The Aimazing team at Slush Singapore in September 2016. From left: CTO, Kong Yi Kai, COO, Yar Hong Chiong, and CEO, Jun Ting.
With the launch of their pilot program earlier this month, fledgling Singapore startup, Aimazing is a step closer to commercializing their new sound technology solution for mobile payments.
Aimazing’s goal is to offer the mobile payments market a more accessible option than the near field communication (NFC) technology currently in use. The startup’s solution has carried it to a top 30 finish in Slush Singapore 2016, which was held in September. It also earned them a place in season four of Channel NewsAsia’s Start-UP program.
Aimazing vs. NFC chips
“Phones are made to produce sound,” said COO and co-founder Yar Hong Chiong. “Using sound, anyone with a smartphone can have access to mobile wallets.”
To send payment via Aimazing, a user’s device plays a data-encrypted sound code to the merchant’s device. This only requires a microphone and speakers on both ends.
NFC technology, on the other hand, requires a chip in the user’s smartphone and a specialised reader at the point of sale. Additionally, Apple’s operating system restricts third parties from easily accessing and developing software with the iPhone’s NFC chip.
These two problems have limited the reach of mobile wallets like Singtel Dash and DBS Paylah.
From gaming to payments
CEO Jun Ting and CTO Kong Yi Kai started Aimazing last April as a game that allowed users to use credits to bid for items and make small online transactions.
Once the game’s user base reached a critical scale, they planned to introduce the sound technology that Yi Kai had developed, to allow offline purchases and make Aimazing a mobile wallet. However, this turned out to be costly.
“At one point, we said, ‘How can we pivot this business to make it more sustainable?’” Hong Chiong recalled. “So we pulled back to try to sell this technology to existing mobile wallets.”
Soon after he joined the team, Hong Chiong helped to initiate and execute the business pivot in June 2016. They created an SDK or software development kit, a chunk of code that would make merchants’ apps compatible with Aimazing’s technology.
Partnerships with Chope and Flezio
Following their pivot to a B2B model, the team of three successfully secured partnerships with Chope Singapore and, local startup, Flezio. These partnerships would allow use of their service to facilitate voucher redemptions and, for Flezio members, access to co-working spaces.
To redeem restaurant vouchers in their Chope Singapore accounts, customers will receive a sound file encrypted with their unique voucher details, which they can play to the restaurant’s mobile device.
The technical details for their pilot program with Flezio are still being worked out, however, Hong Chiong said that Flezio’s use of the technology will likely involve an app that can generate membership details in the form of a sound code. With the sound code acting as a virtual membership card, users would be able to access the co-working spaces they book and keep an electronic record of entry and exit times.
The pilot program for Chope Singapore is slated to end in December 2016, after which Aimazing plans to work with a pay-per-transaction business model with their clients.
Potential to expand
With funding from an IJAM grant and an angel investment from Jon Tse, founder of Zookal, the startup will focus on refining its technology with its partners. They are also in talks with other clients to use sound technology for digital door locks and e-tickets.
Getting sufficient funding as quickly as possible and subsequently expanding to other countries in Southeast Asia will be crucial.
Eventually, Aimazing hopes to work with existing third party mobile wallets like Singtel Dash and DBS Paylah, offering them a bigger market beyond NFC smartphone users.
Getting sufficient funding as quickly as possible and subsequently expanding to other countries in Southeast Asia will be crucial to Aimazing’s success, said Cris Duy Tran, lead consultant for ecommerce and digital transformation at Frost & Sullivan.
“The payments and fintech market has much potential, but there is also fierce competition,” said Cris. “[In] markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, or the Philippines, the banking penetration is much lower than in Singapore. These markets are in need of innovative payment solutions.”