Lemon, a provider of a mobile money management app, is hitting the market with its own version of a mobile wallet product called The Smarter Wallet. And it's raised a sizeable wad of cash to stick in it.
Lemon said it has raised $8 million in Series A funding that it will use for the launch and future expansion of its new product. The round was led by Maveron, the VC firm whose co-founders include Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz. The round also included Lightspeed Venture Partners, Draper Fisher Jervetson and CampVentures as well.
"This initial funding and the launch of the Smarter Wallet are major milestones in furthering our vision for Lemon as a trusted mobile money management solution," said Lemon Founder and CEO Wences Casares. "This powerful new wallet framework, combined with our transaction management tools, empowersYe users to take total control over their finances with a fresh new perspective."
A mobile wallet with a twist
Casares was co-founder of early mobile payment start-up Bling Nation, a product that used NFC stickers attached to handsets to enable payment at the point of sale. Bling Nation received considerable attention when it first launched in 2010, but its fortunes soured and it closed its doors last year.
With Smarter Wallet, Casares and the Lemon crew are hoping to succeed in the competitive mobile wallet market with a secure, encrypted tool that lets users digitize and store anything they might carry in a real wallet — literally anything. From credit cards to healthcare cards to IDs to receipts, the Lemon smart wallet can capture information photographed by the smartphone camera and store it in an encrypted app for retrieval later.
The data, once stored, can't be directly accessed to make payments, but it does integrate with Lemon's cloud-based, digital receipt storage and organization tools to help users manage their finances. The complete solution functions as a mobile money manager, the company said, enabling users to see how much money they have and where they're spending it.
Apple and Lemon
Lemon just launched in October but has already chalked up more than a million downloads of its free app. The Smarter Wallet is included as a part of Lemon's free, basic service. There's also a premium service for $9.99 per month that offers some advanced features for budgeting and also enables data export.
A million downloads is a good start, and Lemon may need that head start as more companies enter the market and squeeze Lemon with mobile wallet tools. Companies like MasterCard and PayPal already have digital wallets for storing payment credentials, and Apple announced its Passbook app yesterday.
At first blush, Passbook and The Smarter Wallet look like extremely similar products. Both provide users a place to store digitized credentials and personal data. Passbook may have a slight advantage since it will automatically be available on all iPhones running iOS 6 when it's released this fall. But The Smarter Wallet works across iOS, Android and Windows devices, and its ability to scan in and access data sets it apart.
"Lemon's unique approach to mobile financial management adds an intelligent layer to all the cards and other miscellaneous stuff that takes up space in your wallet or purse," said Maveron partner Amy Errett, who will join Lemon's board.
Errett said security issues are why many people remain skeptical about the direct shift to payment-based digital wallets
"(W)ith the Smarter Wallet," Errett said, "Lemon is laying a strong and secure foundation for a more gradual transition that promises to change the way people think about the digital wallet concept."
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