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Ditching the mPOS Dongle

With hundreds of mPOS players in the market, it’s getting harder and harder to tell them apart. Well, except if you’re Flint. They’ve ditched the dongle and use smartphone cameras to turn any phone into a card accepting device. What’s the inspiration behind their mPOS innovation?

There are no shortages of companies that claim to be offering the next, best idea in allowing merchants to take payments from anywhere.  However, as the mobile point of sale marketplace has gotten more crowded, the companies in it have become progressively harder to distinguish from each other—there are many new businesses in the space, but not all that many with ideas on taking payments that are truly novel.

Genuine novelty is rare, almost by definition, and new ideas are hard to come by.  This is why mPos provider Flint stands-out in a crowded field, as they have a unique idea.  Flint wants to do more with mPos by building less. For merchants, that means a card acceptance solution that doesn’t require a dongle or other specialized piece of card reading equipment.  All that is necessary to take payments with Flint is a device with a camera and some software.

For consumers, it means access to the advantages that mobile loyalty and billing platforms offer, but having that access flow from apps the consumer already has, instead pushing consumers to download yet another new one.

Founder and CEO Greg Goldfarb checked in with PYMNTS in a recent interview about what Flint is doing to make it possible for business owners to really run an entire point of sale operation out of the palm of their hand. The company’s target market right now is the 17 million small service providers across the U.S. for whom taking card payments is something of a challenge.

Unlike stationary retail establishments or food vendors, Flint’s merchants are actually inconvenienced by any sort of dongle because they do so much of their work in the field.  Personal trainers, photographers, nannies—what they a have in common is that working with a dongle doesn’t really work for them.

“These users really are highly mobile and in most cases are using their personal device to run their business,” Goldfarb notes.

For these users, Flint has ditched the dongle, and instead found a secure way to use the camera on a smart phone or table as a credit card reader. However, more than facilitating the payment, Flint also allows merchants to generate invoices and bills that can then be delivered to customers via Apple’s Passbook or email.  This is particularly important for Flint’s highly mobile merchants—who often aren’t selling single-issue goods like muffins that one pays for in a single shot.

Instead, Goldfarb notes, Flint’s customer’s are people like wedding photographers that need to take one payment upfront online, bill one forward with an invoice and who take yet a third on the spot after completing the job.  Flint allows for complicated and multiple modes payments.

““So we’re seeing a very interesting interplay between multiple modes of enabling different types of credit card payments credit card payments within the same apps” Goldfarb explained.

It also offers a secure solution, despite the use of the camera.

“Actually, we’re not storing any sort of image of the card or card number on the device.  It works more along the same lines as a bar code scanner.  The algorithms we have, that are proprietary and patent protected, they extract just the main digits from the card.  Everything is encrypted as its transmitted to our backend and then the user is asked to enter verification information.  It does not pose an additional security risk compared to virtually any other mode of accepting cards.”

Because the camera is essentially being used as a bar-code scanner, there are no images being created.  Moreover, Glodfarb noted, a system built on proprietary number extraction and encryption is much more secure than what many on-the-go merchants are doing now.

“Before something like Flint came along, the way many of those folks were taking credit cards they were doing things like ‘Hey let me write down your credit card number and I’ll run it  when I get home at night through Authorize.net.’ And so in  the context of the market we’re playing in we’re seeing this more generally viewed as convenient, and transparent and it is infact more secure than if someone is writing card numbers down and taking them home and its actually more secure when you hand you card to a waiter at a restaurant.”

Flints makes its money by charging fees to the businesses for processing their card transactions.

“Our pricing structure is a little bit different in that we offer a lower rant on debit card transactions at 1.95 percent but our credit card rate is in between the two rates that the other incumbents charge at 2.95 percent…”

Apart from the dongle free approach to taking payments, Flint is also interested in helping its merchants to use the program to build loyalty programs for their customers, but in a way that doesn’t ask consumers to do anything.  Flint has instead built its coupon software to issue to Apple’s Passbook or to consumers via email.  Goldfarb says this is key to Flint’s vision—it wants to help make payments seamless by working with the tools already available instead of adding more products to an already saturating marketplace.

“It’s gonna work with what consumers already have in their hand, we’re not requiring a separate consumer app or consumer digital wallet.  It’s gonna work through interesting ways of leveraging email, it’s gonna work through interesting integrations with other consumer platforms like Apple passbook.”

Flint is still gaining market share, and the dangerous thing about having a new idea is that people may or may not be interested in doing something news.  Still, according to Goldfarb, for Flint’s consumers so far, change has been good.  And, he thinks it can only get better going forward.

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Latest Insights:

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. In the December 2019 Mobile Card App Adoption Study, PYMNTS surveyed 2,000 U.S. consumers for a reveal of the four most compelling features apps must have to engage users and drive greater adoption.

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