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Obopay: Will let you pay for almost anything with your cell phone. Really.

Obopay is a Palo Alto start-up that boasts it will be the first service to allow customers to pay for just about anything with their mobile phones.

The company is being coy with the details. We talked with Peter Kellner, a partner at Richmond Management, who has just pumped $10 million into the company, together with venture firms Redpoint Ventures and ONSET Ventures.

If this lives up to the hype, it should be pretty cool stuff.

He said product details are secret (note that the company's Web site is password protected), and that we will find out more in the second quarter when Obopay hits the market. He wouldn䴜t say whether the payment will be linked with a credit card account, a bank account, or whatever.

He just pointed us to a statement the company had prepared:

Obopay is working with carriers, merchants and financial institutions to bring to market the first comprehensive mwallet service offered directly to U.S. consumers," said Allen Beasley, Partner at Redpoint Ventures. "Using Obopay, consumers will have access to the fastest way to get, send and spend funds anywhere they choose right from their mobile phones.

In addition to enabling mobile payments, Obopay will allow users to instantly get cash from any ATM or spend it at millions of stores, the statement continued. See full press release here (downloads document).

It was founded last year, and its executive team members have worked at places like Visa, Western Union and Chordiant Software.

Obopay will be more comprehensive that other competitors out there, Kellner said. Neither customers nor retailers will need any special hardware to accommodate the payment, such as swipe machines, which he said Samsung requires in its mobile phone payments service partnership with DoCoMo. Kellner said merely that Obopay will have an ‰¥þextremely effective peer to peer money transfer.‰¥ÿ

We're aware of several other competitors: Textpayme, of Redmond, WA, which uses text messaging to send payments to other phones; Way Systems, of Woburn, Mass., founded about four years ago, and backed by Bessemer Venture Partners and VantagePoint Venture Partners; Mobilelime, of Watertown Mass., which raised $4 million last year.

Indeed, the mobile revolution is bringing a renewed focus on mobile payments after ‰¥þpeople threw a lot of money at the mobile wallet in the 1990s,‰¥ÿ and many companies closed down, Kellner notes. What happened, for example, to companies like Napa‰¥ús Encorus Technologies, which was working on mobile payments software? Well, a check on Google reveals it is still around, though apparently as part of a German company. Then there‰¥ús Israeli start-up CellPay, backed by CAP Ventures and Gemini Israel Venture, which apparently has shut down.

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Isn't this PayPal's original business plan (OK, they beamed from Palm III to Palm III but you get the idea).

I remember reading this in the Red Herring when they launched but the search function on the replacement Herring site seems to be broken.

DV Henkel-Wallace on March 8, 2006 7:36 AM
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There's no compliment like imitation, but billmycell has been offering this service since 2003, and offers not just mobile payments, but a speech, text, and WAP interfaces, customers across the US, and applications that also include geo-localized advertising, payments, e-tickets, and reduced merchant rates for retailers on in-store and mobile transactions.

People who want to send or receive C2C credit card transfers (for Craigslist, eBay, etc), and at an increasing number of retailers can sign up today at www.billmycell.com; businesses can sign up also to reduce their merchant rates for accepting credit cards or to provide local coupons or advertising.

This was PayPal's original plan, but other companies like billmycell have taken up the cause with increasing market demand and deployments.

The mobile payments market is heating up rapidly, but Obopay sems a bit late to the game -- it looks like their first priority is to make a website, much less a product.

J Linlor on March 8, 2006 10:46 AM
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Obopay is *late* to the game? I'd argue that the game hasn't even started yet. Nice try on the BillMyCell plug. Or is it BlackLabMobile? Or Clienttell? And what is the service anyway? Sure isn't apparent from perusing your web site.

Jimbo on March 8, 2006 8:28 PM
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Dare I add another competitor to that list Matt? (Jimbo is sure to take me to task for the plug)

LUUP isn't in the US yet, but it's making good headway in Europe: www.luup.com

I'm amazed at the number of companies starting to get into the space - there are clearly some very enticing market figures floating around, and the timing for consumers must be finally right.

But I do wonder about this tactic of announcing the business before a website is even in place....what's the rationale? We'll all wait until you're ready if you promise us enough?

Margaret on March 9, 2006 1:29 AM
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There's only one, but important rationale for announcing the funding before their web site is even up: It lets people know they are around, and that might help them hire better people. My opinion.

Matt Marshall on March 9, 2006 5:56 AM
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So if billmycell has so many great features and has been around since 2003. Why has no one ever heard of this company. Why do I not see any merchants accepting this? What is the value add above and beyond my visa and cash?

