Mezu Examines a Cashless, Mobile Payments-Heavy Society
Yuval Brisker, who founded the Mezu app, once noted that it got its start after he went back to Tel Aviv in Israel for a family event. When the time came to settle a bill for a cab ride, neither side was interested in the effort to protect personal information that a credit card or peer-to-peer (P2P) transaction might have meant, but the driver was happy to take a $20 bill from the United States as payment. So Brisker started Mezu, and in the process, considered what would be required to really make a cashless society work.
Brisker compares several major payment forms—including PayPal, Square and Venmo—to “virtual checks”, being focused on sending payments to people you know. But that’s not what a cashless society needs, Brisker said. Rather, a cashless society needs a replacement for cash: non-personal tender that leaves no trace. .
So Brisker considers tools like those just mentioned the first and second generations of payment tools. What we really need, ultimately, is a payment system that works like digital cash. With regulators demanding their pounds of flesh in anti-money laundering regulations and the like, and cross-border issues rearing their head, what’s left?
Mezu has been working on this problem, and picks up some sound points. While it has to collect a certain amount of information by regulators’ standards—the “know your customer” issues are still present—the information isn’t shared or sold without the proper legal requirements like warrants. Mezu still has a way to come before it’s fully available, though.
The problem for Mezu is that we’re already well on the way to that path, and it’s called cryptocurrency. Oh, yes, it’s got quite a few problems to address, mostly from the regulatory standpoint, but what is cryptocurrency? It’s a kind of digital cash that can be paid out anonymously, like regular cash, and can work across borders. I can hop a flight to London, pop into Bailey’s and buy a large fish and chips with 0.002 bitcoin, and fly home that same day. With some change, no less.
Mezu’s considerations are sound here, but they may well be out of date already. With cryptocurrency going mainstream, Mezu’s ability to launch a cashless society may have been scuttled before it even started.