Pulse: Chatter: Meet the People Who’re Making Your Credit Card Obsolete

Is Xipwire the next big thing?

Almost a year ago, a little Philly-based company called Xipwire began marketing the biggest thing to happen to phones since Apple: pay-by-text. If you missed it, you’re not alone. “We work stealth,” says the company’s spritely co-founder, Boyertown native Sibyl Lindsay, 31. But no more: In October, Starr Restaurants introduced Xipwire at Pod in West Philly, allowing customers (namely Penn students, who’ve been Xipping for months) to pay tabs with their mobile phones via texts that access bank accounts or credit cards. Over the next six months, Starr will offer Xip-to-pay in more of his Philly eateries.

Move over, MasterCard: Xipwire’s about to change everything.

It’s all the brainchild of co-founder and CEO Sharif Alexandre. In 2009, after years of research, the 38-year-old Penn-trained engineer (who’s held posts at Lockheed Martin and MTV) paired with Lindsay (who’d worked for Urban/Anthro and Joe Weiss’s Electronic Ink) to work on a business plan. Then, last January — to remarkably little fanfare — they debuted their system, which allows you to securely and instantly transfer money to friends, donate to charities, and pay for your purchases, all with just your phone.

Convenient for customers, yes, but businesses benefit, too: As of next month, Xipwire will charge them a 1.5 percent transaction fee, as opposed to the 2.5 to three percent most credit cards charge. (Capogiro, Mémé, Zahav, and dozens of charities are other early adopters.) And given Americans’ obsession with our phones, Xipping could easily do to bank and credit cards what bank and credit cards did to checks. But no matter how big they get, Alexandre promises they won’t forget the little people: “It’s really nice to be able to do this here,” he says. “We’re both from here; we went to school here. We want Philly to be the model for the rest of the country.”

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