European Square Competitor iZettle Launches in the UK

iZettle, the startup that’s fast becoming Europe’s Square, announced that it will be debuting in the UK via an invite-0nly beta beginning today. The beta pool will be limited to 3,000 participants, who the company will provide with chip-card readers that work in tandem with iPhones, iPads and iOS applications. UK users of the service can then accept payments via MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club, and iZettle is trying to get a range of beta users for a variety of industries and verticals to get a good idea of the opportunities in the UK.

It’s a big move for iZettle, which has so far been operating in its home country of Sweden, as well as Denmark, Finland and Norway as of earlier this year. Company CEO and founder Jacob de Geer told BetaKit in an interview that the company is very excited about this new key European market, and says that they’ve already seen considerable interest from potential UK beta testers.

“The numbers look terrific, the interest is amazing. It’s even better than in the markets where we’ve already launched,” he said. It’s great for iZettle to be seeing so much interest on launch day, because the company wants to have as wide a range of testers as it can get. “During the beta, we’re pretty eager to cover as much ground as possible, everything from geography to individual gender and age, as well as types of business.”

Like Square in the U.S., iZettle makes it possible for anyone to accept payments from their iPhone or iPad via an app and card reader. iZettle’s tech also focuses on chip-card technology, rather than the mag stripe business that Square concentrates on. De Geer said that because of that focus, the company plans to concentrate on further European expansion, rather than looking to go head-to-head with Square on its home turf.

“For us, Canada is much more of an interesting market that we’re really looking into,” De Geer said, since in Canada chip-card tech is widely used, unlike in the U.S. iZettle’s chip-first approach also puts it in a better position overall not only for the Canadian and European markets, but beyond as well.

“I think 90 percent of our cards are chip today in Europe, and the remaining 10 percent are AmEx cards which will be switched over soon,” he explained. “And the rest of the world outside of North America has already begun or is fairly far along in the conversion to EM [electro-magnetic] chip.”

As for Square, its international expansion plans still remain a mystery. That may be partly because the company still has plenty of room to grow in the U.S. market, where countless businesses could still benefit from mobile credit card payment adoption. But in March, the company did hire PayPal veteran Alyssa Cutright as its VP of International, so signs point to new moves in the global space soon. iZettle has first-mover advantage in Europe, however, and it offers its dongle free just like Square does, and charges the same 2.75 percent flat per-transaction fee.

iZettle has another ace up its sleeve, however. In its home market of Sweden, it has already partnered with carriers to offer its hardware to customers right alongside mobile devices. Considering that Charles Dunstone, founder of UK cellular device sales site Carphone Warehouse, is an iZettle investor, de Geer anticipates that similar partnerships could emerge in the UK market in the future, too, which would help put iZettle in front of a lot of potential customers.

In the coming months, iZettle will be focused on making sure its UK launch goes smoothly, and also on releasing an Android app, which de Geer said is coming soon. The company is making big moves to build up first mover advantage in chip-card dominated markets, and that should help it secure strong positioning in relation to Square, should the American company finally unveil its international strategy this year.

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