Five UK payment startups you should be watching

As a controlling stake in Skrill (née Moneybookers), is sold for €600m, MT takes a look at the startups disrupting the UK's payments sector.

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 23 Mar 2016
The payments industry is being shaken up good and proper. As the financial services industry attempts to drag itself out of the pits of despair, an army of financial wunderkinds is gathering in the form of startups armed with sharp financial minds and a desire to disrupt.

Skrill, the online payments company formally known as Moneybookers, is the Obi-Wan to their Anakin. Formed just after the dotcom boom, it soldiered through the sector's collapse and became the UK’s answer to PayPal, with some 35 million account holders.

In 2007, Investcorp bought a majority stake in the company for €25m and now it’s offloading it for €600. It’s a tasty profit for Bahrain-based Investcorp and proof to the UK’s payment industry underlings that hard work pays off.

So who exactly are the UK’s plucky payments pioneers? Here is a list of our ones to watch.
1.    mPowa
A mobile payments app from ecommerce providers Powa Technologies, it allows sellers to take credit and debit card payments using their smartphones and its free card reader. Combined with the companies ecommerce solutions, it’s quite a powerful package.
The startup has hit the headlines today, thanks to the backing of high-profile dotcom entrepreneur Dan Wagner. The veteran tech figure has ploughed $76m into the startup and has vowed to list the company in 12 – 18 months.
2.    TransferWise
TransferWise takes the sting out of international money transfers by using a peer-to-peer system. It works as an exchange, with money held in various currencies, allowing you move your money without paying hefty exchange charges to the banks.
It landed $6m investment in May, with which it’s expanding to add extra currencies to its list.
3.    GoCardless
This startup has invented an API, which allows small companies to accept direct debit payments – a much cheaper option, and one usually reserved for larger firms.
It too has been bestowed with an investment windfall of late, securing $3.3m in Series A funding in April.
4.    Droplet
Another player in the mobile payments space, Droplet is an app, which allows people to make payments quickly and easily with their smartphones for free. Once called Settle, the startup had a battle with Swedish company and rival iZettle and had to change its name.
The Droplet app differs from its peers, such as Square, mPowa and indeed iZettle, because it doesn’t require you to use the existing credit/debit card system but instead, lets you load money onto the app itself. This means merchants don’t need a card reader to accept payments.
5.    Smart Transactions Group
The product of the merger between Applied Card Technologies, an ITSO transit smartcard provider and sQuid, a digital payments network, in 2011. Smart Transactions Group works in the contactless payment space.
Its name might not be terribly zippy but it reportedly supplies 85% of the UK’s smartcards. That’s quite the market share.

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