You probably haven’t heard of the punch-card picture phone. But in 1961, AT&T’s engineers were convinced it was the next great innovation in banking.
The invention proceeded picture messaging by nearly half a century, and allowed banks and consumers to share documents with the ease of a phone call. Sadly, AT&T would never profit from its forward-thinking concept – that technology ended up powering fax machines, which is a far cry from the innovation it was intended to deliver.
The punch-card picture phone is proof that the payments industry is nearly always full of disruptive ideas. The problem for the entrepreneurs and investors attacking this space is that many concepts never really catch on. A great idea is only half the battle. The other half is getting all parties in this complex ecosystem – consumers, networks, acquirers, issuers and merchants – to all want to play along at the same time.
Of course, achieving this success is a lot simpler if you can eliminate some of the moving parts. And that’s exactly what Loop (formerly ActPay) has done. By providing a compelling merchant value proposition (MVP) and a product that can be used at more than 90 percent of retail locations today, it plans to remove the roadblocks that others have encountered and will replace the leather wallet with a new digital version.
For more details on its approach, Market Platform Dynamics CEO Karen Webster spoke with Loop CEO Will Graylin in an interview that addressed how the mobile commerce player is moving from its original idea – closing the loop between mobile phones and the traditional POS systems – to a product that offers merchants and consumers an ease-of-use that trumps other competitors.
Eliminating Merchant Pain Points
Graylin told PYMNTS.com that Loop has already solved one of its biggest obstacles by enabling merchants to quickly and easily interact with Loop without any change to their infrastructure. Since merchants don’t have to change their point of sale (POS), Graylin said, Loop has removed an enormous merchant effort, and one that effectively allows it to shift its focus from this side of its platform to consumers.
Today, Graylin says Loop’s platform is accepted at 90 percent of merchant retail locations: a far greater percentage than accepts NFC technology, another innovation looking to dominate the mobile wallet space.
“When we launch, we’re already the most accepted and most ubiquitously accepted wallet on the planet, and that’s what makes the consumer experience valuable,” Graylin told PYMNTS.com.
Graylin estimates that he has completed more than 600 transactions in seven different countries and in 65 different cities with just his Loop device and Loop application.
“I’ve used a Starbucks card with a Loop app at locations where they don’t accept the Starbucks application,” Graylin added.
Removing Hurdles To Consumer Adoption
Like NFC, however, consumers do need technology to make Loop work on their smartphones. Specifically, they require magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology that transmits magnetic pulses to the point of sale. For now, Graylin said that this means bundling the technology into smartphone sleeves, battery packs and dongle keychains that allow consumers to access their exciting consumer electronic product.
“These patent-pending products are now bundled into a combination of sleeves, battery packs, juice packs like you’ve seen out there in the marketplace that people are going to buy or are already buying,” Graylin said. “We are just adding the capabilities for them to be able to load their cards and use their cards wherever they want.”
Graylin noted that Loop is in discussions with handset manufacturers to input MST technology directly into smartphones by 2014.
Focusing On Consumer Value
With roadblocks to merchant adoption and technology use removed, Graylin said that Loop is free to attack its next potential obstacle: driving consumer value so that merchants can leverage this platform to better interact and transact with customers.
The CEO stressed that Loop is delivering not just a payment device, but a whole new way for consumers to conveniently and easily store their payment and loyalty cards. It’s first step, however, is to court the consumers who will gravitate to this solution.
“We’re not going after 100 percent of the population… we’re always starting out with the lead user groups… we’re trying to pack the lead users and trying to get the chip in the hands of the consumers and we’re starting with the accessories,” Graylin said.
To learn more about Loop and its strategy for merchants and acquirers, listen to our full interview with Loop CEO Will Graylin here.
*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.
For more on the company and its founding, read the first episode in our five-part PYMNTS Breakthrough Series with Loop co-founder and CTO George Wallner here.
Will Wang Graylin has started five companies focused on mobile computing, security and payments since his graduate thesis on “Addressing the Complexity of Mobile Computing” at MIT nearly a decade ago. Mr. Graylin is currently the founder and CEO of Loop. He recently served as CEO of ROAM Data, a premier mobile application and payment services company, helping enterprises extend valuable data and transactions to the cell phones of their mobile professionals. He serves of the Board of Movylo a Mobile Marketing company and ONvocal, Inc., both privately held companies. From December 2001 to April 2007 he was founder and CEO of WAY Systems, a mobile Point of Sales (POS) services company. He grew WAY from zero to the #2 Mobile POS provider in the U.S. and was honored with the 2005 “Movers & Shakers Award” by Transaction World magazine. Prior to WAY from March 2000 to November 2001 he was founder and CEO of EntitleNet, a security software company, sold to BEA Systems for a profit in 2001. Before that from March 1999 to March 2000 he was founding President of Marbles, later Skyfire Technologies, the first mobile thin client software company focused on enterprise applications for mobile workforces. He earned two Masters degrees from MIT (MBA & MSEECSS) through the Leaders for Manufacturing program, after serving as a US Navy Nuclear Submarine Officer for nearly 6 years, the first naturalized China born immigrant to serve in this program. Will is fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.