No Wallet, No Problem. Yombu Scans Your Fingerprint for Payments, Loyalty Rewards

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Credit cards made it possible to leave cash behind. Then, digital wallets like ApplePay let you leave home without your wallet. Now, Washington, D.C., startup Yombu is making it possible to pay and get access to membership rewards with just your fingerprint.

Yombu calls it “paying naked.”

And payment is only the beginning. Yombu CEO Joe Falit said that the company is also working with companies to provide fingerprint-based access to gyms, for example, and other membership-based locations.

“You don’t need anything other than you to authenticate,” Falit said.

Just three years into their effort, Falit and co-founder Derek Sanford have made Yombu available in 30 locations in the Washington area, as well as around 25 gyms across the country.

One of their biggest partners is MotionSoft, which offers payment and membership software solutions for fitness companies. But places like Scramble, an indoor play area in Virginia, also use Yombu for access, as well as a zoo where members can get in with their fingerprint.

“We wanted to be at 10,000 end users by the end of the year, and we’ve rapidly exceeded that goal,” Falit said.

The company has seen success in places like gyms or play areas where all customers must sign a waiver once to enter. By linking that waiver to a credit card and a fingerprint, a user is able to enter a gym with just a quick scan of her finger, allowing the gym to make sure the user has signed a waiver.

Those types of spaces, where Yombu unlocks access for users, offer the potential for Yombu to capture 100% of members, versus at a coffee store where users would have to opt in to pay with their fingerprint. So far, Yombu has found that, when presented with the option to pay with a fingerprint, about 15-20% of customers opted in.

More than just payment, Yombu also acts as a loyalty rewards systems, allowing merchants to get both in one company rather than paying for both a payment system and a rewards system.

Additionally, Yombu also collects data on customer spend, which it sells back to merchants in an anonymized fashion.

Yombu makes money by charging the merchants that use it a monthly recurring fee, with different pay scales for the access system and the payment system.

With any payment processing system, though, security is a priority. As more biometric technology appeared on the market several years ago, critics raised concern that fingerprint scans lacked the same security and flexibility as a password or credit card. If hacked, a fingerprint can’t be changed out like a credit card or password.

To secure user data, Yombu works with a third-party company to save credit card numbers, making sure that payment data doesn’t stay on their servers.

The raw image of a user’s fingerprint is never saved, either—instead, they use “templatization” to turn the scan into a numeric figure, which is then encrypted and stored in the Cloud.

“The only system where that’s good is on our system,” Falit said.

But as biometric technology improves, Yombu is looking at using multi-factor authentication alongside fingerprint scans. They are working on an app that would turn your phone into a beacon, adding an additional factor of authentication when the Yombu system senses that your phone is nearby.

“By using multiple factors, we can be insanely confident about who is trying to do the transaction,” Falit said.

More factors might be on the way soon, including facial recognition, Falit said. They company is also integrating with Clover, a popular point of sale system.

By Q2 2019, Yombu hopes to reach 50,000 users and expand the number of merchants who use Yombu for access.

For Falit, the future of payment is cash-free—and plastic-free.

“Why does anyone need a card to pay?” he said.

Kate Talerico is a staff writer at Street Fight.