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Mobile payment solution Gust bursts into beta

Mobile payment solutions Square and PayPal Here have yet to enter Africa and with the gap left wide open, we’re seeing startups stepping forward to stake a claim.

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Three distinctly different non-NFC mobile payment solutions, all currently operating in stealth mode, are on Ventureburn’s radar: the card-free, pin-entry system from Ching Payments, the Square-like card-reader solution from CheqOut and now, a Wi-Fi geo-fence startup called Gust.

When Ventureburn’s sister site, Memeburn, first wrote about Gust, the company was on track to deliver a beta in June of this year. The Gust app should be available in the Apple App Store in the next few days.

We define a geo-fence as a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. In Gust’s case the virtual perimeter is a Wi-Fi network, and payments between a patron and a merchant can only take place when both parties are on the same network.

The payment process is simple. When it’s time to pay for your products or services, connect to the establishment’s Wi-Fi network and open the Gust Pay iPhone app. Your name and picture will pop up on the merchant’s Gust PayPoint iPad app. The merchant enters the amount due and requests authorisation from you. Using your iPhone, you can then add a tip and authorise the payment.

While Gust is in beta, it runs as an iOS-only solution, but an Android version is in development and a BlackBerry version is in planning stages. There are no fees associated with transactions currently, but flat-rate fee is likely in the future.

“In building the latest version of the app we focused on the enrollment process, close integration with
, an updated UI design and included additional security and privacy enhancements,” says Joe Botha, Gust project lead and founder of TrustFabric, a vendor relationship management software company.

Gust operates out of instant-messaging giant, MXit’s offices in Stellenbosch and has been trialing its service with local businesses since April of this year. It has recently welcomed its first merchant from Cape Town as part of its beta rollout. During the rollout Gust installs a Wi-Fi hotspot and an iPad with a casing and key lock at each merchant’s shop.

While in Beta all the money in the Gust ecosystem comes from staff lunch orcoffee programs. Participating companies in Stellenbosch and Cape Town give their employees a monthly Gust allowance. “In Beta we rely on the existing trust relationship between companies, their staff and the shops they visit for lunch on a regular basis. This is the ideal testing environment and beneficial for everybody involved. Gust offers a more human payment experience. Users pay with their name, two taps and a swipe. We like to think this fosters a natural sense of loyalty and builds better relationships between store owners and their regular customers,” says Botha.

Earlier this year, Memeburn hosted a Google Hangout during which startups could pitch their ideas to an expert panel for guidance. Incidentally, Bradley Elliott, founder of the aforementioned CheqOut payment solution participated in the hangout. On the panel was MXit CEO Alan Knott-Craig Jr, who seemed dismissive of CheqOut’s business model. It will be interesting to see which gets better traction, CheqOut or Gust.

South Africa’s largest bank, FNB is also making a splash with its own proximity-based solution. With startups taking on big companies and NFC looming on the horizon, the mobile payment space in Africa is about to go from a simmer to a sizzle. Watch out M-Pesa.

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