Understanding what it takes to be an innovator can only be done one way: by talking with leaders of companies whose sole focus is to set the pace for their industry.
As part of PYMNTS.com's CEO series, we spoke with Alex Choi, President and CEO of BBPOS Limited, to gain an insider's take on how he believes his company is innovating the payments industry — and what it takes to be an innovator in the crowded mPOS space.
PYMNTS: How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?
AC: I believe the sole objective of innovation is to improve everyday life, in business, it’s called the customer experience. In order to make sure we never forget innovation is part of our DNA we always maintain a bit of a ‘startup’ attitude as we continue to grow and become more global.
That makes us in a perpetual state of being curious as we experiment with new and different technologies. We have a very flat hierarchy and everyone’s voice and idea are heard and to the extent we can, tried out. We don’t want to stop this innovation culture. Having said that, one thing that we never do is to innovate for innovation’s sake. We constantly remind ourselves that we are trying to make everyone’s life better, not just creating the next product “just because” it’s cool.
PYMNTS: Where do you look for innovative ideas and why?
AC: Innovative ideas are everywhere and you just need to look and listen carefully. Customers are the most fruitful source for ideas, because they are the ones to provide final evaluation of our products. We actively compile customer feedback, along with marketing research, to derive a set of ideas for new products and product enhancement.
We also attend industry conferences and exhibitions. The benefit from attending these events is to keep aware [of] what our competitors are doing - and we can get tons of innovative ideas from them.
PYMNTS: What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?
AC: There were two major areas in which innovators underestimate payments, especially when it comes to the mPOS device.
First of all, when we develop a payments solution, we have to design everything including the hardware, software as well as the firmware. Many components that are common in traditional ePOS terminals cannot be used due to many factors like size [and] power consumption, as well as cost. Our design team needed to have hardware, software and firmware expertise to tackle each area and we had gained a lot of knowledge during the process.
Another big underestimation was getting the user to accept a new technology that can provide more advanced functionality, yet is just as secure as the traditional ePOS. This is extremely important as payment technology has been built on trust and proven technology and it is never easy to bring a new technology to the industry.
PYMNTS: What person or company do you think “gets” innovation and why – and, conversely, who or what has missed it and why?
AC: I think people or company that “gets” innovation are those that are passionate about what they do, are determined to challenge the status quo and do not give up when there are problems.
PYMNTS: What is the most innovative thing that you have introduced into the market and what value did it deliver to the stakeholder group that was its target?
AC: I think that what we remember the most is the audio jack connected payment device that we introduced in 2008. I think we were the first to do so, since I don’t remember any such device existed back then. Since then BBPOS has developed many innovative payment solutions. Three great examples of innovation at BBPOS include: Chipper™ 2X, WisePad™ 2 and WisePOS™.
The Chipper™ 2X seems to be getting a lot of traction. It processes magstripe, EMV and NFC transactions including Apple Pay. It features an audio jack connection, Bluetooth over the air update capabilities and an extensive battery life. The user can also turn this into a standalone Bluetooth connected product by adding the Chipper Cap with an LCD screen that mounts to the other feature to the device.
The WisePad™2 is a chip and PIN product with extended memory and direct connectivity to the network via Wi-Fi, 2G or 3G network as well as Bluetooth capabilities. This means in addition to the current mPOS norm of connecting to a cellphone, the WisePad™ can connect to the gateway directly and hence reducing the total cost of ownership by a significant amount. This device is perfect for both standalone application for individual merchants or a supplement for a larger merchant that requires additional payment acceptance capabilities at certain time.
The WisePOS™ is a fully integrated payment device that’s built on an Android platform. It also has 3G connectivity, a 5M camera, a barcode reader as well as a card reader module that reads magstripe, EMV and NFC. We see this as the next generation of POS terminals that can be used in both fixed and mobile environments. We designed this device on the Android OS since we like the open platform that allows a large number of developers to build Android apps to be used on this device.
PYMNTS: What advice would you give a young innovator in this space and why would you tell her to heed it?
AC: Keep your eyes and ears open as the next big idea is always around the corner waiting for you to discover. Be persistent, as no big idea can easily be successful the first time. Always believe that you are doing something that is making the world better.
Alex Choi | President & Chief Executive Officer, BBPOS Limited
BBPOS is an innovator, designer, manufacturer and provider of end-to-end mobile point-of-sale (mPOS). Headquartered in Hong Kong, BBPOS customers include Fortune Global 2000 companies in mobile merchant, retail, hospitality, delivery and transportation.
Alex Choi is the President and Chief Executive Officer of BBPOS, under the visionary leadership of Alex, BBPOS is well-positioned on global stage through innovation and high quality product portfolio. BBPOS has earned a reputation for delivering solutions that leverage best-in-class technology with leading reliability and optimal convenience. With an aspiration to surpass customer expectation, BBPOS has installed more than 3 million mPOS solutions including hardware and software in over 50 countries empowering merchants and retailers to optimize sales and enhance customer experience.
Prior to joining BBPOS, Alex was a U.K. qualified Chartered Accountant. He fell in love with electronics ever since he got his first computer, a Commodore Vic 20. Having obtained an Electronics Engineering degree at the University of London, he is very glad that he is in the industry that he really loves. His Charted Accountant training makes him very sensitive to numbers as well as giving him exposure to how good companies are built and run. He looks at his role as a designer of a business with the objective of building a visionary and trendsetting global company in the payment industry.