Laziness vs. Necessity

In developing nations, people are adopting mobile finance services to avoid a three-hour bus ride from their village to the nearest bank. Here in the U.S., it’s been found that key adopters of next generation payments applications are women who don’t want to walk downstairs to get their purse.

That was one of the takeaways from discussions at this week’s Future of Money conference in San Francisco. And it helps explain why one of the speakers, Menekse Gencer, told attendees that if they really want to learn about next generation payments they’re better off ditching Silicon Valley for Nairobi (where she’s travelled multiple times in the past year.)

That’s not to diss payments and consumer finance startups focused on the U.S. market. Certainly a boatload of them have been funded recently, from Bling Nation (which runs a mobile payment system tied to community banks) to Plastic Jungle ( a gift card reseller) to BillShrink (which lets you search for cheaper credit cards, cell plans, and other services).

And certainly as eBay’s $900 million purchase of credit card alternative BillMeLater (said to count those too lazy to get their purses among its core demographics.) and Intuit’s $175 million purchase of personal finance site Mint.com attest, there’s room for some nice exits.

It’ll be interesting to see, however, what kind of traction overseas-focused startups will have – as we’ve yet to see a big exit or IPO in this area for the past few years. But there are a number of interesting players.

One still in planning phase that caught my attention is being spearheaded by Sanjay Swami, former CEO of mChek, an India-based mobile payment platform, who is looking to develop a payments platform based on the country’s developing national identification numbers for its citizens. While it’s unclear what end form the technology will take, it clearly qualifies as a truly massive market opportunity.

Another somewhat more mature player targeting a massive market was M-Via, which promotes a service for sending money from the U.S. to Mexico. Remittances from overseas are currently Mexico’s second largest source of foreign income, right after oil.