Own raises $1.2M to remake the point-of-sale terminal

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The mobile retail market is crowded with competitors like Square, Verifone, Intuit, Erply and others trying to help merchants and retailers accept payments via mobile devices. So does the market have room for another competitor?

Perhaps not for another app-based rival, but that’s not what Own, a Detroit-based startup, is trying to do. The company is building its own point-of-sale technology, everything from its own dedicated tablet hardware to an optimized operating system that connects to a cloud service, enabling merchants to tie all of their payments, analytics, social media and deals into one experience. Basically, Own is reimagining the point-of-sale system for modern retailers, who are ready to make the leap to a smart web–based system.

The company is announcing some big news, including $1.2 million in seed funding from Detroit Venture Partners and the relocation of the company’s headquarters to San Francisco. Own will continue to run sales and customer service out of Detroit.

Own faces some long odds in remaking the point-of-sale experience for retailers and merchants. It’s asking business owners to pay $1,300 for each tablet point-of-sale device, all of which are built by Asus. And customers will need to pay $150 per month for the service. By contrast, many businesses can get a Square app and dongle for free to accept credit card payments.

But the difference is that Own users get a purpose-built system, not just an app, said Verdi Ergun, one of Own’s co-founders. Own has built its own Linux-based operating system that blends a number of business tools into one platform. Businesses can not only receive payments through the card swipe reader on the tablet but can also track and analyze sales information over time and export their data to Quickbooks and Excel. They can also manage their social presence on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Foursquare; easily push out deals and offers to users; and set their online menus from one dashboard called Up. Even employee scheduling and clocking in and out can be handled through Own’s tablet. Own CEO Rajeev Viswanathan describes the advantages of his product:

Point of sale systems have under-served retailers because, until now, they’ve simply been glorified cash registers. There’s massive potential in equipping these owners and managers with real-time insights about who is in their store, what customers are saying and what they’re buying.

Own has been testing the system with 20 beta clients in the Detroit area since July. Its system can work with existing cash drawers and printers. Own is now preparing a bigger push with merchants as it looks to get the word out about its tablet-based system.

The move to San Francisco will help the company as it looks to build up its engineering team and coordinate with partners, retailers and investors. The company is also adding additional advisors to its advisory board, including Shail Arora (Vineyard Capital), Raul Vejar (Head of Corporate Strategy, SAP) and Nik Harris (Head of Integration, North America, InMobi), in addition to Own’s first advisor, Peter Chane (Director of Business Development, Google Chrome OS), and Scott Crosby (Co-Founder, Google Analytics). The company has also added Bob Stefanski (Co-Founder, Tibco) to its board of directors, alongside Jake Cohen (Detroit Venture Partners).

Again, this is a tough market to crack, and many business owners are just making the step up to apps and dongles and may not be prepared or have the resources to go with a broader system like Own’s. And companies like Erply and Verifone, with its Global Bay purchase, are trying to do more than just accept payments by providing a suite of apps and software that can help businesses manage inventory and customer relations without forcing them to buy a dedicated device. But the company may find a market with business owners who want a one-stop shop for handling their business needs and like a device that is designed for a single overarching purpose. There’s an opportunity to redefine what the point-of-sale terminal of the future looks like, and Own has a chance to be part of the conversation.

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