Kuapay preparing Latin American m-payment market entrance

Monday, November 21, 2011

After an initial trial phase, m-payment startup Kuapay feels it is ready to set foot in Latin America, the company's co-founder Joaquin Ayuso told BNamericas.

Kuapay provides cardless m-payment solutions for smartphones, enabling the customer to purchase services and goods without physically using a credit card.

Customers can enter their credit card information into Kuapay's app and then make a payment, the customer can use his smartphone to log onto Kuapay's application with a PIN number and present the resulting quick response (QR) code to the cashier. The code is then scanned and the user's account is charged.

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According to Ayuso, Kuapay holds the card data of the client in a server, but does not have access to that information as the cryptography is performed by the customer himself. The only thing the company does is to enable the client's access when he needs to make a purchase.

While security may be a concern for users, "security is actually our strength," he added. "We can say that if you lose your phone you won't need to cancel your credit or debit cards. Since the information is not on the phone and is never revealed to the user, the cards cannot be cloned. You can disable your Kuapay terminal from your online account in real time or by calling the customer support numbers of your country. In both cases, the phone will be locked from using your Kuapay account."

Officially launched in January, the company is based in Santa Monica, California, and so far has been operating under a structured basis only in the US, considered its core market.

Testing the business environment for the m-payment niche, Kuapay has also been operating in Chile under a trial mode, where it is concentrating Latin American operations, as well as in Spain.

"We have chosen Spain, and Chile in Latin America, to run this initial trial phase because we consider them to be well-developed markets," said Ayuso.

In addition to the Chile operations, Ayuso said Kuapay has been talking to other companies in Latin America, in countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Panama.

"We are moving little money, but as you can imagine we are in closed beta with hundreds of users. The real deal is going to happen in Chile, where we are already installing PoS systems nationwide to support our systems," he said. "We are also working in Panama as we speak."

Kuapay is also entering the Asian market, and expects to open its first office in Korea by end-January.

Ayuso is further considering opening an office in São Paulo in the near future, as the city "is one of the most important technology nodes in Latin America. We will have to be there."

"Emerging markets are an opportunity for us because we don't have a lot of competitors yet in terms of m-payment, as is the case in the US, for instance. Also, people seem to be more open to new things in Latin America than in developed countries," the executive noted.