Assemble a team of visionaries: Interview with fintech unicorn SumUp co-founder Marc-Alexander Christ

London-based SumUp, a fintech which recently reached unicorn status, provides businesses with an easy, mobile, and affordable payment solution.

SumUp’s wireless card reader and iPad based point-of-sale (POS) system allow small businesses and sole traders to accept card payments anywhere, anytime. Its solution allows in-store, in-app, and online payments, and provides merchants with a dashboard where they can track and analyse their sales. Since it was founded in 2011, SumUp has successfully expanded into 31 markets, has over one million customers, and was named the fastest growing European company for 2018 by Inc. Magazine.

Below we interview SumUp’s co-founder Marc-Alexander Christ about SumUp’s beginnings, London, and his advice for other entrepreneurs.

As a founder of SumUp, you have led the company from an idea to a global card acceptance brand. How does it feel?

It has been a truly exciting journey so far. I hoped but certainly could not have imagined that the idea we had back in 2011 would grow into operation of such scale within seven years. In 2018 we celebrated some important milestones: our team is now 1000+ people strong, we are serving over one million active users worldwide, SumUp has been profitable since 2016 and in the last year revenue growth was +97%. This amazing journey for SumUp is far from over and we continue while staying true to our vision of empowering businesses worldwide, no matter how small, unique, or mobile.

Today SumUp is a well-recognised payment service, but how did it all begin?

Since the founding of SumUp in 2012, we have been priding ourselves in doing things differently. We initially identified an issue small merchants were facing when trying to introduce card acceptance to their businesses. SumUp has focused on the long tail and merchants for whom accepting credit and debit card payments was unattainable due to the high costs of hardware, service fees and bureaucratic hurdles associated with traditional point-of-sale providers.

We built our own payment solution end-to-end and have been using technology to solve industry challenges at hand. We designed our own devices, to make sure that they worked seamlessly with our app.

Where do you see your advantage, compared to other similar services?

SumUp proprietary terminals and POS systems are designed end-to-end by an in-house team of experts, which allows SumUp to offer customers the best value and service. The unparalleled industry knowledge of the 1000+ employees provides us with the advantage in terms of expertise. The care and time that are dedicated to our merchants is another advantage worth mentioning as it provides the basis for our product development. SumUp’s team understands how vital payments are to its customers, listens to feedback, and continuously improves its offering. This is why SumUp has maintained its ambitious growth trajectory and consistently achieves a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 72.

SumUp is currently processing more than 100,000 card transactions every day. Tell us about the benefits of using your card reader.

SumUp’s technology empowers businesses worldwide to accept credit cards in an easy and cost-effective way. Our merchants can accept card payments in-store, in-app and online and our readers work with all major credit and debit cards, as well as Google and Apple Pay. With a transparent pricing structure, devices that allow for mobility and a dashboard that helps our merchants keep track of transactions and analyse sales, we’re ever-innovating to meet the needs of our merchants.

“My recommendation to fellow entrepreneurs is to be bold, dream big and stay true to your vision.”

Just a month ago, you launched the SumUp 3G Reader, eliminating the need for a mobile app or a constant wi-fi connection. What can you tell us about the latest addition to your portfolio?

The SumUp 3G Reader is a next-generation standalone card reader that utilises its built-in SIM card to independently establish a network connection to process card payments. The new addition to our hardware line is the product of ongoing feedback from SumUp’s 1 million+ active users worldwide, showing that for some businesses—particularly highly mobile ones such as handymen, delivery services, or waiters taking payments at the table—a card reader that requires no additional smartphone provides needed flexibility.

Inc. magazine named SumUp the fastest growing European company for 2018. Congratulations on the recognition. Where do you see the real impact of your work?

Thank you very much, we were honored to be recognized by such a prestigious industry magazine. I see the real impact of SumUp’s work when our merchants succeed, as many of them share their growth stories and accomplishments with us on social media, via email or surveys. It’s great to see that SumUp is helping the everyday heroes thrive.

During your six years of operations, you have expanded to 31 countries on three continents. What is next for SumUp?

SumUp has a solid forward-looking roadmap which evolves based on the latest fintech industry trends. We are planning to continue scaling the business, opening new markets and increasing market penetration. Being a strong leader in fintech innovation, SumUp also aims to remain at the forefront of new hardware and software ideation when it comes to mPOS.

You are running a fintech company out of the financial centre of Europe. What is the best thing about the startup community in London?

London is home to one of the most vibrant startup communities in Europe. Not only is it a respected European tech hub, but it has proven over and over to be the birthplace of some of the most creative ideas when it comes to financial innovation. The best thing about the startup community in London is the ideas exchange, the city is bustling with ambitious entrepreneurs and innovators who attend meetups, share knowledge and are a great inspiration for anyone starting out or building a business of their own.

On the other hand, London remains the financial capital of Europe, that certainly is a big plus for building a global financial technology company. Thirdly, London is one of the best cities in Europe and offers a great talent pool from which we can recruit the best people, and new employees from all across the world are easily convinced to relocate to London to join SumUp.

From a startup to a unicorn company, what was the biggest obstacle on the way and what would you recommend to fellow entrepreneurs?

I think the biggest challenge is to assemble a team that is ready to embark with you on this crazy growth journey and is open to innovative ideas. Most importantly, it should be a team of visionaries that are not afraid to fail, dust themselves off and try again. I have been blessed to work with some of the brightest minds in the fintech industry, and I am proud to call them my colleagues and friends.

My recommendation to fellow entrepreneurs is to be bold, dream big and stay true to your vision.

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