Mobile payments explodes: news from Russia, Belgium

25 Feb, 2013



It really looks like 2013 will be the year we start to switch to paying with our smartphones. Last week, we wrote about Telefonica’s experiments with NFC and peer-to-peer paymentsToday, news broke that Russian VC Runa Capital pumped $ 8 million in a series A round for mobile payment startup uBank. The money will be used to accelerate the already impressive growth of uBank.

uBank was only launched two months ago, but already it boasts more than 250 000 downloads on iOS and Android – it’s the most popular finance app in the Google Play store. uBank comes preinstalled on Samsung and Fly smartphones, which are currently the largest brands in Russia and the CIS.

uBank is an app that can be used for mobile payments, money transfers, paying bills and peer-to-peer money transfers. Payments are made from credit cards or from a uBank account:

Says Ilya Zubarev, senior partner at Runa Capital: “Instant payments is one of the fastest growing segments in banking.” According to Gartner, the mobile payments market will be worth $ 617 billion with 448 million users by 2016.

It seems Belgian payments player Bancontact/Mister Cash also got that memo, since it recently announced a peer-to-peer payment app that allows people to settle bills via a smartphone app (provided they are online). Here’s how it works, as described by Bancontact/Mister Cash:

The ‘receiver’ enters the amount on his or her device, thereby generating a unique QR code. Next, the ‘payer’ reads this QR code with his or her app, enters a secret PIN and the payment is immediately executed. As easy as taking a photo.

Bancontact/Mister Cash aims to provide the best solution for all types of everyday payments, including small amounts. That is why the mobile application allows for any payment up to €125.

Another great thing about the app is that any holder of a Bancontact/Mister Cash card (more than 15 million at present) can use it. It is not limited to one bank or one type of device, it is quasi universal.

Here’s a video of how it works:

As Zubarev of Runa Capital says: “It looks like an old dream of Bill Gates has come true: banks no, banking, yes. As predicted by Deutsche Bank, in a few years internet companies are taking away market share from traditional banks in the payment market, soon to be followed by their credit cards and deposits.”

[Runa Capital, Bancontact

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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