What we learnt from Snapscan at MTN’s app breakfast

MTN Business’s App of the Year awards is a pretty noteworthy event in the tech industry, featuring quite a few notable representatives.

To encourage entries (and for networking), the company held a breakfast event, featuring a rather interesting speaker lineup.

Representatives from CustomApp, Uber South Africa and Snapscan were on-hand to dish out some knowledge. But it was Snapscan’s Rupert Sully, head of sales and business development, who got our attention. So what did we learn then?

Snapscan wasn’t a mobile service at first

It’s weird to think of the payment app as anything but a mobile service, but Sully said the service was initially conceived as an online checkout system.

He explained that there weren’t enough users to scale up effectively, leading to a mobile payment focus eventually.

Read more: On-demand delivery startup WumDrop takes home 2015 MTN App of the Year Award

Growth was very “tricky”

Sully explained that growing Snapscan was a Catch-22, as potential merchants asked who will use it and potential users asked where they can use it.

So who did Snapscan target at first? Well, every weekend the team (including developers) visited the “low-hanging fruit” of farmers markets to lure sellers to the service. After all, these markets typically relied on cash alone.

“If we gave them the ability to get other forms of payment, particularly credit cards, would it help?” Sully pondered. The rest, as they say…

Snapscan is used in churches (seriously)

We’ve all seen Big Issue vendors and parking attendants using Snapscan, but we asked Sully about other unexpected use cases for the payment app.

“I really didn’t know that tithes and offerings at churches was going to be such a big thing (for Snapscan),” he noted.

“A lot of churches use it for their donations,” Sully explained, adding that it was a more convenient way of receiving funds than physical cash.

“You have to process those coins, people forget about that,” he added.

What are the latest user/business figures for Snapscan?

Sully said that owners Standard Bank were “cagey” about revealing the number of consumers using Snapscan, owing to the “sensitive” nature of transactions.

However, he did reveal that there were over 26 000 businesses using the service.

“That’s the number we track. That’s the real growth area for us,” the Snapscan representative said.

Read more: Ghanaian medical startup wins MTN Entrepreneurship Challenge

There are new challenges at every growth stage

He said that once they climbed the “hill” of initial growth, they found that there were more hills.

“At whatever stage of growth… we’ve just encountered new challenges.”

Snapscan’s team “fucked up many times”

Sully said that far from going milestone to milestone, the company had its fair share of bad decisions.

“We fucked up many times… I just tell you about the good ones (decisions), not about the bad ones,” he quipped.

Competitors are a good thing (for Snapscan too)

When pressed on rivals like Zapper, Sully said that educating people on mobile payments and convincing them of its merits was an expensive, tough aspect.

“So from that point of view, competition is actually a great thing. Because it just makes the (mobile payment) market a real thing,” he said.

The Snapscan executive added that they’re not going to be filing “unfair” patents in a bid to block rivals out of the market.

He also said that their strategy was to try and solve specific “pain points” merchants had rather than just inundating South Africa with QR codes.

“There is a risk of just trying to go for a general land grab (flooding Snapscan across the country), but… we always try and really solve a pain when we go to a merchant,” he explained.

“We’re happy to go a bit deeper and hunt out those paint points.”

Hadlee Simons


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