Nathan Hecht figures there were about 200 early adopters and potential investors in the room at Northside Festival when he demo’ed Kurrenci, a new digital money—”with a ‘k’ and an ‘i,’ as the perky demo video explains—that can be bought with a credit card, unused gift card or cash, and eventually, its creators hope, with airline miles and credit card rewards points.
Rather than taking on PayPal, Kurrenci is building a marketplace where vendors can promote themselves within the Kurrenci community or by using discounts in the form of exchange rates, which are set individually by each store.
By default, Kurrenci is pegged 1:1 to the dollar. Merchants can tweak this exchange rate—setting Kurrenci to, say, 1.20 Kurrenci to the dollar, in order to offer customers a generous albeit confusing discount. An item that would have cost you $5 now costs you $4.16. If a merchant bumps up the exchange rate in order to give a discount, Kurrenci takes a cut of the difference. Here’s a video to help explain the idea TechCrunch called “so out there that it’s hard to even explain clearly without sounding like a crazy person.”
Right now the platform works for donations and peer-to-peer payments, with group gifting and micropayments on the roadmap. The technology has been a year in the making and Kurrenci has signed up 35 merchants so far in its “soft beta,” Mr. Hecht said. It already has 15 employees and is looking to grow.
Kurrenci is “way more disruptive than Dwolla” and is in a “totally different category” than Bitcoin, Mr. Hecht said. Although there are “similarities” between Kurrenci and other payment systems, he said, “we don’t know of any direct competition at the moment” because Kurrenci is a customer acquisition platform.
The company’s employees are divided into technology, business development, sales and regulatory compliance, and Kurrenci is hiring for more sales and marketing positions as well as engineers.