In 2010, when digital and mobile technology expert Christopher Brunner was installing a new short message service (SMS) system on a large retailer's network, he had an epiphany. "I was rolling out the SMS platform for Walmart Pharmacy and realized the world was changing," recalled Brunner, founder and chief executive officer of AUTHVIA Inc. "It occurred to me the next obvious SMS step would be payments, eliminating the need for people to stand in line for 10 minutes just to make a payment."
When he began researching, Brunner was surprised to find no mainstream SMS payment applications. "I honestly thought it was available, because we'd already seen applications for text donations, but I couldn't find anything being done with the processors," he said.
Four years later, he launched a software company in El Segundo, Calif., with the intention of building a frictionless text-to-pay application. According to Brunner, AUTHVIA's technology was designed to help merchants easily accelerate cash flow by enabling them to take "direct customer payment over any digital communications channel, including SMS, social, chat, etc., without the use of external links, apps or websites."
Brunner's engineering team focused initially on integrating with major processors, providing their portfolios with direct SMS payment services. AUTHVIA also introduced its application programming interface to independent software vendors (ISVs) integrating payment data into merchant-facing business management applications. And a diverse set of partners gives AUTHVIA the unique advantage of being agnostic and more secure, Brunner noted.
"Our seamless model enhances the payment experience for both the payer and payee, eliminates potential points of failure, and shifts PCI burden to the consumer," he said. "Social conversations between merchants and consumers are increasing, and contactless forms of payment are also gaining popularity. It's all about the customer experience, and it's becoming critically important for merchants to be equipped with frictionless options for accepting digital payments in today's world."
Brunner admits the journey hasn't always been an easy one. "Everything we needed to get this product to market, we had to build, since there was no road map," he said.
Fast forward, and new challenges are in front of AUTHVIA's development team. According to Brunner, now that the firm has streamlined its offering, one of the biggest hurdles the company faces today is how to build more intelligent conversations into the user experience. "Helping you, as the consumer, stay in touch with when you owe, what you owe and when you want to pay is where our development team is focused lately," he said.
Brunner also pointed out that AUTHVIA's leadership team is concentrating on pacing growth and smart operational scaling to meet an influx of new merchant and ISV clients. Overall, the CEO indicated, business has been ramping up at a rapid clip due to "greater awareness and acceptance of the conversational payments model and current environmental factors that are accelerating consumer demand for contactless payments."
As far as AUTHVIA's approach to the changing tide, Brunner believes one thing has consistently worked throughout the firm's existence. "I feel like every step of the way, there's been some boogie man out there – competitors, legal, funding, viability and so on," Brunner said. "You have to always assume someone's chasing you, and keep trying to innovate and push, because the number one thing is perseverance."
Not surprisingly, the AUTHVIA team's underlying grit and intuitive business approach is helping the company's owner see further into the future. Brunner envisions an AUTHVIA wallet consumers can use to cover expenses and a number of ongoing day-to-day purchases.
"The beauty of some of our big partnerships in spaces like utilities, automotive and pharmacies is over 15 percent of a merchant's customer base in each market will already be able to pay with AUTHVIA's wallet technology," Brunner said. "Customers may never have to be reminded to pay a bill again."
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