International -- The Stars of Europe -- Innovators
Mathias Entenmann (int'l edition)
CEO -- Paybox.net -- Germany
If there's such a thing as The Right Stuff for New Economy entrepreneurs, Paybox.net founder and CEO Mathias Entenmann has it. In little more than a year, the 33-year-old former captain of Germany's national rugby team has turned his vision of mobile commerce into reality. The concept: A customer decides to buy something, but instead of giving a credit card, gives out his cell-phone number. Merchants--either in stores or online--dial up the Paybox.net line or Web site and enter the customer's mobile-phone number and the amount to be charged. The customer's phone rings and an electronic voice asks for a PIN to approve the transaction. The merchant then receives confirmation that the money has been debited from the customer's bank account.
In the U.S., where everyone has a wallet full of credit cards, this innovation wouldn't be needed. But Germans don't like credit cards. They love their mobile phones, though, and seem eager to use their handsets to buy stuff when they don't have the cash. Entenmann, who worked once as a telecom specialist for Arthur D. Little Inc., wants to expand his idea to encompass everything from taxi fares to Internet commerce.
Paybox.net, which began operating in May, has already seduced some of Germany's biggest retailers and shown its promise in the world of e-tailing. Karstadt, the department-store chain, offers Paybox.net payments on its Web site, as does the popular sex-shop operator Beate Uhse. Anyone with a mobile phone, no matter how old or new, can use the service. "The independence of our system is what's unique," says Entenmann.
Still, Paybox.net's future could be rocky. Mobile-phone giants Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola also see the potential for commerce based on the mobile phone, and agreed in April to work on a joint standard. But Entenmann argues that by the time the industry has its system running, Paybox.net will have established itself as a reliable service, with a base of 100,000 customers and 1,000 merchants by yearend. "There's a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," Entenmann says, grinning. And it's just a phone call away.