Ellis & Co client case study: ImageNPay

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A conversation about making a payment for his son’s game has led to an entrepreneur developing the world’s first image based payment system.

Michael Donald, a former banking executive, has launched a digital and mobile platform that enables users to personalise a virtual payment card on a smartphone with images and dynamic content.

The concept couldn’t be simpler…a prepaid card app where the consumer can select the image they wish whilst also helping the environment by ridding the world of harmful single use plastic banking cards.

“ImageNpay Ltd was born from a simple discussion with my son four years ago which centred around his passion for gaming and a simple question, ‘Dad can I pay for Minecraft with a Minecraft image?” said Michael, former Chief Commercial Officer at MBNA.

“I was already working on a concept that could enhance the value consumers would accrue from monetising their digital DNA and linking it to a purely virtual card that would give customers greater choice and so I thought why not merge the two ideas?”

Michael expects traditional card payments to soon become a relic of the past as people start to ‘wake up’ to the environmental impact of plastic cards.

“There are more than 22 billion plastic payment cards in circulation worldwide,” said Michael.

“In general payment cards are issued in three year cycles with over six billion being re-issued in 2017 alone, most of which are made with unrecyclable PVC plastic.

“The plastic payment system is outdated, inefficient and ecologically damaging.” 

Card manufactures are now scrambling to create new cards that are not ecologically harmful, but this is not really a carbon neutral solution.

But now, Michael and his team of 15, based across three countries (and three time zones) have launched a sustainable and completely virtual/digital prepaid card, which allows the consumer to choose cause related, sports and moving images as their card design, whilst allowing short videos in app that form part of a call to action, a major first in the world of payments.

“In March we launched the world’s first payment card with moving images,” said Michael.

“We launched the most beautiful moving image on a virtual digital card with MasterCard of dolphins leaping through the ocean to coincide with Global Recycling Day.

“This was supported by the message ‘No plastic no pollution is the future solution’.

“We also used this message to launch sound and video in app,” he added.

The ImageNPay app provisions a virtual prepaid MasterCard directly to your phone where it can be used like any other MasterCard, but instead of details being embossed on unrecyclable single use plastic they are stored securely on a mobile phone.

From downloading via the app store to receiving your card and choosing your favoured image to go online, takes less than 10 minutes.

The payment system is a huge step for sustainability, and incredibly it’s all been developed and launched during a global pandemic and a worldwide lockdown.

“Over 40 people have been engaged in this incredible achievement since lockdown, but none of us have been able to be in the same room and so it is very frustrating,” said Michael.

“But at the same time a great achievement!

“One of the most satisfying parts about my job is working with people across multiple countries with differing cultures and learning, even in lockdown.”

Another challenge for Michael has been developing and launching a start-up business with a world first idea on a ‘shoestring budget’.

“We only use world class personnel and I would say we have run this project almost along the line of the military, plan the work, work the plan and plan multiple scenarios whilst then employing an agile approach,” said Michael.

The year ahead also looks set to mark more ‘firsts’ for Michael and the team, with Apple Pay and Android due to go live with their app.

There is also an Series A fund raise due out in May.

“The next 12 months will be governed by the pandemic and the ability to put resources on the ground in key markets,” said Michael.

“Although we have a global rollout plan that has already been approved by the board it will be tempered with realism as too many start-ups make decisions which are too optimistic only to end up hitting a wall at speed.

“No names here but I could list a few big ones that promised much and then have become lame ducks in Covid with closer scrutiny of their business models!”

A relationship that Michael admits makes his daily life ‘so much easier’, is that between him and his accountants Ellis & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers.

“We have been with Ellis & Co since 2018 and work very closely with John Moorhouse,” said Michael.

“Ellis & Co were highly recommended by an organisation we work with in Chester and I knew of them from when I was the Chief Commercial Officer at MBNA.

“Working with individuals like John makes my daily life so much easier and being able to work with him as a sounding board is invaluable.

“It makes our financial decision making faster and with subject matter advice that we have confidence in being readily accessible makes for a great partnership.

“They have a good reputation and also run a great practice, so we are very happy we made the choice,” he added.

For further information about ImageNPay click here.

Ellis & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, Chester & Wrexham - 01244 343504, info@ellis-uk.com