UK fintech Atoa secures $2.2M pre-seed round as it kills Visa and Mastercard fees for businesses

  • Atoa Payments solves a crucial pain point for millions of small and mid-sized UK retail merchants currently using card machines reducing a merchant’s cost of accepting payments by up to 70% and ensures instant payment rather than the standard 1-2 days for debit cards
  • Atoa Payments is taking advantage of Instant Bank Pay which leverages open banking innovation delivering better customer outcomes and opportunities for efficiency
  • The company was founded by serial entrepreneurs who successfully sold their last fintech business, KlearCard, to a Singapore-based lender

THERE are more than 4 million small businesses in the UK which have no viable alternative to debit card payments and are reliant on Mastercard or Visa payment rails. Challenging this status quo, UK fintech Atoa Payments is announcing a $2.2M pre-seed funding round to reduce by 70% the payment fees and offer a new approach to making payments. 

The funding round was led by Leo Capital and Passion Capital and also included well regarded angel investors such as Matt Robinson (co-founder of GoCardless and Nested) alongside Moon  Capital Ventures. Anil Stocker, Co-Founder & CEO of MarketFinance also serves as a company advisor.

Mastercard and Visa payment rails have an effective duopoly in the market which enables them to get away with net margins as high as 51% at the expense of small merchants and their customers. On top of this, card machine providers charge small businesses up to 1.75%. Atoa is building a truly viable alternative for small businesses to accept payments at a fraction of those costs and to improve their cash flow meaningfully at the same time.

Using Atoa is seamless. Businesses simply download the Atoa app and securely connect their merchant bank account. Set up takes less than 5 minutes, after which the merchant can accept payments via SMS, Pay-by Link or by displaying a QR code on their Atoa App or physical QR stand next to their till. At the same time, their customers do not need to download a separate app to pay which removes a substantial point of friction inhibiting merchant options until now. 

Any customer with a UK mobile banking app on their phone can securely pay a merchant who is using Atoa. Without requiring a separate consumer app, the customer simply scans the merchant’s QR code or clicks on the link sent by the merchant, selects their bank and then is redirected to their existing mobile bank app to approve the payment, meaning that the merchant receives the funds instantly.

Sid Narayanan, Co-Founder of Atoa Payments said, “We are grateful to have the support and partnership of such strong investors validating our plans to break the card payment duopoly in the UK and to improve cash flows and economics for the country’s small merchants. At a time of record inflation and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the UK’s small and medium merchants are struggling to contain their costs, provide great service to the customers, and maintain profit margins. Atoa is here to empower merchants and to improve their cash flow and bottom line.”

Atoa was co-founded by Sid Narayanan, Cian O’Dowd and Arun Rajkumar, who all previously founded Singapore based fintech, KlearCard, which was acquired last year by Validus. Their first successful enterprise has motivated them to seek even greater heights and to have greater impact and to focus on one of the largest merchant retailer markets in the world, the UK.

Atoa Instant Bank Pay allows small merchants to receive payments at a flat fee which is up to 70% cheaper than card machines provided by SumUp, Zettle or Square. The merchants then receive funds in their bank accounts instantly instead of having to wait 1-2 days as is the usual case with card machines and debit cards. Using Atoa involves no contracts (pay as you go), no hardware fees and no chargeback fraud risk (all payments are approved via bank app and have Strong Customer Authentication). 

By contrast, small retailers today are locked into contracts and typically have far from transparent fees to pay including authorisation fees, hardware fees, PCI compliance fees and more which all eat into their margins. Hardware fees can be as high as £29/month. 

Robert Dighero, Partner at Passion Capital, said “Atoa has come to the UK market at the right time to leverage open banking and bring to small and medium sized merchants a truly viable alternative to payment cards and card machines that can be deployed in-store within minutes. We’re delighted to work with the Atoa team after their first fintech success and look forward to partnering with them as they achieve even greater heights with Atoa.”

Shwetank Verma, Partner at Leo Capital, said “Leveling the playing field for independent, small and medium sized merchants is an obvious opportunity which benefits everyone, not least of which consumers. We have seen this business model succeed in India and SEA and we’re looking forward to working with the Atoa team to help them build another successful business in a massively growing market.”

Since going live in June, the company has experienced more than 100% month on month growth in terms of both Total Payment Volume (TPV) and number of merchant customers. Over time, the founders’ ambitions are to become a mainstream small business friendly payment method replacing payment cards. 

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