Chapter Fifty-One

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Everyone in the room seemed extremely eager to hear what I was about to say. I had prepared this night for weeks to make sure everything was perfect. On the table to my right was my briefcase. In it, I had a stack of laminated coil-bound prospectuses to give everyone at the end of the night. For those who wished to join me on this venture, each would receive their own key to the office I was renting.  

Earlier that evening, I had pulled Steve aside and asked him to assist me with a little demonstration. Right on cue, I began my presentation.  

"Steve, do me a favor. Can you please take out your wallet?" 

"Sure." 

"Okay, now I want you to take out all the cards in your wallet and read out the types of each." 

Steve aptly complied with my request. "Alright, let's see. I have four Visas, an American Express, my gym pass, Air miles, Shoppers Optimum, Safeway, Save-on foods, IGA, my Driver's license, Care Card, Social Insurance card, I have two debit cards, some gift cards..." Steve continued until he had a sizable stack of plastic in front of him. 

"Okay, now someone tell me what is wrong with that?" 

"It's a lot of plastic," someone called out. 

"That's right, and not only that, many of those cards require PIN numbers, and some of those cards are only used once in a while. 

"Thank you, Steve. You may put those away now. 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm proud to present to you, the solution," I said, as I took out a shiny black card and showed it to everyone. "My plan is to combine all those cards into one card, called the Unity Card."  

I had a stack of prototype cards made up and passed them around the room, one for everybody. 

"I came up with this idea while working at the bank. I would receive countless calls each day about people forgetting their PIN numbers. The Unity Card solves that problem by combining all your cards into one card, with only one PIN number to remember."  

I paused and waited for it to sink in. 

"Now, let me assure you, achieving this will be no simple feat. There are a number of problems. First, suppose you are out shopping and you swipe your Unity Card. How are you going to be able to select between your different accounts?" 

Nobody volunteered to answer. 

"The solution to that problem is to have a new payment terminal installed in every retailer in the world. This new device will have a digital screen that will display all the different card types that the store accepts. The user then inserts their Unity Card and selects their preferred method of payment.  

Now, I can see the wheels in your heads turning. Many of you probably foresee a number of problems with this. Don't worry, I have already thought of them. What is one obvious problem with this card?" I asked. 

My brother was quick to respond. "People won't leave their house with just one card - what if they need to buy something and the merchant doesn't accept Unity Cards? Since people won't want to take that chance, they will still bring all their cards with them. Thus, the Unity Card will be just another card in their wallet, except it will be redundant and unnecessary." 

"You are absolutely right. So what's the solution?" I asked, trying to get some more audience participation. Again, nobody volunteered to answer. "The solution is to make sure every merchant in the country accepts Unity Cards.  

As I look around, I can tell some of you already see the catch twenty-two. Merchants have no incentive to update their payment terminals if nobody has the Unity Card, and if merchants don't have the technology, then users have no way of using the Unity Card, so they won't get one. So what's the solution?" I asked. 

This time, Steve responded. "We provide every merchant with a new device." 

"Correct. Are there any questions?" 

As soon as I said that, about a half dozen arms shot up in the air. "Brian, go ahead, I believe I saw your hand raised first." 

"Okay, so you somehow create this new device and give it to every merchant..." 

"Right." 

"How much will that cost?"  

"That's a great question. I have collaborated with Trek Micro Systems to update all their devices to enable cardholders to use the Unity Card. They have the knowledge and infrastructure to produce these new devices and get them in the hands of every merchant in North America." 

"Wouldn't it be easier to just have an application on your cell phone rather than have a card? In many parts of the world, people pay with their cell phones," Brian said. 

"I thought about that; however, merchants would still need the technology to communicate with the cell phone, and not everyone has a cell phone that can do that. Remember, in order for this to work, I need as many people to sign up as possible, so creating a free card is the most efficient way to achieve that. But that's a good idea, maybe we can have a smartphone app version too." 

"So how does this generate revenue?" McKay asked. 

"Another great question, I'm glad you asked. Unity Card will be free for cardholders, but we will charge the merchants a small user fee, also known as a swipe fee, similar to what the banks charge." 

"So, I'm not really sure I understand how this will work," Eduardo said. 

"Our cards will have a computer chip in them much like the credit and debit cards have now. The cardholder will insert their Unity Card and enter their PIN the same way. The new devices from Trek Micro will automatically detect the relevant reward points card for that store. There will be a touch screen on the hand-held device that will display 'Credit' or 'Debit'. If the cardholder selects 'Credit', then a list of all the credit cards that store accepts will appear and the user will be able to choose whichever one they want to use."  

"But doesn't that create a problem of having all your eggs in one basket? I mean, what if the one card you have to pay for everything gets lost or stolen?" someone from the back of the room shouted out. 

"I don't believe it's any more of a problem than placing all of your cards and cash into one wallet. In fact, the Unity Card is better since people will still keep all their cards at home as a backup. If their Unity Card is ever lost or stolen, we can simply place a hold on it, have another card couriered out the next day, and they are up and running again. This is actually much better than losing a wallet since you don't run the risk of losing any cash, you don't have to call dozens of companies, wait or hold, verify your information over and over, and pay for new I.D.s..." 

There was some chatter amongst the room, but I silenced it by introducing the final and most important topic. 

"I want to address the catch twenty-two problem because solving that problem is really at the heart of this company's success. To combat that, we will need to launch an aggressive advertising campaign to sign up as many cardholders as possible. We will need to have online ads, print ads, billboards, TV and radio commercials, celebrity endorsements, kiosks at every major mall and airport - you name it. We also need to create a website where users can create a profile and update their Unity Card." 

There was a buzz in the room; everyone seemed really excited with what I had presented. This time, I simply stood at the front of the room and smiled proudly. I could not believe this moment was actually happening.

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