For years, industry watchers have been talking about digital wallets — the idea of turning devices into mobile payment systems. But has the time finally come to replace the old leather billfold?
Andy Kleitsch hopes so. The 40-year-old founder of Buck — a Seattle company formerly known as Billing Revolution — has been working in the mobile payments industry for years. And his 5-year-old company just unveiled a new service single-click payments services, an offering they’re dubbing a “mobile express checkout lane for merchants and consumers.”
The technology — which has been chosen to power the mobile payments of Glamour, SpyderLynk, Papaya Mobile and Braintree — is designed to make buying goods on the go as easy as checking out of Amazon. As the 5-year-old company notes, users of Buck pay once and their mobile device “becomes their digital wallet.”
We chatted with Kleitsch, a former manager of the AT&T Wireless mMode portal and the founder of WeddingChannel.com, for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Buck makes it easy to shop from your mobile phone. A user types in their credit card one time – then they can checkout with a single-click across any merchant in the Buck network.”
Inspiration hit us when: “In 2007 we realized the only way to easily charge for goods and services from a mobile phone was to implement carrier billing. But carrier billing was very expensive (up to 40 percent) required many integrations with many carriers, and took at least 90 days to receive payment. We said: ‘There has to be a better way! Wouldn’t it be great to pay normal credit card processing fees, have one global platform no matter where your customers came from, and receive payment immediately? Oh, and it needs to be easy for users – type in your credit card once and you’re good to go across any merchant.’ Turning this dream into reality took a lot of hard work.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “All of the above! Bootstrapped ourselves to an angel round with the Alliance of Angels, then raised a Series A from SK Telecom (the VC arm of the largest carrier in South Korea), then raised a Series B from Doll Capital Management (voted best VC in China last year) and Citibank Ventures.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Buck uniquely identifies each mobile phone – and ties the user’s credit card data to that device (stored in the cloud). This enables the user to pass their credit card data to any Buck enabled merchant with a single-click. No usernames. No passwords.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Following our dream. We want to change the world – or hey, at least change mobile commerce! The smartest move we made was to trust in each other and take the first step.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not having a good brand, till now. Historically, we were very product focused and never hired a marketing person. Our brand was “Single-Click Checkout powered by Billing Revolution”… We recently hired a VP Marketing, and now our brand is Buck. Much improved”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “The Jobs-Bezos love child. Why? I love Jobs for his audacious vision to reinvent mobile even though everyone in mobile thought Nokia had it all figured out… and I love Bezos for his ability to continually delight consumers with easy shopping experiences.
Our world domination strategy starts when: “There are tens-of-millions of single-click enabled devices powered by Buck.”
Rivals should fear us because: “Buck has the highest conversion rates. Buck converts 36 percent of first-time users and 78 percent of single-click enabled users. This is substantially better than mobile payments by PayPal or Google.”
We are truly unique because: “Buck has flipped the entire checkout process on its head. Rather than ask a user to identify themselves, Buck interrogates the mobile device, and recreates credit card data based on that device. This approach enables a single-click checkout with incredibly high conversion rates. Impulse transactions.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Creating a bank-grade mobile commerce platform. It’s impossible for two guys and a dog to build a mobile payments company. It takes a village of industry experts, savvy developers and supportive investors to change the mobile payments landscape.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Love the moment. As entrepreneurs we tend to focus on the next goal, the next round, the next exit – and we often forget that the journey is the destination. I encourage all entrepreneurs to reflect on this moment in time – we’re doing what we love and we’re following our dreams – it doesn’t get any better than that.”