APS Card, a startup coming from the land of the rising sun, has chosen Luxembourg to launch its safest and smartest payment cards. We had the opportunity to talk to Hunz Lee, Chief Financial Officer, and Veranika Ramanouskaya, Sales Director, about their venture and their ambition to conquer Europe from their headquarters at Technoport.
(Image Credit: Anton Ramanouski)
What is APS Card?
Is your payment card protected from data pickpocketing? And online hacking? What if your card gets lost or stolen? You see where we are heading… security is key. APS Card is similar to a traditional credit card, but it is equipped with extra security features to provide fundamental fraud protection.
What’s so different from the usual credit card?
While maintaining the same advantages of a traditional card, the APS Card also protects the true owner from illegal use of the card in any transactions: both in offline/online and CNP/CP (card-present) transactions.
How does it work?
The APS Card is activated only when connected to the company’s mobile app and when the true owner’s fingerprint or password is authenticated.
Unless the card is activated, card information, including the cardholder’s name, card number, expiration date, and CVC, is invisible and unreadable by a point of sale (POS) terminal.
There are also additional features on the mobile app. The app enables users to trace up to five years of their payment history, spot the geolocation of each payment and much more.
How did the idea emerge?
About three years ago, Kevin Lee, the founder of APS, was traveling in Spain. One day, he was unable to pay with his card in a shop. Having contacted his bank in Japan, Kevin got the news that his card was blocked because of unauthorized payments made in China. A good amount of money had been stolen by hackers. His trip was not ruined by the bad news, but it took him more than six months of legal proceedings to get the money back. A year later, Kevin, a serial entrepreneur specialized in technical manufacturing and hardware, decided to build the safest and smartest banking card ever, and the APS project was born!
You are from Japan, why have you chosen Luxembourg to launch the project?
Europe was always our first target market, and after several trips to Luxembourg, we realized that Luxembourg would be our ideal gateway to Europe. So we established the company in April 2016 and here we are!
What’s your business model?
Our business model is very straightforward. We sell directly to banks, manufacturers, personalization bureaus and partners. When selling indirectly, we are licensing our technology and receiving royalty fees in return. As for the end users, they will get the card directly from their banks.
In order to introduce the product to the market on a global scale, we are working on partnerships with several major players in the industry. Benefiting from their already well-established distribution networks will give us a great boost.
Do you already have clients?
Starting February 2017, two banks in Luxembourg will begin testing the cards with actual users. We plan to launch commercially in May 2017. There is a great interest among the players in the industry. Cards are getting smarter and smarter every day and we have the opportunity to expand to other industries outside the financial field.
What are your objectives for the next year?
Next year, we’re planning to simultaneously target European and Asian markets. Our goal is to spread faster, rather than only focusing on revenue generation. We plan to grow vast and quickly.
Furthermore, in 2017 we are planning to continue our R&D here in Luxembourg. We started exploring the possibilities of cooperation with local research centers. Our team has developed many exciting new product features that will be released to the market a year from now.
Have you raised money or do you plan to?
Last summer, we raised the initial capital. Now, we are fundraising for a second capital increase. Financing will be used for mass production and global market exposure.
Do you see any differences between doing business in Luxembourg vs. Japan or Korea?
Yes (laughing), the difference is huge… We have experienced the Luxembourg administrative processes; they take a much longer time than expected. However, networking here is great! You can quite easily find and approach the right contact, while in Korea or Japan it’s not that simple.
Would you recommend launching in Luxembourg to Asian startups?
Yes, definitely. We believe that the Luxembourg government is very supportive of tech startups. Also, young companies that are targeting mostly Europe would find it beneficial to be located here. Finally, networking will get you to the next level faster.
This article was first published in SILICON