Finance / Retail / Startups

Who needs a wallet? Yombu is using biometrics to help make payments more easy

Yombu uses fingerprints to make payments, access rewards and scan into gyms and coworking spaces.

Yombu staff in T-shirts showcasing the company's slogans. (Courtesy photo)

Yombu, headquartered in Tyson’s Corner, Va., is a biometric payments company. The fintech startup primarily serves two markets: memberships, where facility access can be used in places like gyms, and quick serve, where payment can be streamlined in places like coffee shops.

Joe Falit and Derek Sanford cofounded Yombu, which has been on the market for one year. Falit sparked the idea for the company after he was on a run to the gym and wanted a protein shake, but forgot his wallet at home. The teller was able to access his membership info, which had his credit card on file, and Falit was able to use that to make a payment. From this interaction, Yombu was born.

Yombu signs up merchants (businesses) and the merchants sign up end users (customers who pay by fingerprint). The company has plans to expand its reach and mechanisms.

“At the moment, our authentication algorithm involves fingerprint, PIN, phone and geo-fencing-related data,” Falit said. “We will soon go live with beacon integration (i.e., using your cell phone as a beacon to understand if you’re in-store near a Yombu terminal), and we are exploring potential integration with facial recognition.”

Yombu operates through an app (available for iOS and Android) where store owners can see analytics and other useful information on their customers, and customers can make card-less payments, see transaction history and earn rewards. Once you sign up for Yombu in one location, you can use your fingerprint to pay at other locations that use Yombu.

“The vision for the company is that you [the customer] are your form of payment and access. In short, we see Yombu as a common way for people to pay and access facilities in five years,” Falit said. “We particularly plan to focus on growing our presence in the fitness, indoor play and quick-serve spaces.”

Yombu has partnered with coworking space network MakeOffices to deploy a self-serve biometric terminal for coworking members to self-checkout at the kitchen’s snack counter. Teas’n You, a bubble tea shop in Tysons Corner, has been a long-time Yombu merchant. For a full list of merchants, you can visit Yombu’s website and scroll down to the DMV logo.

Scramble is an indoor playground for kids that first began using Yombu as a rewards program for its guests but then expanded to use it for registration, entry and as a waiver system. Owner Laurence Smallman said the technology has been valuable.

“Now Scramble and Yombu are developing a system that will help provide high-grade security at a wide range of entry businesses,” Smallman said. “I see the partnership between Yombu and Scramble continuing as we learn more about the nature of secure entry systems and react to further improvements in technology.”

Yombu was recently named one of the top 24 fintech startup in the U.S. by Money 20/20, a fintech startup challenge. The Yombu team will be pitching to a group of judges in Las Vegas on Oct. 24 where they’ll be competing for a $25,000 grand prize. As far as expansion, Yombu is working on finalizing a partnership in the fitness space and the company will go live in Philadelphia at a restaurant at the end of this month.

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