Protean Payment’s Echo Card: The Only Card You’ll Ever Need?

12/20/12Follow @XconomyDET

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the one on their photo ID. The app is fully encrypted and able to be wiped remotely. He also points out there are no numbers visible for those trying to record them, nor is it vulnerable to skimming because it can only mimic credit and debit cards registered to the user’s name. Because of its Bluetooth technology, the card knows when it’s been separated from its owner and after a designated amount of time has passed, the information is locked.

Olson acknowledges that Protean Payments isn’t the only company working in the mobile wallet sector—Google and PayPal have both developed similar products—but he says the Echo card is different. “Everyone is trying to develop financial and global payment technology, but there’s one huge hurdle—they don’t work with the current infrastructure. There are 60 million swipe readers, and to replace them won’t happen overnight. So we’re throwing hardware into the mix to get a head start.”

Protean Payment is also going out of its way to take a neutral approach to appeal to credit card companies and merchants as well as users because it wants to avoid some of the treacherous competition that other mobile wallet efforts face. (Google Wallet is banned, for instance, on AT&T phones, Olson says.) It also will not initially capture data, something Target has also taken Google to task for.

The company plans to monetize its technology by charging users $80 to $100 for an Echo card. It plans to prove demand by targeting early adopters and those in the design fields, and then use that to work with large banks interested in using this technology in the future. Olson says because the card carries so much technology, it’s expensive to manufacture, and that’s why Protean Payment will be seeking partnerships with banks.

Olson says Protean Payment recently won a sector award at the Accelerate Michigan Business Competition. The company has also entered into a partnership with Silicon Valley’s Jumio to utilize its card-swiping and ID verification technology, and they’ve gotten by so far with angel funding by leveraging such partnerships.

Protean Payment plans to begin a Series A fundraising round in the first quarter of 2013, and Olson says he and his co-founders feel very optimistic about the company’s future. He thinks once consumers see the Echo card in the hands of early adopters, word will spread.

“A card is one of the most visible objects we carry,” he adds. “We focused on design to create a card that looks like no other, so it has a viral effect offline.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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