PayPal Freezes MailPile's Crowdfunded Cash (Updated)

The other week we covered the crowdfunded initiative out of Iceland, MailPile, which seeks to provide easy to use secure email in response to the revealed NSA programs. They've raised $135,000 out of their $100,000 goal, and theres 6 more days for more wallets to get involved.

Well, sorta. PayPal has frozen their account, so $45,000 of the $135,000 they've raised so far is in a state of limbo. According to designer and front-end developer Brennan Novak on the company's blog, PayPal is reserving the right to hold onto the money unless they come up with a budgetary breakdown of how they plan to use the donations.

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Sellfy Adds Paymill, Stripe To Digital E-Commerce Platform

If you've got some digital goods you're looking to sell, Vilnius-based Sellfy probably offers the lowest-friction solution to get them moving. We've covered them in the past, but they now inform us that in addition to PayPal they've added Stripe (for US customers) and Paymill (for European customers) for merchants to accept credit cards on product pages.

"Unlike some of our US rivals we decided not to innovate in payments as it is something that companies like Stripe and Paymill does great already. Our main power still remains in giving our users secure and reliable digital delivery service and powerful e-commerce features like affiliate program, social discount system and making selling experience easy as possible," says Maris Dagis, CEO and co-founder of Sellfy.

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Mobile Payments In The Nordics And Baltics

When I first moved to Finland three years ago, I remember seeing a Coke machine at the university that accepted payments over the phone. All you had to do was call up the phone number, type in the machine's ID, and then the machine was credited and you'd find the slightly more expensive coke on your phone bill. I thought it was pretty cool and I mentioned it to my Finnish friend in passing, and the response I got was something like "Yeah, I think we've had that since the 90's."

It seems like Finland and the rest of the Nordic and Baltic countries are ahead of the curve when it comes to mobile payments being accepted in society, but there still is a long way to go before I can stop carrying my wallet around. There's a lot of companies to take a look at, so here are a few that have come up on our radar.

Accumulate out of Sweden, recently came out with several announcements worth noting. The company is building a mobile financial services platform, called Mobile Everywhere, and just announced a new mobile wallet service that will be available to 97% of all mobile phone users in Sweden. The mobile wallet venture, dubbed WyWallet, has been put together in conjunction with the four largest mobile network operators in Sweden, including Telia, Tele2, Telenor and 3.

The platform is technology agnostic, so any pairing technology used at a payment transaction is supported, like NFC built-in mobile, RFID, Accumulate OTT, QR- and bar codes, etc. Also, a mobile payment service based on the Accumulate platform support all payment situations and more; POS, online, person-to-person, man-to-machine (ex. vending, mParking), in-app purchase, remittance, and so on. The company points out that several Samsung phones offer NFC already, and the Nokia Windows 8 phones will also support the technology.

In December Accumulate ran a NFC beta test in Stockholm for Paypal at two retailers using passive NFC stickers, and their focus on NFC seems to support that they thing it's a good step forward. It is unclear what Accumulate's relationship  is with Paypal at this day, considering they are building their own mobile wallet platform.

This mobile wallet system also plugs into Accumulate's mobile merchant app that requires no special hardware or additions, and can run on any Android, iPhone and iPad. Purchases through the system are made as a money transfer and are authenticated by Accumulate's One-Time-Tickets. The mobile merchant app is in their strategy to plug into all mobile payment solutions, from point of sale situations, online payments, and man-to-machine payments.

mCASH out of Norway is another mobile payments provider worth keeping an eye on. In June, their Facebook page gives this news:

mCASH is being made available in the Point Of Sale Software offered by Lindbak Retail Systems. Lindbak is one of the leading providers of POS solutions in Norway and Sweden. Lindbak is implementing the full range of mCASH technologies enabling their customers to tap into features such as mCASH Payments, electronic receipts, loyalty, business intelligence and more.

Thus mCASH is available to Merchants such as XXL Sport, G Sport, InterSport, Deli De Luca, Coop, Vinmonopolet. Just to mention a few.

Their iPhone app is currently in beta testing. We covered them last November, but I get the impression that they have cut down a number of their features to focus on their core product.

Here's another Norwegian company we gave some coverage to way back in 2009, but is still alive and kicking. MobileAxept was founded in 2003 and provides a SMS based payment solution for retail and donations. Users must first register with MobileAxept, either online or by text, and then further payments can be accepted by text message. The company takes a 3% cut of transactions.

