Interview with Alberto Dalmasso, CEO and Co-founder of Satispay

LTP recently had the pleasure of interviewing Alberto Dalmasso, CEO and Co-founder of Satispay, the app that has not only revolutionized mobile payments but has done so without involving traditional suppliers such as Visa, MasterCard and Amex. Allowing its users to transfer money with phone contacts and pay in stores (both physical and online), Satispay has caught the attention of consumers, retailers and big brands alike.

LTP: Satispay is a FinTech startup with its own payment gateway. This is a clear technological advantage over your competitors. Could you briefly present Satispay and its disruptive model?

Alberto Dalmasso: It is definitely a big advantage being an IT company that focuses entirely on payments.

While others tend to view apps simply as a new platform for credit cards, we decided that innovation in the mobile payment sector should involve a more radical change: we developed an entirely new system that is independent of the payment card circuits. The model that we constructed is directly linked to the interbank network allowing us to bypass all of the intermediary payment processors that are traditionally involved with payments. This new efficiency meant drastically reducing the costs involved in moving money. Therefore, we are able to offer Satispay completely free for consumers and significantly cheaper for businesses. While the foundation is technologically complex, the app itself is extremely simple and intuitive.

LTP: By removing the traditional external supply chain, Satispay has increased efficiency in managing payments allowing for an extremely lean cost structure. Did this influence how you approached the market?

AD: Our low costs have certainly helped in making Satispay more accessible for the market. Creating a Satispay account is as simple as downloading the app and providing your IBAN code and ID. Once active, you can top up your account by choosing a budget, the maximum amount you would want to spend during the week; this is modifiable at any time. The money is then transferred from the bank account enabling you to send money to friends or start spending in stores and online. With no signup fees or transaction costs for consumers, the experience is completely free.

Businesses, on the other hand, are only charged 0.20€ for payments above 10€ while payments up to 10€ are free. Aside from offering an inexpensive payment solution for businesses, the app also provides a significant, non-invasive marketing platform. Stores are able to create promotions for clients, which are easily discoverable through Satispay.

These are key features in our approach to change the culture of payments. We already have the most simple and affordable solution for everyday payments. Our community currently uses the app on average six times per month, of which 4 are in stores.

LTP: Where did the idea come from? How long did it take to study the market and develop the infrastructure?

AD: Having already adopted our phones to complete almost every imaginable task, in 2012, Dario Brignone and I questioned ourselves why there still was no simple and convenient mobile payment app. Shortly after we started investigating the processes involved in payments, a huge development took place on a European level. The Payment Services Directive meant that all payments within the SEPA countries would share the same new standards. For the traditional operators, this meant a struggle to change processes in order to adapt. For us, it meant opening the floodgates and designing a totally new model. We painstakingly studied the complex regulations and operational steps that guided payments under the new directive. Each working in separate industries at the time, in January 2013, we quit our jobs and hired Samuele, our first employee and current partner, and started the development of the platform. In 2014, we launched the first beta version of the app and raised money from institutional investors. In January 2015, the app was published on the Italian store.

LTP: Satispay was launched in January 2015. How did the Italian market take to the innovation in its first year of release?

AD: The reception exceeded expectations. During the first half of 2015, we focused on making our platform scalable, building a strong team (now more than 35) and finalizing the second round of investment. We advanced strongly with the in-store feature in September of 2015. Since then, the system is growing at a rapid pace. Today we have over 100,000 downloads, half of which are active users. In terms of affiliated businesses, we currently have 4,500 stores, most of which signed up autonomously. The market has confirmed that Satispay meets real needs. While stores are growing at a steady pace of 50 per day, they are set to grow more than exponentially thanks to a groundbreaking integration that we announced with Ingenico terminals. In the coming months, ICCREA Banking Group, our first corporate investor and main industrial partner, will introduce Satispay to more than 83,000 of its business customers with Ingenico POS terminals. The integration with Ingenico is an important venture not only by making Satispay the first mobile payment system in Europe to reach such a high number of payment terminals, but also because it confirms the effectiveness of Satispay’s strategy. That is: integrate with any device that is readily available in stores. Smartphone or tablet, PC, cash register, POS, Satispay doesn’t require new tools; it integrates with what is there and lowers costs.

LTP: Last year, your company raised one of the biggest investment rounds in the Italian Startup history. How did you manage to raise $10.5 million? What are your plans for the future?

AD: Satispay’s first investment round went very well, and interest is growing on the international market. I believe this is due to the combination of a number of factors: the idea, our support and a perfect time to market. Our product has demonstrated a lot of potential, which has been recognized by a number of industry experts. In a number of cases, these experts have become investors and provided invaluable operational support. These include Jonathan Weiner of Money 2020 and Giuseppe Donagemma who has a wealth of experience as a top manager in Nokia and Samsung. Donagemma is currently acting as Chairman of Satispay’s Advisory Board. Another influential investor is ICCREA Bank, with which we are developing many synergies.

Today, we are working towards the next investment round, which we expect to close by the end of this year. Once we close the round, we intend to consolidate our position as a leader in Italy and expand within Europe. The plan is to start from Germany, followed by France, Belgium, Holland, Spain and the UK.