Israeli start-up lets you pay by phone [VIDEO]

Leave your purse at home: Cell-Cash lets you purchase goods by cellphone.Who doesn’t worry about cash or credit cards being stolen? Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy a gift, purchase groceries, or even pay a bill without cash …

Leave your purse at home: Cell-Cash lets you purchase goods by cellphone.Who doesn’t worry about cash or credit cards being stolen? Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy a gift, purchase groceries, or even pay a bill without cash or a card?

The latest versatile application for mobile phones makes paying for goods or a bill safe and easy. Cell-Cash, a new patent pending product just released by Israeli start-up Cell-Apps turns your mobile phone into an electronic wallet. “It is the world’s only secure mobile wallet,” Michah Himmelman, president and CEO of Cell-Apps tells ISRAEL21c.

All you have to do is put in the amount, the vendors account, your pin code, and press send.

“Mobile commerce, like Internet commerce, within a prepaid system, is the wave of the future,” says Himmelman. With the sale of multimedia phones expected to increase to $76 billion in 2008, outnumbering the sale of TV’s, he believes that using phones to transfer money is an idea whose time has come.

“More than $1 trillion is in the hands of the unbanked,” said Robert Egan, chief at Tower Group, a financial services research firm, in an article in FORTUNE in January.

Himmelman founded Ramat Ha’sharon based Cell-Apps in January 2007 with Menachem Levi, now the company’s VP of finance. It was a spin-off from an earlier company of his, MaxBill, a specialist in billing. Himmelman founded MaxBill in 1997 and over the next 10 years built up a highly successful company with over 240 employees over three continents. Customers included Telekom Austria and KPN.

Cell-Apps’ main targets are people who do not have credit cards, or are reluctant to use them (especially for small amounts), and the unbanked in the former CIS. “Eastern Europe, a cash-based society, is a big niche: 75% of the population does not have a bank account. The concept of pre-paid is already part of the culture,” says Himmelman.

Another niche is foreign workers without bank accounts who are vulnerable to theft. The Cell-Cash technology would allow them to transfer money to their native countries with minimal expense.

Teens and pre-teens are another obvious market. Parents can limit kids’ spending with electronic cell-cash, and not have the worry of excessive purchasing or a lost card. “My 15-year-old son has a youth credit card from one of the major credit card companies. He objects to the high fee for each transaction,” comments Himmelman. “Plus, the card can only be loaded three times and cannot be fully used.”

No transaction fees, and minimal cost to the consumer adds to Cell-Cash’s appeal.

“Any merchant who can sell, can receive cash,” says Himmelman. The novel two-way transfer of cash works point-to-point, person-to-person, wallet-to-wallet. “The electronic ‘wallet’ can be loaded with cash from a bank, a post office, or a credit card. You can check the balance on your phone.

“Our platform enables companies to use our system to pay and be paid,” he adds. “It can be used in a closed network where the vendor and large number of users work in a pre-paid environment.” For example, a company can give an employee an electronic wallet with a monthly cash credit for use in a particular restaurant.

Taking a piggyback ride on Internet commerce, Himmelman sees many applications in e-commerce and e-cash. “Many users would prefer to use pre-paid Cell-Cash to access higher quality websites, and make small purchases. Social networking, dating sites, and gaming sites usually require small amounts of cash. If you win, your ‘wallet’ could be credited,” he says.

Security, a known hazard on the Internet, is another main feature. Cell-Cash’s technology does not save any secret, private data or personal identification in the phone. If a phone is lost, there is no access to personal data. The system comes with a patented multi-purpose key (a dongle) that fits in a pocket or purse. It sounds an alarm if the phone is lost or stolen, and renders it inoperable. The key is also used for identification and giving the user access to sums of money over $100, according to anti-terror and money laundering laws.

“There is a lot of opportunity,” says Himmelman, who adds that the company is now looking for strategic business partners.

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