Judging from their website, they seem to be getting most of their traction on the donation front, with a good couple churches in the United States using it as a method to accept offerings. I suppose now it's no longer in bad taste to pull out your phone during services.

In Estonia, ERPLY, the provider of a cloud-based POS system, has partnered with Paypal to integrate mobile payments into its system. Consumers wishing to use the payment method will need to download the PayPal iPhone app. The solution allows customers to simply "check in" to a store when entering, then pay with Paypal at the checkout counter.

The solution also gives the opportunity to run different services, like customized offers and loyalty programs. The checkout process only requires the cashier to match the name and photo of a customer, which will likely give a quick transaction at the register. Funds are then made instantly available in the retailer’s PayPal account.

This Lithuanian startup seems to have a pretty solid penetration in their home country already. Mokipay uses a sticker with a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip that attaches to the back of a smart or dumb phone, which can be read by a Mokipay reader. Payments can be accepted in 150 places in Vilnius, and 70 locations in Kaunas, with many more spread out across Lithuania.

For smartphones, Mokipay functions as a mobile wallet and a loyalty card for services of partners. They are also developing the app to act an access control card (to enter buildings using NFC), an e-ticket for public transport, a city guide, and a budget management tool. Their about page says the functionality of Mokipay service is being constantly expanded. Our past coverage goes into more detail about the service.

The Lithuanian social network targeted at feature phones is also experimenting with payments these days. Eskimi has seen the majority of its users come from Africa, mostly from Nigeria. The country is still experiencing rapid inflation, and the government has been seriously promoting alternative payment solutions to reduce the demand of printed money, which is difficult and costly to continuously reprint and update.

Eskimi has now partnered with Mobile Money operators in Nigeria by helping them with user acquisition. It will be interesting to see how they expand on this front, as social networks can easily provide the user base and platform for payments. In our last Unfair Advantage episode, we talked to CEO Vytas Paukštys of Eskimi about this in more detail.

It appears two Finnish inventors, Janne Aaltonen and Sami Saru of Turku Finland, have sold their mobile wallet patent to Apple recently. The system allows for both payment and issuance of coupons, vouchers, or credits. This well written Quora post is worth taking a look at if you're interested getting some insight to what Apple may be working on.

Mobile payments seem to incur higher transaction costs through these startups, but retailers get the benefit of taking on promotions and better tracking and insight on their customers. Ultimately, for consumers these mobile payment systems have to prove themselves to be faster and easier than credit cards and cash, otherwise what's the real benefit aside from the occasional coupon or discount?

Everyone likes carrying a credit card around because now you can walk around without cash, but I think these mobile wallets will have a hard time replacing cards and cash until battery life is severely increased on smartphones. My iPhone lasts well under a day with moderate use, and currently I get anxious enough as is when my battery life drops below 30%. I can't imagine relying on my phone for buying food when my wallet can just turn itself off.

That being said, it's inevitable some sort of mobile payment solution will eventually become standard, and perhaps we're seeing it in its infancy right now in the Nordics and Baltics.

Top image by whiteafrican on Flickr

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Erply And Paypal Partner; Startups Affecting Offline Retail

New startup solutions are becoming a big part of offline retail, providing real world impact in how we shop and make money offline. Take for example this recent news that we missed while it was fresh, but still is noteworthy: Estonian provider of business software, Erply, and Paypal have partnered to bring a seamless mobile payment solution to stores under Erply's LikePOS. The solution allows customers to simply "check in" to a store when entering, then pay with Paypal at the checkout counter. It's an innovation that's quick and easy for consumers, and it provides retailers more insight into their customers and their shopping experiences.

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ArcticEvening Copenhagen Gathered Enthusiasts Far And Wide

ArcticEvening Copenhagen was organised last night at the to-be-emptied Nokia premises just out of the centre of Copenhagen. The evening was full of interesting discussions and presenters included Kristel Verhasselt of Magento as well as Jussi Koskinen of PayPal. Our main event was a fireside chat with Tommy Ahlers who made my job as an interviewer extremely easy, sharing a lot of advice to the audience with just a few questions.

As said, the event was held at the Nokia Campus premises, a place that will be emptied by the end of June. The space looked eerily empty already, but its future isn't as bad as one might think. In September, a university will be taking over the facilities and in doing so Nokia is also donating millions of DKK worth of gear to the university.

