Two ambitious technology entrepreneurs based in Birmingham are to launch a smartphone app that allows customers to make payments via text message.
Settle, created by Will Grant and Steffan Aquarone, allows users to load cash onto a phone and make payments for free. Following initial trials, the app will be available to the public on April 30.
The duo, based at Birmingham Science Park Aston, are trying to recruit local businesses to accept payments, with Urban Coffee Company’s two outlets already taking part.
The duo said their long-term vision was to make Settle a global mobile currency for free trade and micro finance investments without the banking sector “making a sneaky cut every step of the way”.
Mr Aquarone said: “Our intention is to encourage people to use Settle instead of cash, so users will be able to top up their account in units of £10 using any debit card.
“Sending and receiving money is then as easy as cash, but you can do it from anywhere in the world by just choosing someone from your phone book or entering their email address.
“Paying for things in shops is easy too – you just scan a special bar code with your phone when you reach the till.”
Settle will be fee-free for all transactions apart from putting a Settle balance back into a bank account.
The Birmingham launch will provide information on how people respond to the app, and how and where they can use it. If successful, Settle will be rolled-out nationally and the team will make a business case for further private investment and funding from the Technology Strategy Board.
Mr Grant added: “We chose Birmingham due to its strong digital community and its passion for embracing new innovations.
“There’s also a great wealth of independent retailers who can see the value of a payment method that speeds up the process and is easy to set-up and operate.
“Longer term we envisage Settle being used by merchants to target potential customers with special offers and loyalty discounts.”
Simon Jenner, founder of Urban Coffee Company and head of incubation at the science park, said: “One of our current frustrations is the cost of taking card payments and the time it takes for that payment to take place at the till.
"So when we were approached, we jumped at the opportunity.”