[THE INVESTOR] Mobile payment is all the rage, with big tech firms such as Samsung and Apple competing head-on to win the burgeoning market. However, the current solutions running on QR code, Bluetooth or NFC seem to have not yet secured a firm footing because, among other things, they require storeowners to install extra machines to read different signals.
Korean startup Mobidoo has come up with a brand new solution to iron out these issues -- using ultrasonic sound waves, the high-pitched sounds that are inaudible to humans.
The solution picks up ultrasonic signals from all machines attached with speakers or microphone receivers, turning your TVs, phones and fridges into credit card readers.
There are also no security concerns as the signals do not contain any sensitive information of the credit card holder. According to the firm, the ultrasonic waves are safeguarded by the tokenization security technology, which replaces sensitive data components with non-sensitive ones under strict security controls.
“More than 4 billion devices will be connected by 2020, while the current network technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have limitations in connecting the devices due to high costs,” Mobidoo CEO David Lee told The Investor in a recent interview.
“Using ultrasonic technology will make the connection of all devices a lot easier,” he said, adding that the solution could be used more widely for user authentication in the era of Internet of Things that connects all machines, including smartphones and cars, via the Web.
Prior to establishing his own startup in August 2013, Lee, a former consultant at IBM, worked at Samsung for 2 1/2 years. His key role was searching for promising startups in Silicon Valley for the Korean tech giant to invest or take over.
“During years of monitoring and screening new technologies and startups, I myself wanted to create something new to make an impact on society,” Lee said. “So, I jumped into the startup scene a month after I quit Samsung.”
Recognized for its technology, Mobidoo attracted a combined 1.5 billion won (US$1.32 million) from Lotte Members, Samsung NEXT and Capstone Partners this year alone. Especially, the firm became the first Korean startup to get funding, worth US$300,000, from Samsung NEXT, Samsung’s investment arm.
Mobidoo's solution picks up ultrasonic signals from almost all machines attached with speakers or microphone receivers.
Samsung has acquired a slew of payment and IoT companies in recent years, including US mobile payment system firm LoopPay, the company behind Samsung Pay, IoT technology firm SmartThings and the artificial intelligence system developer Viv Labs.
The CEO said Mobidoo like other startups is also open to merger and acquisition opportunities with bigger rivals for long-term growth.
“The firm’s business model is seeking growth through collaboration rather than doing everything on our own,” he stressed.
Mobidoo’s solution has already been deployed in Lotte Group’s mobile payment solution L.Pay to be used at the retail giant’s department and supermarket stores across the nation.
The firm is also setting its eyes on overseas markets such as Indonesia and Finland. It is currently running a pilot project with a Finnish bank to develop a mobile payment system.
By Kim Young-won (email@example.com)
The Investor Profile
Founded: August 2013
Description: Mobidoo develops an ultrasonic wave solution for mobile payment, user authentication and connection of electronic devices.
Founder/CEO: David Lee
Funding: About US$15 million in 2017
►700 million won (US$620,457) from Lotte Members
►500 million won from venture capital firm Capstone Partners
►US$300,000 from Samsung NEXT