Kobus Ehlers is behind one of South Africa’s top-ranked apps, and arguably the only successful startup to have made mobile payments relevant in the country.
Even though multinational telecom giants like Vodacom struggle to get mobile payments off the ground in the country, SnapScan today boasts over 20 000 merchant clients, ranging from parking marshals to restaurants. While user numbers aren’t disclosed, it’s growing much faster than the merchant clients’.
Yet, while growth is all good and well for certain niche sectors, the company is regularly experimenting with new features and integrations to feel out the ever-changing market and keep up with new trends.
Over the past year, SnapScan has released a couple of interesting integrations alongside its core business model, which is based on a QR-based payment app.
After his career in academics as researcher and lecturer at Stellenbosch University, Ehlers got involved with mobile payments through technology incubator FireID. He always had a passion for tech and user design, but in order for him to really gain the practical experience he needed to “put everything on the line” and start his own business.
We chat to Ehlers about his transition from researcher to entrepreneur and SnapScan’s ambitions to find new ways to improve payments in South Africa.
“We’ve seen a big diversification and some really interesting use cases. We’ve discovered places where you can solve real payment problems for people,” says Ehlers, pointing out the fact that certain parking marshals in Cape Town accept SnapScan as a form of payment.
Last month, SnapScan teamed up with product-comparison platform PriceCheck and delivery outfit Pargo to take ecommerce offline. An interesting move, this partnership involves bridging the gap between discovery and delivery for bricks and mortar retailers.
Before this, SnapScan announced its ecommerce plug-in which enables people to check out their shopping carts using the app.
For the full interview, lend your ears to our podcast show below:
“We’ve never been trying to compete with card machines, because they work really well,” Ehlers notes. “What we’re trying to do is solve those places where payment is a real pain, whether it is because there’s no infrastructure available, or you can only pay with cash.”
Ehlers believes that it’s important for the startup to release these so-called “moonshot” products and features into the wild as the general payments landscape is constantly evolving. He expects the real competition not to come from the likes of Apple Pay or Square but those of a disruptive nature which have no real ties with banks:
When you look at all the really exciting startups at the moment — whether it’s Uber or AirBnb — all of them have a sizeable payments component. It takes only a little bit of imagination to say, ‘Maybe they should sell other goods and services as well if the infrastructure exists.’
Image by Johan Wilke, Stellenbosch Visio