There are so many startups now operating in the arena loosely called “mobile payments” that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. The market is very noisy. So when I hear about new companies getting funded or entering the market I tend to be skeptical.
However I had to opportunity at the Street Fight summit last week in New York to meet and briefly chat with Flint CEO Greg Goldfarb. On Friday morning the company announced a $6 million series B funding round.
This was my first direct contact with the company, which formally launched last year. The main pitch Flint makes is that it offers “swipe-free mobile payments.” By itself that’s not necessarily a differentiator. However I found that the combination of things the company is doing to be very interesting and different in the aggregate.
Goldfarb and Flint are going after many of the same small business owners that Square and PayPal are pursuing, but Flint is focused predominantly on service providers without stores: people that come to you.
It also uses the smartphone camera to scan credit cards rather than using a dongle/reader or other swipe-centric approach. In essence merchants take a picture of the credit cards digits (or can manually enter them if the scanning doesn’t work). No information is saved on the phone. Authentication provider Jumio and Card.io (acquired by PayPal) offer similar card-scanning capabilities.
Scanning eliminates the need to buy any hardware and is thus maginally simpler to set up. Flint also captures and builds customer transaction history and a CRM database for local merchants. This is also one of payment processor Swipely’s major selling points (analytics and CRM capabilities) but for a different market segment.
Finally there are some interesting promotional angles that are not yet fully developed. Each transaction generates an email receipt for the customer. Merchants can link their Facebook accounts to the emailed receipts. That permits customers (while it’s top of mind) to leave comments or “reviews” on the SMB’s Facebook page.
That’s novel and useful but there could be a more ambitious review-generation program here. Indeed, I spoke for some time with Goldfarb about the broader review generation potential of Flint and its emailed receipts. Done well that would further strengthen the Flint pitch to merchants.
As a final comment, Goldfarb was adamant about not trying to build a “two-sided marketplace” (which is what MyTime is trying to do). With Flint the consumer doesn’t need to do anything other than present his/her card. On the merchant side Flint promises prompt payment and is competing on processing fees (i.e., 1.95% for debit cards).
It’s a pretty interesting mix of features and capabilities. The challenge is to expose these differentiating features and be heard above the payments din.