Ann Arbor’s Stratos Launches “Industry First” Connected Payment Card

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“We realized how important a referral program is, so we’ve built that into the app. If you refer someone, we’ll send a link and both of you will get a discount.”

The 50-person Stratos team is already hard at work on new features like “wave and pay,” and fingerprint authentication. Eventually, Olson hopes users will be able to load their cards on the app without a card reader.

The Stratos card is not the world’s first mobile payment system, of course—there’s Apple Pay and Google Wallet, to name two of the best-known examples. Olson says his card can work in tandem with services like Apple Pay: “We don’t view Apple Pay or Google Wallet as competition, but as a complement. We also have smart suggestions, and they don’t. It comes back to what we’re trying to do, which is a membership as opposed to a one-off gadget, and a way to improve upon the security of the way we pay. You also have the empowerment and intelligence that a connected device brings.”

Olson says it was tempting to introduce the Stratos card through a crowdfunding campaign in order to drum up media interest and pre-orders. But the company ultimately decided it didn’t want to go that route with a complex, new fintech product. “We wanted to establish a trustworthy relationship with our members first,” he explains.

Olson estimates the value of the market for the Stratos card is big. “It’s in between fintech and wearables, and the numbers associated with those markets are both high,” he says. “This is really a wearable of sorts. We’re focused on creating a lifestyle brand, so we plan a lot of social content with, for instance, influential Instagrammers.”

A year from now, Olson hopes to have a nationwide base of members as the company begins rolling out product updates. Stratos is also working with banks and the financial ecosystem to reach the audience of potential members who might not be as tech-savvy as early adopters.

“We’re a B2C business, but we’re talking to potential partners in the financial community,” Olson adds. “Our card is a huge differentiator.”

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Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the Custom Content Editor for Xconomy Insight. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @

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6 responses to “Ann Arbor’s Stratos Launches “Industry First” Connected Payment Card”

  1. George Adams says:

    The lack of chip (EMV) is a serious issue. EMV is currently rolling out and will be mandatory after October 2015.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2014/02/06/october-2015-the-end-of-the-swipe-and-sign-credit-card/

  2. Hi George, the company is actually already at work on that along with tokenization.

    • George Adams says:

      No they aren’t, impossible. The EMV chip’s are closely guarded secrets, to make one that would be dynamically configurable would defeat the entire system. Take a look at the Wired Article… they weren’t BS’ed and it’s clear the “tokenization” system being spoke of works in conjunction with an iPhone. At that point, with ApplePay, why do I even need the card?

      http://www.wired.com/2015/03/another-attempt-make-killer-connected-credit-card/ (starting on the 6th paragraph)

      • EMV definitely came up in our conversation, so it’s something the company is thinking about.

        As for why you need the card, that’s something I’m sure Thiago could argue far better than me, but the idea is that some people aren’t all the way comfortable with a purely mobile solution and still want a physical card to use. Among other reasons.

        • George Adams says:

          I have no doubt they are thinking about it, but the clear non wiggle room question should be this:

          “Will you support EMV?”

          There are two answers to that, yes (with a date) and everything else. Until that clear question is asked and answered (which a few journalists already have) you’re talking to the marketing department effectively.

          I understand some people aren’t comfortable with a purely mobile phone based solution but any “card format” solution to be 100% compatible after Oct 1 2015 will need to support EMV. End of conversation. And at this point that is strictly limited to plastic stripped cards with the EMV chip. Not re-programmable.

          Now… they might backdoor it using NFC and protocols similar to ApplePay but at that point it’s almost a “why bother”.