Spare Change Agents Post 1

Entertainment |

It’s late Friday afternoon and a few days before launch in the South-of-Market, San Francisco loft offices of iPIN, another young Internet company with millions in venture capital, lots of well-scrubbed 30ish-looking faces, a brand new CEO, and yards of network cables running like ivy between cubes, walls, whiteboards, and cheap carpet. Taped to the office front door is a telltale of startupdom-a recent news brief from The Wall Street Journal that mentions the company’s new and novel Web-based micropayment service, soon to debut. Above it, someone has scrawled in felt pen: “Read about iPIN in the WSJ.”

If that’s a subtle hint that this firm-50-plus employees and growing-might be a little attention-starved at its debut, hungry for some good press, iPIN has good reason. A succession of Web-based micropayment companies-DigiCash, CyberCash, and First Virtual Holdings-have all failed trying to lure Web shoppers to use new various “ecash” methods. Just the word “micropayment” has grown a long shadow in the online marketplace, as a clunky gimmick with no future.

But times have changed. With the volume and complexity of online offerings growing, digital wallets and other payment ideas are finally getting a second look. iPIN is often on top of that heap, since it has announced a payment solution that it claims will stick, grow, and possibly redefine the market for online content, from MP3 song tracks to pay-to-play games to consumer reports to perhaps even adult content for the impulse shopper.

Its new service-beta tested with AT&T WorldNet users earlier this year-promises to allow thousands of Net shoppers to make near-instant, low-budget purchases on the Net by clicking on any digital desirable (a downloadable CD track, more ammo for online games, some high-resolution pictures, a magazine article), entering a user name and 4-digit PIN (your “iPIN”), and simply tacking the charge to your ISP bill at the end of the month. iPIN’s transaction hub rings up the sale and splits a modest transaction fee-between 8 and 15 percent, depending on the amount of the transaction-with the ISP. There’s no personal or credit information needed, no “wallet” to install or set up, no “smart card” to swipe, no banks involved, no software to download, and the whole process-even if you’re using iPIN for the first time-takes only a few seconds. On paper, it’s a no-brainer.

Beginning in November, says marketing director Geoff Watson, iPIN will be available to more than 1 million consumers worldwide, through partnerships with a handful of prominent ISPs: Flashnet in the United States, Club Internet in France, Internet Gold in Israel, and Belgium’s Belgacom.

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