Time to ‘Xip’ for your supper

PHILADELPHIA. In Europe and Japan, thousands use their cell phones like debit cards, using text messages linked to bank accounts as ways to pay for small transactions like coffee or a pair of jeans.

Two Philadelphia entrepreneurs hope to make this city one of the first in America to join what they call the “mobile payment revolution.”

“Like some parts of the world where they have been texting since before we started, they also began using their phones as a way to pay before us, too,” said Sharif Alexandre, co-founder and the engineer behind Xipwire, which wants to give Center City businesses the ability to be paid by consumers through texts linked to bank accounts.

Xipwire went online this month and will begin promoting its service at the Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival Saturday. The company already has 11 Rittenhouse-area businesses accepting payments via text messages.

“It’s the first text that’s the hardest text to get people to do,” he said.

Alexandre, 37, a Drexel Hill native and University of Pennsylvania graduate who has worked as an IT consultant, first thought of the idea sitting in a restaurant with friends figuring out who would pick up the check. He says he had to go to an ATM to pay back a friend who put the bill on a credit card.

Co-founder Sybil Lindsay said the biggest reason phones haven’t supplanted debit cards yet is because “you could throw a rock in any direction, 365 degrees, and hit an ATM here.” Xipwire, she said, will save consumers in ATM fees and retailers in charge card fees.

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