Mobile Payment Platform Mobiliz Starts Small, Thinks Big

Mobiliz is looking to change the mobile payment market, one parking spot at a time.

Founded in 2008 by Alejandro Diego and Martin Castañon in Miami, Mobiliz offers a platform that integrates mobile payments and target marketing – all through the convenience of mobile phones.

With Mobiliz, users can make local and remote payments and also obtain discounts and promotions. On the flip side, businesses and retailers are able to provide their customers a new way of paying while at the same time gaining benefits related to marketing and tracking.

Though it has big aspirations, Mobiliz has started out small and directed its attention to the parking industry. Through the service, drivers can pay for and extend time in parking spots (public and private, indoor and outdoor) using their mobile phones. Thus, Mobiliz serves as a suitable cash substitute for users and at the same time provides parking establishments with more information about their clients – valuable elements in both developed and emerging markets.

Currently, Mobiliz operates in both Mexico and the United States, and it is in the process of rolling out to other Latin American locales. It is one of many startups looking to capitalize on the mobile payment market, which is still in very early stages.

Alejandro Diego, who now acts as President of Mobiliz, told us more about the company.

Emily Stewart: Your main focus seems to be on parking. Would you explain a bit about that side of the business?

Alejandro Diego: We focus on on-street and off-street parking, both off which are large markets that grow annually and, historically, have used very little IT. Cash is the principal payment method, users experience friction during the process, and operators collect very little information about their systems and users. 

Our solution allows end users to pay their parking by phone, so there is no need to carry coins. They get notifications when their parking time is about to expire and can lengthen their stays directly from the convenience of their mobile phones. This convenience has been very well received by the public at large.

For parking operators, there are many benefits. They can save money by requiring fewer parking meters or pay and display machines, and they reduce their cash handling costs, maintenance costs and personnel costs. With Mobiliz, they also have the ability to make changes to parking rates via web browser, which are put into effect immediately.

Mobiliz provides parking operators better and more detailed information about their systems, including revenue per parking spot, transactions per area or per specific spot, recurrent and revenue-driving users, and more. In addition to making their parking systems more efficient operationally and financially, it provides them valuable information for city planning purposes.

ES: Your product also has a marketing component. What is involved there?

AD: Our system provides operators (restaurants, pharmacies, boutiques, etc.) a web-based solution that allows them to better know their clients and improve their LVM (lifetime value management). 

Instead of having to print loyalty cards, purchase expensive software, install specific hardware at the point of sale, hire marketing people and spend time tracking and managing information, our platform provides a hassle-free solution. All that is needed is a web browser for operators to register and set up their marketing system. They can award points per dollar spent, set up thresholds when for automatic benefits, and run loyalty programs.

All consumers need to participate is a phone (feature phone or smartphone). The system works with all carriers and types of devices, including both pre-paid and post-paid phones. Essentially, we cater to the whole phone-carrying population.

ES: There’s a lot of buzz about m-commerce and the potential of smartphones to change the way we pay for things. How close do you think the market is, especially in Mexico and Latin America, to m-commerce becoming viable?

AD: Regulatory framework needs to allow mobile payments. Fortunately, some countries – Mexico specifically – are taking the right steps in updating laws to allow newer types of payment to develop.

The Latin American market has a huge potential for several reasons. Mobile penetration is high (over 75%), a large percentage of overall purchases are still tendered in cash, and there is considerable friction in making commercial transactions. A secure and efficient mobile payment system can facilitate commercial transactions, reduce cash handling costs, provide a safe mechanism to store funds, and also allow people at the base of the pyramid to have better access to funds and capital.

A mobile payment system can be used for the disbursement of funds by government agencies and the distribution and collection of funds for micro-financing institutions, thus improving the living conditions of those most in need.

However, the mobile payment concept is new. That is why Mobiliz is focusing on parking, since these are small denomination transactions that take place on an everyday basis. People will start using it because the risk is perceived as small. When people grow accustomed to mobile payments, we can then expand into other adjacent markets. We are, therefore, investing in educating the market, because we see a large potential in Latin America.

ES: One of your main selling points is that Mobiliz works for both banked and unbanked populations. Why is this valuable in the Latin American market?

AD: It is very important, because there is a large population that is either underbanked or unbanked in the region. We provide different funding mechanisms for people to use our platform, including debit card, credit card and cash. Cash is essential, as some people feel safe using it as their only payment method. We are working hard on providing a large distribution channel for people to add funds to their Mobiliz accounts. It is important to be where these people are and where they make their habitual purchases – in the drug store, in the mom and pop shop, the newsstand, etc.  

Looking ahead, the Mobiliz team aspires to become the de facto standard for mobile payments, starting with the parking sector and moving on to other markets. The company will also work to form alliances with financial institutions and entities that can provide value and enrich lives by providing consumers easier and better access to capital. In closing, Diego said, “In addition to being a business, we believe this type of service can have a substantial positive impact on society.”