Flint Goes Social for Mobile Payments

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted March 25, 2013

Mobile payment solutions allow customers to skip the trip to the register, helping small business owners to attend to their patrons' needs as they shop and potentially land a sale faster. In essence, your iPhone is the register.

So it's no mystery that products like Square Register are showing up at boutiques and coffee shops that seek to boost their businesses. But Greg Goldfarb, CEO and co-founder of mobile payment startup Flint, has his sights set on another type of small business.

"We are going after a somewhat different audience," says Goldfarb. Flint's target is the "highly mobile small businesses and non-countertop businesses," he adds.

Payment Processing for Mobile Entrepreneurs

What does a highly mobile small business look like?

Think DJs, photographers and tax accountants that make house calls, says Goldfarb. "There are more than 17 million businesses like that, so it's a large market," he states.

Forget card-swiping dongles or other easily lost or damaged add-ons that add bulk -- and more than a little awkwardness -- to your mobile device. The Redwood City, Calif-based startup makes mobile payments as easy as downloading a new app. Goldfarb says that most small business vendors can start accepting payments within minutes.

Instead of swiping a credit card with a piece of hardware that sprouts out of your iPhone's headphone jack, the Flint app captures an image of the front of the credit card to begin the payment process. Technically, "capture" isn't quite the right term, says Goldfarb.

"Capture" implies that the device saves an image of the card. But no images are ever stored says Goldfarb, thus alleviating the concerns of security-conscious users.

The app "literally just captures the main digits." At that point, his company's software analyzes and converts the visual data into credit card numbers. The user completes the process by entering the expiration date, the ZIP code and the credit card security code (the digits typically found on the back of the card), which are then securely transferred to Flint for processing.

Flint offers more than an app-based "zero-friction mobile payments" platform, however. Email marketing and social media also play important roles.

A Social Media Face(book) Lift

The company's software makes simple loyalty marketing possible by collecting email addresses. This not only gives vendors a way to send out receipts, but it can also let them create email marketing promotions and other customer relationship management (CRM) efforts. But according to Goldfarb, one of the more compelling features is the product's capability to breathe new life into stale Facebook pages.

"A lot of small businesses have taken the time to set up a Facebook page, the problem is that no one goes to the page," says Goldfarb. Flint fixes that by offering vendors a "simple way to capture a review from their customers" every time that they send a receipt to a client or buyer.

This capability has allowed many of Flint's own customers to turn their tenuous grasp on social media marketing into a solid foothold.

Customers will often tell the company that they "went from having this Facebook page that didn't do anything for me," prior to Flint, to "my customers are actually powering my social presence," recounts Goldfarb.

Flint's knack for streamlining the mobile-payments process and adding social media marketing into the mix is already attracting major attention.

Earlier this month, the company announced that it inked a deal with Fidano, a subsidiary of merchant service provider NXGEN International, to offer Flint as part of its small business solutions portfolio. Small shops are big business for NXGEN. It handles more than $5 billion in transaction volume per year, reports the company.

Fidano CEO Thomas Nitopi says that Flint's technology hits the sweet spot in the small business payment processing market. His company has "heard resounding demand for a simple mobile payments offering," he states in prepared remarks.

"Flint’s platform not only enables Fidano partners to get started easily, it also offers a unique combination of ease-of-use and powerful customer engagement features," concludes Nitopi.

Flint is available now. Currently, the app supports only the iPhone but Goldfarb hints that the company is exploring other mobile platforms.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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