The Australian market has used EMV-chip cards for more than a decade, necessitating a very different approach to the mobile point of sale.
As U.S.-based companies like Square built a market around simple off-the-shelf card readers with fixed rates, Australia's Kounta chose a different approach with a cloud-based system that works with any payment processor as well as alternative payment systems like PayPal.
The U.S. is transitioning to EMV cards to improve security at the point of sale. As merchants evaluate new technology to accommodate this transition, Kounta senses it has an opportunity to export its accept-all-payments model to compete with the likes of Square, Shopkeep and Revel.
Even though these companies have signed up thousands of U.S. merchants in recent years, Kounta is already seeing strong demand for its own technology, said Jason Seed, Kounta's U.S. president.
"Even before release here, we have hundreds of individual merchants lined up and multiple chains, so we expect to rapidly scale to 500-plus locations a month in a very short period of time," Seed said.
Kounta operates on desktop or mobile versions of Safari and Chrome, and in "mixed environments" in which older Windows terminals co-exist with Apple iPads or Android tablets, Seed said. The platform connects with applications for accounting, e-commerce, mobile ordering, mobile bar tab and others.
Because the U.S. has literally millions of small independent retailers and restaurants, it is a big market for cloud-based point of sale systems, said Gil Luria, payments analyst with Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities.
"Many companies have emerged in this area, and it doesn't mean there isn't room for another," Luria said.
By being acquirer and processor agnostic, Kounta brings a different option to the table for merchants, Luria said. "Getting 500 merchants a month certainly would not be unheard of," he added.
Kounta has benefited from its role in Australia, which was an early adopter of cloud technologies because of consumption taxes and EMV being introduced around the same time in 2000, Seed said. Those factors drove merchants to cloud-based services, which has made it difficult for Square and others to gain traction in Australia, he added.
The cloud-based system with encrypted data allows a merchant to keep accepting transactions even during a power outage or if the Internet was down, while also keeping inventory, purchases, menus, customer, employee and vendor data in the system.
In the U.S., Kounta enters a market in which "there are 1.5 million POS machines running Windows XP and they are vulnerable, slow and inefficient," Seed added. Kounta aims to market its technology as a more secure alternative to these systems.