JR on March 28, 2006 9:13 AM
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It seems the mobile payment market is gaining momentum in the US. I will personally put my money on banks, mobile (virtual) operators or existing payment service providers (think paypal).

We launched a mobile payment service in the Netherlands in 2002. A bit ahead of momentum sort to say ;-) When we started two other strartups entered the market as well. None of us really became succesful. Our two collegue startups went bankrupt. Our service is still working but we stopped actively marketing the service because we could not 'cross the chasm'.

The problem to be solved by all of these startups will be the cliche: chicken - egg: Retail needs consumers to accept the service and consumers need retail to subscribe. So you will at least need:
- a very large user base to leverage on. One cannot build a solid consumer and merchant base out of 10mio alone ;-)
- stop thinking payments and start thinking sales. Merchants are primarily interested in higher sales volume, not lowering transaction cost. So use the mobile asset to create new sales channels.

Be nice to see who'll survive. Good luck.

PS Sorry: Site in Dutch only.

Jeroen van Velzen on March 30, 2006 8:54 AM
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The thing I see giving Obopay's technology the edge in this is twofold; first it's a viral payment system meaning that anyone can recieve money to their phone through an SMS message, and then they can enable those funds by downloading a free app to their phone through the Obopay website. The app is free, the account is free and the debit card is free. Unlike Paypal, their model doesn't require a user to become a merchant to get access to a debit card (everyone has them under Obopay) which means that Obo users can all have access to their money immediately rather than having to wait for a bank transfer.

The second is that this isn't like Google Mobile in that it relies on using manually entered SMS messages; Obopay's application is a fully graphical Java app that gives the users access to all the commands of a service like Paypal, but in a mobile form factor.

Even with the hurdle of having to build brand recognition, I still think Obopay has a bright future in store for them. The mobile payment market is finally recieving some attention, and finally a company is coming along and doing it right rather than concentrating on silly features like Paypal's text messaging instant buy feature.

Garnesh Row on March 31, 2006 8:28 AM
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This is quite ironical, but the largest deployment of OTA (SMS) m.payment deployment in the World is going to be in India!


A small Mumbai based Co. I believe Coruscant Technology, or something like that (if I am not mistaken)has tied up with major Banks, Merchants, Mastercrad/Visa, Recon/Settlement/payment processing providers and operators to bring out a cross country (80 million phones and counting!), cross bank account, cross mercahnt, cross operator solution , and from day one with a registered base of 1/2 million!

Quite amazing!If it comes out. I guess only time will tell.

Nigel Morris on May 12, 2006 11:47 PM
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This message was sent at a very high inportance

I have been dealing with Jerry Simson, Managing Director for this company. We sent Jerry a total of 960 for the se laptop SONY VAIO B100B08 60GB HD-- 512MB RAM-- XP---------------$250 each and jerry if you the one that is reading this email I want you to read this very carefully Jerry actually take $960 of WTI Computers and never send the items and worse of all we not receive ourcall and will not answer to our email. jerry had finally agrees and said he would send at least a minimum of 3 laptops to us the next day which should have been wednesday the 5th of July till today we never received the laptops and never heard from him. My business partner thought I was too upset we Jerry decided to take over the deal, he has been sending very polite emails to jery and said jerry never answers to them if anyone in charge of Jerry reading this email I would like you guys to have Jerry either send the 3 laptops or send our money back and I will not give up untill I received my money or the laptops, and if I have to take to the newspaper, or the authority in the country you guys are I will. This money was not easy to make and I will not let someone take it from me that easy. I thought I was doing business with a business man, but it seems like he is not.next letter will go to the mercurynews. thank you hope to see my laptops or money or hear from someone soon.

VP of WTI Computers

Saintanor on July 10, 2006 12:45 PM
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Interesting but what they will soon find out is that there is a huge difference between having an idea of what to do and doing it - ask us, we have been doing mobile payments in Africa for three years! One of the earlier comments above was right on the money, excuse the pun: Key will be "no-barrier to entry" and hence the ability to use cards and associated Visa/MasterCard Certification to do these transactions from Mobile will be key to the 2 billion Visa/MasterCard cardholders worldwide. The fact that they want to Issue a MasterCard as part of the solution may indicate that they are Card Issuer masquerading as a M-Payments solution as apposed to making sure that any customer from any bank, any card on any phone across any mobile network can use the service - Now thatâs a challenge!

Craig on July 12, 2006 3:34 AM
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