Leaf Looks to Kill the Cash Register, Own “Entire Merchant Experience”

7/31/13Follow @gthuang

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enable their salesmen to bundle Leaf’s services with their traditional offerings. We’ve found that these merchant acquirers have a lot of success positioning our services as a cash register killer and a platform for innovation.

The second is our membership program where smaller independent sales organizations pay a yearly fee and in return receive demo accounts, a dedicated support team, and the ability to sell Leaf’s platform in addition to their payment processing. Lastly, we drive a significant volume through an online self-service channel. Over the past few months, we’ve seen significant growth across all three distribution channels.

X: Why did you decide to go the hardware route (as well as software), and how are you handling the manufacturing challenges as you scale up?

AS: From the beginning, we knew we wanted to build custom hardware; the built-for-business device is an integral part of our long-term platform vision. While the platform will eventually manifest itself in many ways, a crucial aspect is ownership of the entire merchant experience from beginning to end. The LeafPresenter enables us to do just this.

Out of the box, a merchant receives the core Leaf offering, and from there can upgrade and utilize other apps and services all from a single device. Building an offering on top of someone else’s platform is a quick way to bring a product out of the gate, but could really limit features and functionality in the future.

We have a pretty exciting vision for local brick-and-mortar merchants, and building from the ground up is definitely the best way to deliver it. We’d rather do that than rely on someone else’s product, and we are handling the manufacturing challenges in stride. Our network of advisors is strong in manufacturing and supply chain, so we are leveraging their expertise as we grow.

X: How do you see the point-of-sale sector playing out in the next few years? Where will you fit vs. other companies like Square, PayPal, LevelUp, and Swipely?

AS: This is a legacy industry that is in the early days of being reshaped by the introduction of the cloud and mobile technology. As of today, it is extremely hard to understand where all the players fit given that many of them have not fully matured their strategy in the space. This is a space that saw almost no innovation for several decades leading up to the past few years, in which several innovative players have thrown their hats in the ring.

Leaf’s path as an open platform provider is to embrace a very crowded space of service providers that can leverage our agnostic technology and create applications on top of it. Many of the companies you just mentioned are already apps within the Leaf platform.

X: What’s your advice for first-time tech entrepreneurs? What do you wish you knew when you started?

AS: It’s all about hiring, culture, and focus. As I mentioned earlier, we’re on the lookout for bright minds to join our team, and even though we could use the bandwidth yesterday, we’re seriously committed to hiring the right people. I’d add that, for startups, the old real estate axiom matters—location, location, location. We’re thrilled to have set up in the Cambridge/Boston area, because we believe strongly that this is where the best people are.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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