From a nondescript office building in West Chester, a small team of local businessmen is working to revolutionize the credit-card industry. X-Card Holdings president Mark Cox is the brains behind the technology: a colorless $2 million prototype the size of a credit card and the consistency of a Listerine breath strip.
“We’ve essentially shrunken a computer down [and made it] the shape and flexibility of a piece of cellophane paper,” says Cox of the X-Card, which also supports a battery and an on/off switch. “It can be easily embedded into credit cards or other plastic cards, to give them the technology, power and brains to solve real issues for real people.”
The embedding process is the crucial part of the equation. Cox has been able to do what’s never been done: His “computer on a sheet of cellophane paper” can withstand the standard hot-lamination techniques of the manufacturing process. Launched last month in Las Vegas at the seventh annual Prepaid Expo, the X-Card can manage everything from illuminated animation to graphics that display the card number only when its owner uses a personal passcode.
Dave Ludin was an executive with American Express for more than a decade before joining the X-Card team. “I tell people all the time that I should’ve met Mark in the Silicon Valley, not Great Valley,” he says. “It was hard to believe that what I viewed as the new plateau of card technology was actually being produced by a visionary working in my town.”
Not many know that the top three smart-card manufacturers in the world are located in Montgomeryville, Paoli and Exton. “And they haven’t figured out what Mark has been able to,” says Ludin. “His innovation is serving a global need.”
Cox’s past experience in the credit-card industry focused on identity theft. “I learned a great deal about credit-card theft,” he says. “I realized I could build a card to solve those issues with technologies I was reading and learning about.”
Cox took a leap of faith. “It took about two and a half years of my own work, and investing a significant part of my own savings, to realize that it really was what I thought it could be,” he says. “My wife and family have been incredibly supportive.”
After getting a patent and launching the company, Cox kept things quiet until he was further along in the research-and-development process. “I didn’t want to make a bunch of promises,” he says. “I went into development with IBM, and they helped me with original design specifications. We developed the prototypes.”
When time came to do just that, Cox sought out the best in the industry: Ludin, fellow American Express exec Ernie Bedford and Dominic Catrambone, a former wealth manager at Penn Liberty Bank. “They gave me a lot of credibility,” says Cox.
An impressive list of lead investors includes James Macaleer, chairman of the board of Siemens Medical Solutions Health Services Corporation in Malvern, and Jim Genuardi of the Genuardi supermarket family. “They believe in me and what I’ve created,” says Cox. “I wouldn’t be as far along as I am without them.”
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