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Sellfy Offers A Painless Way To Sell Your Digital Product

Artists, designers, developers and other creative individuals who are looking to sell their digital product online often lack the time and resources to set up an online store. Latvian startup Sellfy plans to make the selling process as painless as possible with its streamlined “drop & sell” application.

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Importance Of Foreigners In An Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

This post belongs to a series of posts, supported by the Finnish Software Entrepreneurs.

Very few people on a macro economical scale realise the importance of entrepreneurship to a nation's economic welfare. However, even fewer realise the importance of foreign talent to the success of a nation's entrepreneurship ecosystem and hence the success of a nation's welfare. While there have been studies to support this, it hasn't reached the level of acknowledgement it deserves in the Nordics and Baltics yet.

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Flattr Takes A Step Towards PayPal With A Twist

We covered Flattr in our review last May. In short, the service is way for content producers to get paid through micro-donations by individuals like you and me. Or more accurately, it was that service since last Sunday. Yesterday, Flattr began making some important changes to its service that will put it on a different path of development.

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PayPal Opens Micropayment Solution To Public

Last week PayPal announced that it has opened its micropayments solution to the public globally. In essence, it's a better way for developers, content creators and publishers to charge for small amounts of content quickly. PayPal has designed this new service to be more useful for small, quick payments instead of the traditional way of purchasing and paying for services with PayPal where you have to leave the original website you were on.

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Scred Comes Out With A New Focus

Scred, a house hold Finnish startup who we have used to seeing tracking debts and shared expenses is now shifting their focus towards more comprehensively managing money.

They start with managing money for different groups such as bands, indie film crews, event organisers and associations. The point is to offer a solution for communities which often don't have good online financial applications and don't know about accounting.

Along with the new focus the guy have also redesigned the site. Kudos to the team for learning the design tools as they went along. As Kristoffer from Scred told me "We ended up learning how to do design ourselves as we couldn't find anyone sufficiently skilled and available to work with our bootstrapped approach". Whether that was a good choice, I left to the user to decide herself.

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mobileAxept Enabling Mobile Payments

mobileaxept logomobileAxept is a Norwegian startup providing a mobile phone payment system, which directly charges an existing credit card or a bank account.

mobileAxept's solution is based on a patented gateway for securing transactions between the customer, merchant, and credit card companies or banks. The merchants can offer customers a way to pay with their mobile phone, either by calling or sending a SMS to specified numer. However, the payment will be processed on the customer's credit or debit card rather than added to phone bill. This way the phone can be used for quick impulse purchases or micropayments without big overhead costs typically associated with mobile payments.

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Set Up A Business With Zero Cost: Scred Introduces MiniCorps

scredScred, a Finnish company building tools and services to help friends, groups and communities manage their money, has released a new version of their service. Before Scred enabled me to track debts and share expenses in multiple currencies. I found the basic Scred service already useful in sharing expenses with my flat mates. Now Scred has come out with a new version of their service, which has a set of new features that take the service to a whole new level.

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Scred explores new business models

Scred, a Finnish community-oriented cost balancing tool, which initially focused on balancing debts and shared expenses among a group of friends announced that they are looking into new possibilities to leverage their back-end infrastructure.

Scred has partnered with Alternative Party which will be held in Helsinki in the coming October. Scred built an inexpensive bespoke ticketing service for the party with which you can reserve, buy and print the tickets straight from the web. Tickets are also machine verifiable which is more than many other service providers offer.

Kristoffer Lawson from Scred told us that the new service is currently not available for 3rd parties, but that they they will see how the first deployment will go and add some features before deciding whether it's the right path to take. According to Kristoffer tickets can be currently bought via PayPal and 'couple of banking services', but the credit card option is on its way.

The party in itself is the second largest 'demoscene-party' in Finland after Assembly. Alternative Party aims to mix demos, music and art. Unlike Assembly, Alternative Party's focus is more on artistic shows and activities and there is practically no gaming.

There is starting to be a lot of activity in the e-commerce infrastructure space coming from Finland. Scred seems to be gradually heading that direction and Fruugo is looking into becoming the “trusted 3rd party of ecommerce". Based on Fruugo's still mysterious website we will find out what they will actually offer in more detail later in 2008 when they're planning to launch. This is something that might also be of interest to Scred since after knowing what Fruugo is aiming for Scred can better adjust their product offering to the market.

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