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Expo looks to payments future

Some of the online industry’s brightest were on hand to share their visions of where the world is heading at the Web 2.0 Expo New York 2011 last week. The big story: mobile commerce and the future of payment. URI ESTRIN reports on the highlights.

It’s no accident that Visa was one of the anchor sponsors of Web 2.0 Expo New York 2011 last week. Payments were the big story at the event.

Visa outlined their vision for their Visa V electronic wallet, and also gave the audience a lesson in mobile payments. Carleigh Jacques, head of Global Corporate Development at Visa, explained that an online or virtual wallet is very much like your current one (view her presentation here: It stores your identity, credit or payment cards of choice, as well as other items, like coupons, loyalty clubs and personal data.

A credit card has a magnetic stripe (or a chip in places like South Africa and Europe) which, swiped at point-of-sale, provides the card’s number and details like expiry date and CVC number. E-commerce users have become comfortable with entering this data online.

Now the thinking is that, with mobile devices with smaller screens and keyboards, this entry process is going to become more and more onerous on the user, so presto, the wallet.

Visa’s vision is that a user will sign up with one of the more than 16,000 banking institutions with whom they currently partner to create a secure credit card profile known as a virtual wallet. When checking out on a merchant’s site, the user will click a ‚Visa V‚ pay button (much like a Google or PayPal checkout) and authenticate their wallet with a simple click and a password.

Once the wallet becomes mainstream, Visa envisages that it will be able to leverage that same wallet for future technologies like mobile phone payments ‚ though that’s still a way off from ubiquitous acceptance in the USA. Visa recently acquired Fundamo, a Cape Town-based mobile payments platform provider, in order to leapfrog mobile payments to underbanked consumers, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The lean start-up

Another highlight was author Eric Reis talking about ‘the lean start-up’ (see the video of his presentation here: He argued that starts-up are wasting people’s time and too many resources to find out that they have failed. Like everything else becoming more efficient, so too must the start-up.

He explained key points from his new book about shorting the cycle: from creating new technology, testing the market and ‘pivoting’ (his new buzzword of choice) to a better, more optimum solution, all done faster. The crucial ability to succeed is seen as the ability to adapt to the changes faster and with more agility along the start-up process.

The next tech revolution

A great surprise at the event was an interview with Carlota Perez, a researcher, consultant and lecturer attached to Cambridge University, University of Sussex and University of Talinn (view the interview here: A Venezuelan-born scholar, she described how burst bubbles have given way to new golden era of growth phases through history. The oil crisis in her home country in the 1970s, she notes, opened the path of the modern cheap microprocessor.

She believes that the world is once again on the precipice of radical change. The demonstrations in Greece, and also here on Wall Street, represent a population that is angry and looking for change. She believes that the industrial jobs have left the US and are not coming back. Now is the time for leadership to move us forward to a new and sustainable economy.

She pointed out that when she was a child, a refrigerator would last 20 years. But now, with built-in obsolescence, they are being replaced every few years. The world cannot sustain this. Her vision is that existing products will be redesigned and redeveloped with sustainability in mind. Consumers will move away from several iterations of the same product in their lifetime and put emphasis on greater, more meaningful things. She believes that technology companies and their leaders are going to be the driving force that will usurp the dinosaur politicians and companies of today.


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