At a time when pop-up ads, spam and aggressive Web marketing define so much of the online shopping experience, who wouldn’t welcome a simpler and more private way to shop online?
Even better, what if that online shopping experience also had a way of making money cheaper?
For the online shopper, such a scenario could only exist in a perfect world. Well, that “perfect world” scenario may be closer than you think.
In a small warehouse space on Atlantic and Buffalo avenues, on the border of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, a group of about 15 young guys (and a few gals) have been hammering away for months, preparing to launch a new system of commerce that could totally revolutionize the way we shop online.
The Brooklyn-based tech startup on Friday, June 15, will launch Kurrenci, a new form of digital money, a U.S. dollar-for-dollar currency that does away with the use of credit cards and all of the fees associated with them, while giving online merchants another avenue to compete for the shoppers’ dollars.
“It’s Internet currency,” said Mosheh Poltorak, Kurrenci’s v.p. of marketing and business development. “It’s just simple, universal money that people can spend however they want and always get more value, more flexibility and more options.”
- Consumers register with Kurrenci.com at no cost and load however much they choose into their account.
- Consumers will have the option to fund their Kurrenci account in advance or buy Kurrenci at the point of purchase.
- Participating Kurrenci vendors will carry the Kurrenci ticker on their front page, and next to it will be their exchange rate for that day. The rate will never be below $1.00. But it may be 1.10, or 1.2 or 1.25 or higher, the merchant will decide where to set his Kurrenci rate each day, depending upon how he wants to drive traffic or compete for that day.
- If the rate is 1.2 for example, customers will receive 20 percent off of all items they purchase from the merchant for that day.
- It’s that easy!
“You’re always shopping with more powerful money,” said Nathan Hecht, Kurrenci founder and CEO. “Each vendor will have its own reason why he sets his rate with Kurrenci every day, so the consumer will know immediately what their money is worth with that merchant every day.”
“From the merchant's perspective, he’s acquiring a new customer and retaining that customer, because he has Kurrenci and wants to spend it at the best exchange rate possible,” Hecht said. “Amazon may control 50 percent of e-commerce transactions, but there’s a million vendors who are not going through Amazon but still seeking a steady stream of customers.”
Also, the company has inked a powerful deal with MoneyGram, so shoppers who don’t have bank accounts, credit cards or debit cards can even buy Kurrenci at a check-cashing center, WalMart, CVS or anywhere MoneyGram is accepted. You can even use an e-check or mail-in an unused gift card, and Kurrenci will convert it into digital Kurrenci, dollar-for-dollar to use online, said Hecht.
If you travel to Japan or London or any other country and you return with extra foreign currency, you can exchange that for digital Kurrenci dollars to, again, shop online.
“So the idea is to give the consumer as much value as we can for items that may be a little less valuable, giving him access to bringing his cash on the Internet.”
So far, the ambitious tech company is completely self-funded by two of the company’s members. They are waiting until after they launch to raise outside funding. Also, they are launching with only a small group of 30 participating local jewelry, clothing and food merchants initially, including RedSnapperBaby.com, MensDirect.com and KiraKiraJewelry.com and others.
“We haven’t been telling anybody so far in the outside world what we’ve been doing, because we are stepping on a lot of toes here and disrupting a lot of technologies,” Poltorak said. “We’re disrupting the gift card business, the coupon business, the payment business…”
Kurrenci will show off their new product for the first time ever and begin getting folks registered at its beta launch on Friday at the Northside Music Festival in Williamsburg. Its major rollout across wider markets is scheduled for September 2012.
“It’s still a work-in-progress; we’re working tireless to get as big and as good as possible,” said Hecht and Poltorak, both of whom admit there are some days they do not even leave the office and go home.
“It’s a new money for a new digital age, and we think it’s an idea whose time has long come,” said Poltorak. “...People tell us that we’re either brilliant businessmen for doing this or stark-raving-mad lunatics.”
With a look of excitement and a nervous laugh, he adds, “Of course, we hope it’s the former.”
*See video of how Kurrenci exchange rates work here.