Mobile Payments in Austin by

Austin has been a hotbed of activity in certain startup circles, most notably enterprise software and the intersection of enterprise and social.  But in the Austin-American Statesman they ran an article on the rise of mobile payment systems and startups that was quite interesting.

First of all, there are startups on either side of the equation.  On the one side, the suppliers of payment systems, such as Square.  Of course you’d be right to point out that Square is not based in Austin.  But we’ve seen others arrive – Mozido, and SecureNet Payments Systems for example.  Isis is using Austin as a pilot market.  Visa has a new development center here.  And a few others:  Starmount, Bypass Lane, and Tabbed Out.

But the other interesting payments trend is that the consumers of these technologies are typically startups themselves.  I’ve used Square quite a few times to pay at Houndstooth Coffee, for example, which is in the midst of an expansion beyond its original location on Lamar Blvd. The upstart restaurants and retailers and food trailers are the most likely to rely on an iPad-based payment system that is relatively inexpensive and easy to use.

I’ve written before about Square- “put it on Scott” I get to say as I walk up to the cashier.  Not bad.

At a new Ramen restaurant in Austin, Michi, we experienced another Point-of-Sale system – which one I’m not sure. But the waiter put in our order, and food literally showed up at our table before we had finished ordering, because it is instantly transmitted to the kitchen!  Talk about improving table turns in a busy restaurant.  And at least for now, the novelty made it cool, rather than feeling rushed.

Let’s see if the next interesting startup(s) in Austin come out of the payment space.  Even if the winning startups aren’t Austin-based, I have a feeling Austin businesses and retailers will be among the earliest adopters – as the Austin scene seems to be more dominated by local businesses rather than national chains, and seem to be more willing to experiment with the technology in their stores.

[also, beyond the mobile payments space, Austin has quite a few mobile development and consulting shops. Including one of the biggest – MutualMobile]