A few years ago, universal payment cards were a mini-fad online. The idea was that you carried one “smart” card which stored the numbers of all of your other credit cards. The most popular was Coin, which was ultimately acquired by Fitbit and shut down. Another card was Plastc, which has brought in $9 million through pre-orders since 2014, but has yet to ship — and is now out of business
This is not another cautionary tale about crowdfunding, exactly, because Plastc didn’t use a platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to gather publicity and pre-orders. Like another still-unshipped gadget from 2014, the Mellow sous vide device, the company spread the word through social media, posts on technology blogs, and probably some online advertising.
The company uses the language of crowdfunding to talk about itself, its project, and its customers, though, calling the people who placed pre-orders “backers.”
In its shutdown announcement, which was also emailed to pre-order customers, the company explained that it was ending its operations on April 20, considering Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and that the pre-orders would not ship.
“It’s been a long road with a lot of obstacles,” they wrote. “The support of our amazing backers has been incredible, which makes this announcement even harder. We were so incredibly ready for production in order to hit our deadlines but without capital it is impossible for us to move forward and we will not be able to fulfill any pre-orders.”
“Capital? What about that $9 million?” the pre-order customers asked. That’s not quite clear, but the company claims to be broke. It was counting on money from outside investors to actually produce and ship the cards, but claims to have had a working prototype. Both investment deals fell through, and the company is shutting down. Its patents and prototypes will presumably be sold as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.
The universal credit card idea is still around, but it’s a troubled industry. There was Coin, and Engadget reminds us of Swyp, which appears to have shipped some cards and says that more will ship this summer. Stratos also managed to ship cards, and was bought out by another company that may not keep the service going.