Contactless payments are the future, says Qpal founder

Craig Buchan, founder of Qpal. Picture: Michal Wachucik
Craig Buchan, founder of Qpal. Picture: Michal Wachucik
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Mobile payments will soon become the norm across the UK with chip and pin viewed as painfully slow in comparison.

That’s the view of Craig Buchan, the founder of Qpal, an innovative web application which enables cashless payments via contactless technology.

Qpal allows bar staff to monitor consumer habits in real time

Qpal allows bar staff to monitor consumer habits in real time

The 25-year-old from Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire, was inspired to create his app after growing increasingly frustrated at the bar waiting times customers face at large concerts or festivals.

Qpal technology allows concert-goers to load cash onto a branded card instead of scrambling for cash or relying on chip and pin.

Buchan says the benefits are two-fold – queues move more quickly, meaning people miss less of a show, while managers are able to monitor supplies in real time.

“We have the ability to deliver insights from the consumers back to the organisers, which allow them to make smarter decisions during the event and after,” Buchan said.

“Mobile payments are on the up in the UK. We’re still two or three years behind Scandinavia, which are the world leaders, but we’ll get there.

“The infrastructure is becoming more available. A lot more shops are now accepting Apple Pay. Some are still driving chip and pin – but that take an age when you become used to contactless.

“Qpal is not competing with the likes of Apple Pay or Android – we see them more as a partner. We’re integrating Apple Pay into Qpal as a way of topping up your account. We’re a mobile solution.”

While Qpal was only launched this year, the start-up is already thinking big.

It was one of six firms selected to take part in the Start Global accelerator programme organised by Scottish Enterprise, which works with companies chosen for high growth potential and global aspirations over time.

Buchan is speaking to The Scotsman from Dubai, having travelled to the UAE city for a market research trip as part of the scheme.

“The two key territories we’ve identified for Qpal outwith the UK is Scandinavia and Dubai,” he said.

“Scandinavia on the basis they’re a world leader in cashless payments, and Dubai as they have a real desire to become an innovation hub. Both regions also have a multitude of live events.

“The programme has looked at our business model and asked – it might work in the UK, but is it scalable?

“One of the reasons we wanted to come out to Dubai is we think Qpal could work very effectively overseas. The UK’s live events are quite seasonal, in terms of festival, the late May to September, and winter shows tend to be smaller.

“Why not think big? If you have the product and the aspiration, why not explore overseas?”

Qpal has so far only been deployed once in full, at the inaugural Hops in the Garden event near North Berwick in July.

Further deployments are planned in 2017 along with further investment drives.

Qpal currently employs five developers based in Aberdeen, but Buchan admits he’s spent the last few months “living out of a suitcase” as he travels around the country to spread the word.

He credits the Start Global programme for allowing him to apply when the brakes when necessary.

“When you’re in start-up mode, everything is 100mph,” he added. “At times, you can make assumptions when moving forward. So it’s always good to go back and view them in a different light.”