Tired of digging through backpacks and messenger bags for their student IDs and debit cards, four Carnegie Mellon seniors started to investigate ways to consolidate all the cards in their wallets and pay with a swipe of a finger.
They knew they were onto something when, recalls Brian Groudan, "we heard gasps" while demonstrating at a University of Pennsylvania hackathon last fall.
Groudan, Kelly Lau-Kee, Umang Patel and Christian Reyes are all graduating this spring and are partners in PayTango
, a fingerprint-based identification and payment system.
In only a few months, PayTango is dancing as fast as it can. Inc.
magazine recently named it among America's coolest college start-ups for 2013
. Three of the partners spent the first three months of this year at the Silicon Valley Y Combinator
accelerator in Mountain View, California, and PayTango has begun to attract serious investor interest. "We didn't plan for this," muses Groudan. "It just sort of happened."
The students developed the technology, which marries biometric and card data, in CMU's inaugural Tech Startup Lab Course last fall, taught by Luis von Ahn, known as one of the pioneers of crowdsourcing.
PayTango's registration process takes about 20 seconds. Users place two fingers on the terminal's fingerpad, swipe the card they want to register and type in a phone number. Any card with a magnetic strip can be registered – credit, debit, gift, loyalty or ID. On repeat visits, users simply place their fingers on the fingerpad to make payment. The service is paid for through contracts with merchants, and is free for users.
The system is being tested at CMU dining locations and Groudan expects to continue to expand its testing there and at other campuses and local businesses, such as gyms. Investor interest is coming from Silicon Valley, but, he adds, "our first customer is CMU and we have very close ties to Carnegie Mellon."
Source: Brian Groudan, PayTango
Writer: Elise Vider