There are almost 900 million active cell-phone users in India now, and from newer startups to some of the biggest companies in the world, everybody is chasing the next mobile disruption that could potentially result in a business model for all of the emerging markets. One such startup is Ezetap, a mobile payment company backed by some of the biggest names in the VC industry, including Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive and founder of Social+Capital Partnership, and Angelprime, an Indian seed fund run by serial entrepreneurs. Today, Ezetap is raising $8 million in Series B funding led by Helion Advisors, Social+Capital and Berggruen Holdings. This round takes the total fund raised by Ezetap to around $11.5 million (including $3.5 million it had raised in Series A funding in November 2012). The fresh capital will be used to expand Ezetap in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Ezetap is much like Square, at least in terms of the basic model. It uses a rectangular device that can turn any mobile phone into a point-of-sales terminal when plugged in. The device including a card reader and chip, costs around $50, and Ezetap has been able to sell around 12,000 of them to date. The startup is aiming to have over 100,000 such devices installed across Asia-Pacific, Africa and Middle East in a year. “From day one, we wanted to go global and really felt that mobile payments in general is a great opportunity for emerging markets. There’s disparity in cash versus electronic payments leading to the challenges of financial inclusion,” Abhijit Bose, CEO of Ezetap, told TechCrunch. Ezetap was incubated in 2011 by Angelprime, a $10 million seed fund backed by Mayfield Fund, Palihapitiya and several others in the Silicon Valley. It’s run by three veteran entrepreneurs — Sanjay Swamy, Shripati Acharya and Bala Parthasarathy. With the latest round, Ashish Gupta of Helion is joining the startup’s board. Helion is an India focused, $600 million fund. Ezetap is the second attempt by Abhijit and Sanjay to build a mobile payment company in India. In 2006, Sanjay was the CEO of mChek which had raised around $10 million by 2009, and Abhijit worked with another venture-funded payment startup called Ngpay. Back then, mChek and several others fizzled out because of several challenges. “I believe there was nothing wrong with mobile payment back then, it was just the timing,” said Bose. Indeed, the environment has changed
OpenTable is taking its restaurant reservations service into a new vertical today, the company says: mobile payments. According to a post on the OpenTable blog, a pilot program is currently underway in San Francisco which allows diners to not just book a table, but also pay for their meal right in the OpenTable iPhone app. “Select restaurants” are testing partners for the new service, and more diners will be invited to trial the program over the next few weeks, as OpenTable opens up a way for interested users to request access. Some invites will also be sent out (most likely to frequent OpenTable users) via email. Testers may be invited to an in-person Q&A at OpenTable headquarters in San Francisco, as well. (In related news, did you know TechCrunch has a tips hotline?) If invited to the pilot, diners will just have to add a credit card to the OpenTable iPhone app before their meal. “There’s no scanning or bar codes involved,” explains the company via the blog post. You’ll also be able to view your check, line item by line item, within the app, a screenshot (see above) makes apparent. The company did not reveal its time table for a wider launch, as the program is still in its initial phases. That OpenTable is moving into the payments space is not surprising, but that also means it will face a number of competing restaurant-focused payment solutions already on the market today, like Tabbedout, E la Carte, Cover, Dash and others, including, to some extent, broader payment solutions like Square.
Looks like Amazon may have quietly made another acquisition, and another move to expand its role in the world of mobile: Italian newspapers are reporting that the e-commerce giant has acquired Gopago, a startup that offers consumers an iOS or Android mobile app to pre-pay for goods before picking them up at a store, and retailers a point-of-sale system to process those orders and more.
Square has just announced that it has acquired Evenly, a company that was built to make it easy for friends to send and receive payments for splitting bills and other expenses. The company was founded in 2012, and was similar in concept to Venmo, an NYC-based startup that was acquired by Braintree last year.
Powa Technologies, a UK startup that’s been working on an integrated mobile payments and e-commerce platform with some augmented reality thrown into the mix, is today announcing its first round of outside funding — and it’s a doozy. The company says that it has picked up a Series A round of $76 million to take its technology global, and to a retailer near you with what CEO and founder Dan Wagner describes as the ultimate “killer app” for commerce.
Carrier-backed mobile payments initiative Isis is gearing up support for its mobile wallet platform ahead of the nationwide launch later this year. Today, Isis is announcing Chase has signed on to be a part of the national rollout, following the pilot trials in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Starbucks is seeing impressive adoption of mobile payments in its U.S.-based store locations, the company revealed during its quarterly earnings conference call last night (via WSJ). Mobile payments crossed the 10 percent mark in the U.S. as a percentage of in-store purchases, indicating efforts like the Starbucks mobile app, Apple’s Passbook and Square Wallet are popular among users.
Several Android apps are offering discounts for customers using Google Wallet’s “Buy with Google” button as the company tries to ramp up adoption of its payment processing service. The button, which allows 2-click checkouts on mobile apps, is one of the strategies Google is deploying in its multi-pronged attack on PayPal’s dominance.