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Exclusive: Meet Teya, the mysterious fintech unicorn formerly known as SaltPay

Teya’s chief commercial officer Lawrence Hene spoke to AltFi about bringing joy back to merchants through a unified, simplified payments solution.

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300,000 customers. More than 2,000 employees. 20 offices in 15 countries. Virtually no online presence.

Teya, the one-stop solution for European businesses formerly known as SaltPay, is launching today and finally introducing itself.

With ambition reaching far beyond the scope of the name ‘SaltPay’, Teya is here to provide a whole suite of services to small businesses, combining payment acceptance and business management tools in one ecosystem.

There is a pretty large umbrella of services that fall under its suite of products, from electronic point-of-sale to merchant account services, a digital loyalty platform to other SaaS solutions.

Most importantly though, Teya is seeking to bring joy back to merchants.

For those of you that haven’t brushed up on your Latin recently, Teya (pronounced Tay-Uh) means joy, and, as chief commercial officer Lawrence Hene told AltFi, it’s a key part of the company’s vision.

“If you look at the average merchant, they have 10 or 15 systems to deal with and this is not really what they're passionate about,” Hene said.

“You don't get into business to deal with your software or your payments. You get into business because that's what you're excited about. And all these other things drain the joy. 

“And so what we hope to do is by offering this breadth is just make it easier for the merchant and bring them more joy and more time to focus on what matters to them, which is really what their customers need.”

Over the coming months, Teya plans to broaden its suite of products even further, and the new name — and this relaunch — seems to be serving as a bit of a formal introduction to merchants and to the industry.

At just four years old, Teya is very early on in the journey for the business to become as big as it hopes to be, Hene pointed out, which is why now is the time to show who they are and to build that understanding across Europe.

But Teya has also done a lot since it was founded by Eduardo Pontes, Andre Street and Ali Mazanderani — all previously involved in the Brazilian payments acquirer dubbed South America’s Square, Stone Co — in 2019.

The company has quietly worked away and grown an extensive userbase of small and medium-sized businesses across Europe, grown its headcount and clearly caught the interest of investors.

Over the last four years it has raised $1.2bn, most recently closing a Series C round in November 2021. 

But this isn’t something the company dwells on.

For Teya, it really seems like it’s all about what they can do for merchants.

So what is the goal?

Hene summed it quite simply: “We’re trying to simplify their life”.

Centralising the different billing systems, contracts and other miscellaneous admin that no one wants to deal with, Teya is seeking to serve the fragmented and underserved market of small and medium business owners holistically.

“If you can join [all the services] together, you can make it easier for the merchant,” Hene said.

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But while Teya is a pretty one-stop shop, and it has acquired a number of firms in order to be one, including YoYo for loyalty, Loyverse for retail and MeaWallet for SoftPOS, it also has always had an open architecture that allows merchants to integrate other platforms and products into its system.

“What's interesting here is we also have a philosophy that we're not going to do it all on our own. The small and medium business sector has a huge variety of needs, and one provider is never going to do everything,” Hene said.

So if a merchant has their own electronic point-of-sale they simply can’t part ways with or their own customer loyalty system, that’s absolutely fine by Teya.

“It's a kind of best of both worlds in the sense of bringing together where we add value to the merchant and they can see it, we'll offer them the suite to make their life easier,” Hene continued.

“But if something serves their business better, then we are really happy for them to continue to do that. And that I think is a unique approach in the market of a real recognition that it's a suite plus partnership.”

Offering an enterprise service

Alongside aiming to free customers from the little things that add up and take the joy out of doing business, be that admin or logistical complexities, Teya aims to package this all in an enterprise experience for small business owners.

“[Merchants] feel underserved. They don't really know how to articulate it, but they don't have this great satisfaction with what it is they're doing,” Hene said.

“They're trying to solve these problems on their own and they're looking for help. And it's very different when you come from enterprise, there's a huge number of people willing to help you and bring it all together. But mostly you can't afford to do that if you're a small or medium-sized business.”

With the energy of founders and employees who have experience with small businesses, either working there themselves, having them in the family or working on servicing small businesses, the ‘customer-centricity’ of the company is clear.

Hene highlighted the word ‘care’ as one that is used a lot in the business — it’s a core brand value and a key part of how the brand was built and that feels evident in every element of the approach to merchants.

“With the way that we're building it, bringing this all together, we can then offer [merchants] that feeling and make them feel like they're getting an enterprise service, but actually bring it to the small and medium business,” Hene said.

And while SMEs may, by their very definition, have smaller budgets, smaller teams and generally be smaller, they make up a huge proportion of the market.

In both the UK and Europe, SMEs make up 99.9 per cent of the business population.

There are 5.5 million SMEs in the UK alone, and in Europe this number rises to 24 million.

Teya has already steadily built up a sizable customer base essentially without telling anyone they were even doing it, and now the potential for growth is enormous.

It has built the technology, has the services — that it has teased are set to expand — knows it can serve its customers well and with care and is ready to, one day, help bring back joy to every small business owner in Europe.

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