SINGAPORE-based start-up Without A Trace has launched what it claims to be the world's first fully-automated cash-cleaning service, and pledges to wash and press customers' bank notes in half the time required for more traditional methods - and with better results.
Ben Krawber, its founder, told The Business Times in an interview: "We're disrupting the world of money washing with technology. Now everyone can have clean money in their pockets, in their wallets and in their hands." He said he got the idea for his business while at an airport.
"I was buying a croissant, and when I got my change, the five euro bill seemed to have been marked...with jam," he said. "I thought, there must be an easy way to get this cleaned." So Mr Krawber, who says he used to work in the extraction side of the finance industry, set about solving the problem of dirty money.
People who wanted to clean their cash used to have to do it themselves, but the introduction of plastic notes made the ironing of dollar bills a rather sticky business, he said. Professional cleaners exist, but they are traditionally run as side businesses in nondescript restaurants, and going to pick up or drop off money in those places often entails taking roundabout routes at ungodly hours.
Without A Trace has ridden on technology to offer a better solution. Mr Krawber said he paid a group of university students cash and pizza to develop a machine that can clean all kinds of physical money - paper, plastic and coins.
Another patented machine presses plastic notes without melting them.
Without A Trace says it only uses sustainable cleaning agents. "We remove 99.9999 per cent of germs, foodstuff, organic contaminants, prohibited chemicals, and anything that can leave a trail," Mr Krawber said. Customers arrange for pick-up and delivery through Without A Trace's mobile app. The service charges 88.8 Singapore cents for every S$100.
Without A Trace even accepts bitcoins; the company will convert the cryptocurrency into actual cash, wash that cash and transfer the cleaned money to the customer in secure briefcases.
"This is something we couldn't do previously because the technology didn't exist," Mr Krawber said. "Now we can give our customers the convenience and discretion they want. We'll clean your money, no questions asked."
Without A Trace has started offering its services to offshore institutions and high-net-worth individuals, and is in talks with private banks for possible tie-ups. For such customers, Without A Trace will accept listed and unlisted shares and bonds.
"The market for clean money is huge if you know where to look," Mr Krawber said. "We're taking fintech into new areas of growth."
This article was first published on April 3, 2017.
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