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A French startup trying to build the 'European PayPal' is expanding to London

French fintech startup LemonWay is opening a London office.

LemonWay, founded in 2007, is a licensed payment processor that lets other businesses take mobile and online payments from customers.

The company, which employs 45 people and is headquartered in east Paris, specialises in powering payments for marketplace businesses and is particularly popular with crowdfunding platforms.

LemonWay also provides other financial services to startups, such as holding client money, and was given a huge boost in 2013 when France moved to regulate crowdfunding and peer-to-peer platforms. This forced many French startups to get a third party to hold client funds.

Damien Guermonprez, the joint head of LemonWay, told Business Insider: “After 2 years we have signed with 300 platforms, mainly crowdfunders, in 12 countries. We’re very lucky to surf the wave of crowdfunding. We collect on behalf of these platforms in case they fail. This is a way to protect the market.”

Guermonprez says most of the customers are small — such as French investment crowdfunding platform WiSeed — but they are growing fast. “They all multiplied their turnover by four each year,” he says.

LemonWay’s revenue was €4 million (£3 million, $4.3 million) last year, with Guermonprez forecasting €10 million (£7.5 million, $10.8 million) in turnover this year.

“Last year we made a €400,000 (£301,300, $433,500) net profit,” Guermonprez say. “We are showing we are not losing money. This is a very different strategy to those who are spending a lot and losing a lot. We want to exist in the future.”

LemonWay is opening a small office in WeWork Aldgate, in London as part of plans to grow its business.

“It was urgent to start working in the world capital of fintech,” says Guermonprez. “We recognise London as the centre. Frankly, it’s amazing what’s going on.

“We already have customers in the UK. But we have only 10. Are competitor signed 16 of them, our competitor is MangoPay.”

Damien Guermonprez, Lemon Way headLemonWayLemonWay head Damien Guermonprez.

Alongside payment services, LemonWay also provides escrow services — holding clients money on behalf of companies. And the company is also building out a wider suite of financial services products.

Guermonprez says: “We clearly need a European PayPal and it’s urgent to build that. We are not yet B2C [business to consumer]. Today it’s a B2B2C [business to business to consumer] business, where the payment accounts are opened by us on behalf of our partners — the 300 platforms.

“We need to complete the product range and we are working with several partners that want to become mobile digital banks. Next month a new mobile digital bank will appear in France based on our infrastructure. They are helping us to complete the product range that we need so that we can clearly go on a B2C [business to consumer] strategy. We need MasterCard and e-banking — bank accounts.”

As well as opening an office in London, LemonWay is planning to open 10 offices across Africa, after seeing a surprising number of accounts opened across the continent. Guermonprez says: “We have huge ambition because we plan to open 30 million accounts in Europe and 40 million accounts in Africa.”

LemonWay also recently signed a payments deal WeChat, the Chinese social network. Guermonprez says: “We are interested by the US of course, but please open your window to the Chinese markets, where social networks are much more sophisticated than they are in the US. It’s amazing how Chinese people are buying, paying, and booking things through their social networks.”

And finally — why the name? “There’s Apple, BlackBerry — we thought why not Lemon?” says Guermonprez.

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