Australian startup snapshot: Kounta

Sydney startup Kounta has built cash register software for retailers that supports mobile online payments and runs on any device.

The pitch

Most cash registers in the market are “archaic,” said Kounta founder and CEO, Nick Cloete. “They bolt on very old technologies that aren’t at the level they need to be today to create rather an interaction other than a transaction at the point of sale.”

Kounta has built a cash register that supports traditional payments but can also interact with new mobile and online payment methods like PayPal, Xero and Beat The Q – services that provide additional value to the retailer, said Cloete. PayPal, for example, has rolled out an in-store payment system that provides a customer profile to the store owner during the transaction that can be used for personalisation and loyalty programs.

Kounta also claims a cost advantage over traditional point-of-sale services. Retailers pay nothing to trial Kounta for 30 days and then the subscription service costs about $50 per month after that.

The software carries no inherent equipment costs because it can be installed on any Web-enabled device, including tablets, laptops, desktop computers and traditional point-of-sale equipment. It works online or offline and is compatible with all operating systems, he said.

“You can get an iPad, a cash drawer, a printer and a stand for under $1000,” said Cloete. Traditional systems can cost between $5000 and $15,000, he said.

Funding and selling

Kounta launched in Australia 18 months ago, following six months of development. The service opened its doors to a global audience in January. The startup has 500 retail customers – mostly Australian – but the number is growing quickly, he said.

Cloete initially bootstrapped the startup by himself. Kounta opened its first venture funding round earlier this month, with Reckon founder Greg Wilkinson joining as Kounta’s first investor.

“We’ve got a lot of interest from other potential investors,” Cloete said. “We’re looking for up to $1 million, and as soon as we get that we’ll close the round and open up the next one.”

Kounta has 10 people on staff and is looking to double that headcount in the next 12 to 24 months. Kounta plans to open sales offices in the US and UK, but wants to keep its headquarters in Sydney, said Cloete.

“We’re proudly Australian and our entire research and development team is here in Sydney,” he said.

“We want to keep it that way just to make sure we have a very high level of quality control and service around Kounta.”

Future of payments

One payment technology Kounta does not support is near field communications. NFC “has got a future for very select applications” but “not retail,” said Cloete.

“The issue is that there’s a mass of additional cap ex to get the equipment into the buyers and also sellers’ hands to facilitate NFC transactions,” he said.

That is not the case with a service like PayPal in which users only have to check into stores with their mobile devices and do not have to use any physical interface, he said.

The same view is not held by all of Kounta’s competitors. Vend, another Paypal partner offering point-of-sale software, has chosen to remain agnostic about payment technologies.

Startup scene

The Australian startup ecosystem is “extremely strong,” said Cloete. “There’s a lot of great products and teams ... and I think it’s a very nice testing ground for products that have a very strong global potential.”

He disagreed with those who say money can be hard to find, at least in the early going: “If you’ve got the right product, I don’t think it’s that difficult to find funding.”

However, as the startup grows and needs later-stage funding from venture capitalists, “definitely the US has got a much bigger pool of resources,” he said.

Cloete said he thinks the idea there is a "brain drain" because of Australian startups moving overseas “is a little bit overblown.”

“If you’ve got the right product, you’re going to get the right team,” he said. “They’re not going to necessarily want to pick up and move to the [Silicon] Valley.”

Australian startup snapshots:

Roamz / Local Measure
Ollo Mobile

If you’ve got a startup or know about a cool new Australian business, please email Adam Bender at or on Twitter (@WatchAdam).

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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