SANTA CLARA, Calif. — At DEMO today, we have yet another contender in an increasingly crowded arena: mobile payments.
Good Lord, there are as many startups in payments as there are photo-sharing apps or social media analytics firms. It’s saturated. But as yet, we can’t really tell who the winner is going to be. PayPal is a Goliath, and every credit card company has skin in the game, too; but there’s room for lots of innovation and (we say this in the genuine, non-buzzwordy sense) disruption.
QR code-based ArgoPay for iOS and Android acts as both a mobile payment network and a virtual wallet.
The company says a minimum of seven middlemen (middlepeople?) take cuts in any given credit card transaction. This startup’s system eliminates all but one of the middle layers — itself — and with it, the credit card fees. For merchants, it offers zero processing fees, and buyers get discounts and perks (e.g., 5 percent cash back). There’s no minimum payment for purchases.
ArgoPay itself makes money from credit card interest and loyalty/rewards redemptions. Interest rates vary based on creditworthiness, and ArgoPay takes 30 percent of the face value of any redemptions directly from the merchants.
“Because we control the whole experience, we have a lot more data on the consumer,” said founder Igor Ostrovsky onstage at DEMO today. “If you’re a local merchant, you don’t have that ability [to make recommendations and special offers], and we’re giving it to them.”
In the beginning, he elaborated, customers will be able to use the app with a Visa card.
With a local-first business plan, ArgoPay will begin as a pilot program in Boston next month. The startup has received $500,000 to date from Atlas Ventures. Its team includes a biz dev guy, a serial-startup CTO, and a multilingual electrical engineer.
Here’s a look at the app: