Friday , January 22, 2021

Eye on Reopening: Tech Startups Hope To Meet an Overarching Need for Contactless Payments

As businesses reopen in the United States and abroad, many are looking to modernize their payments flows to minimize cash and maximize touch-free digital payments. Tech startups are stepping up in hopes of meeting the need. Late on Tuesday, a 5-year-old startup called Squire Technologies Inc. announced it had raised $34 million in a Series B round that will help place its point-of-sale technology in more barbershops and men’s hair salons. 

The company specializes in enabling contactless payments and automating appointment scheduling, key factors as barbers return to their chairs after weeks of lockdown and lost business in the face of Covid-19. The company is also counting on consumers’ impatience with cutting their own hair. “Small businesses are hurting right now. Fortunately, barbershops are well-positioned to thrive in an economic downturn since people will always need haircuts,” said Songe LaRon, co-founder and chief executive of New York City-based Squire, in a statement.

The company says its technology can also help shops and salons meet new requirements regarding social distancing and appointments. “Barbershops have been forced to modernize overnight, where scheduling and digital payments have become imperative to their operations and livelihood,” said Reid Christian, general partner at Palo Alto, Calif.-based CRV LLC, in a statement. CRV led the investment round. “From an investment perspective, backing [Squire] with [its] unique perspective on the industry, coupled with the underlying structural shift in how consumers expect to interact with businesses, made this a unique opportunity to revolutionize an entire market.”

With this round, which includes $27 million in equity financing and $7 million in debt financing. Squire has raised a total of $46.2 million.

In related news, a 1-year-old startup in the United Kingdom called weQless said it will soon launch an app that lets restaurant and pub patrons scan a QR code at their table to access a menu, place an order, and then pay at a checkout page via Apple Pay or Google Pay or directly on a debit or credit card. The app is aimed not only at payment but also at easing consumer frustration as eateries re-open and long lines form to place orders.

“A few months ago, I visited one of the most popular restaurants in London. What I initially thought would be a great experience turned out to be a bittersweet one, not because of the food … but because of the huge amount of time spent standing in queues just to place my order,” said weQless founder Junior Mbativou, in a statement. Indeed, the startup’s name is meant as a shortened form of the expression “we queue less.”

The app, which is set to launch next month, includes options for staff management, booking, and rewards. The company claims it requires less than an hour for proprietors to set up.

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