GENEVA — One Geneva couple’s recent invention may revolutionize to the way people make purchases — so much so that investors have told them they should probably move to Silicon Valley.
Anna and Slawomir Liszianski’s PushCoin is a cashless, mobile payment technology which tracks purchases and is absolutely free to its users and small business owners. Customers make use of a PushCoin wristband or a sticker affixzed to their smartphones to make purchases and draw on their accounts. So far, the patented technology is being piloted at eight businesses in Geneva and St. Charles, including Niche, Urban Grille, Kimmer’s Ice Cream and Gabby’s Kitchen.
One key market for PushCoin is teens. Rather than cash, parents can give their children a PushCoin wristband or sticker, and be able to control spending, as well as monitor where and when transactions are being made by their children by logging onto their PushCoin accounts.
Angelo Sellas, owner of Gabby’s Kitchen in St. Charles, said he hopes the technology catches on. “It’s the best thing since sliced bread from a merchant’s point of view. I pay no fees. It’s like taking a cash transaction.”
Avoiding the fees, which merchants typically pay for credit card transactions, was a key motivator for the Liszianskis as they began work on PushCoin last year.
Anna, a small business owner herself, said credit card transaction fees have had a serious impact on her business. She owns and operates two shops in Geneva — the furnishing store Minta, and the women’s accessory shop, Aggati.
“Last year, we paid $7,000 in transaction fees,” Slawomir said. “$7,000 went down the drain because we swiped the cards.”
He said big retailers like WalMart are able to negotiate smaller fees because of their volume of sales, but small business owners have no leverage.
With PushCoin, the Liszianskis have the potential to make money from large merchants such as WalMart or McDonalds.
Slawomir said the plan is to charge merchants, with 1,000 or more PushCoin transactions per month, a flat fee of 10 cents per transaction, regardless of the amount of the purchase.
The first PushCoin wristband or sticker is free for customers, with additional devices costing $9.95.
But as long as both the customer and the small business owner have Internet access, the PushCoin transaction is free.
ALong with getting local businesses to come on board, the owners are looking to opportunities for PushCoin in local school lunch programs.
Anna said parents might prefer to use PushCoin, rather than the current lunch payment system at Geneva schools which uses biometrics and requires children’s fingerprints to make transactions. She plans to meet with Geneva School District officials soon to talk about using PushCoin in Geneva schools.
Slawomir said the PushCoin technology offers great security, possibly more secure than using a credit card, because they do not store any account numbers, but rather a series of random numbers tied to a prepaid account.
Customers add funds to the account by “pushing” the money from their bank, but no bank account information is stored.
“Those devices have no idea who you are,” Slawomir said.
For added security, PushCoin transactions also require a pin number which can be any length.
Slawomir said he believes it’s very important for the PushCoin devices to contain no identifiable information for hackers to steal or even for the government to store.
Slawomir said even when a person pays their gas bill, their account information is stored on the gas company’s database which has the possibility of being stolen by hackers.
The couple emigrated from Poland after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union and Slawomir said people under Soviet rule were constantly monitored.
“Information in the wrong hands is very scary,” Slawomir said.
PushCoin technology isn’t just getting noticed in the tri-cities. Julie Conroy, a senior analyst and fraud expert with Boston-based Aite Group, has been researching PushCoin and its claims of security.
“If we’re talking about typical credit cards (PushCoin) is certainly more secure because the mag stripe is dated technology and has been proven that it can be compromised,” Conroy said. Further, the the NFC, or “near field communication” that PushCoin uses is highly secure.
The pilot program, while small, appears promising. Sellas said he’s had three PushCoin transactions in a recent week at Gabby’s Kitchen.
“For the people that use it, it works awesome,” he said. “From a customer’s point of view, there haven’t been any glitches.”
And buy-in from retailers like Sellas are integral, as Conroy said other companies have tried similar business models, but have failed because of various obstacles, including getting merchants to set up accept a new payment system. It took Visa and Mastercard 40 years to set up their infrastructure, Conroy added.
Another obstacle is getting customers to change their habits. Pay By Touch, a similar product, failed because the company could not appeal to enough customers to make up for a huge upfront investment in the technology.
But PushCoin has the potential to really take off in the coming months, and the Liszianskis are hopeful a trade conference in New York this month will help them sell their idea to industry leaders.
“We call it a movement,” Slawomir said. “But we can’t do it alone. It will take energy and, now, we have a lot.”
The Liszianskis are planning a series of informational seminars about PushCoin for the Geneva area community.
The first seminar is scheduled for Jan. 23 at FONA International in Geneva and will be designed for both adults and teens.
If you go
What PushCoin seminar
When 7 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 23
Where FONA auditorium, 1900 Averill Road
Info pushcoin.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or call Anna at 872-216-4682