because they can not make big enough turnover to be profitable for the bank. The SumUp device costs less than $ 100, and the company earns mainly commissions - receiving 1.95% of each sale. Everything else is done to be as accessible as possible: without contracts and without maintenance, as customers install their own devices. "We can do the same service as the bank one, but at one-tenth of the price," says Krist.

We are no longer looking for capital

SumUp was founded in London in 2012 and has been working internationally since the very beginning. Initially, the company has offices in Sofia, Berlin and Dublin, and now - in Amsterdam, Sao Paulo and the United States. Initially, in the company were investing American Express, BBVA and Groupon. "In the beginning in Sofia we had only two people," says Kristq adding that "today our Sofia team reaches 166 people." The team in Bulgaria is engaged in both software projects and development, as well as in several languages support services.

From the very beginning, the company's idea is to make card payments accessible to all. "Our main competition are the cash payments, most of the money are still in people's pockets, not in debit or credit cards, although the trend is clear to cards."


So far, $ 100 million has been invested in the company and it is no longer looking for foreign investors. SumUp is working on a profit since 2016. The main reason for this is the merger with the competing Payeleven, which in practice performs the same business in a smaller number of countries. SumUp currently works in 31 countries - the entire European Union, the United States, Brazil and Chile.

"In the beginning there were many players on our market, over 30 companies in the sector in 2012. Now it is us and the Swedish iZettle but they were bought by PayPal," says Krist. The iZettle deal was for $ 2.2 billion and left SumUp as one of the few that work mainly on this market.

Focus, focus, focus

During his lecture at DIGITALK in June, Krist gave a very specific advice for all the entrepreneurs: "Focus, focus, focus, and if there is something else you need to do it, focus more." SumUp's focus is currently on the development of the company in order to remain dynamic. For 2017, the company's revenue has reached $ 100 million - a growth of 80%. "It is logical, as the company actually doubled its revenue last year, the same thing happened to the employees, but we have to do it in a way that will not destroy the inner culture we have built up. You need to hire the right people to focus on growth",  said Krist.

The company is assessed as technological, and the rest, according to Krist, is a matter of marketing. The largest markets for the company are now also associated with the countries with the largest population - such as Germany, France and the UK. Bulgaria ranks amongst the smallest with the Czech Republic, but the reason is that, although there are offices in the country as early as 2012, the SumUp product was launched here in September 2017.


"Bulgaria is an interesting market because it is full of entrepreneurs and there are many traders but few card payments." SumUp has more tnan 1,000 customers here.

Towards enlargement

"The biggest problem for merchants is the introduction of card payments," says SumUp co-founder. Currently, the company allows its customers to use all payment methods - from credit and debit cards to Apple Pay and Google Pay, but the adoption of these services on the market is slow.


The main purpose of the company is to continue its expansion. After an increase of 80% in revenues in 2017, the plans are the same for this year. In order to achieve that, in the words of Krist, SumUp should help to accelerate the global trend for more card payments and less cash ones.


"Everything is going on extremely slow. More than 60 years have passed since the first credit card was launched, but the card still does not predominate over the cash payments. The technology changes only once in a decade or two," says Krist.