Internet surfers have only ten days to use up their Beenz after the firm announced Thursday that its online operations will cease on Aug 26. Any outstanding Beenz will be worthless after that date.
In addition to shutting down its online currency system, Beenz is closing its London offices and laying off the 10 to 15 employees that work there, said Beenz spokesman David Vindel. It will keep its New York office open and is in negotiations with several companies about selling off its assets piecemeal, he said.
Vindel declined to say which companies are negotiating for Beenz hardware, software and intellectual property, but said Beenz plans to announce a deal "soon".
The shutdown comes on the heels of the suspension of rival online currency Flooz.com last week. Flooz is talking with several companies about resurrecting its operations and expects those talks to come to fruition soon, Flooz chief executive Robert Levitan said earlier this week. Unlike Beenz, Flooz shut down without warning consumers in advance.
Beenz, which raised about US$80 million in four rounds of funding, is not in any financial difficulty and does not plan to file for bankruptcy, Vindel said. Instead, the company is winding down operations to conserve cash, he said.
"The company has money. It's just reducing costs even further, trying to provide shareholders with value," Vindel said.
Beenz announced in March that it was actively seeking a buyer or additional to keep afloat its London operations. Over the last year, the company has gone from having 265 employees in 15 offices worldwide to having just 25 employees total in its New York and London offices, Vindel said.
Vindel did not know how much in outstanding Beenz are still being held by customers.
After the Internet bubble burst, e-currency companies tried to evolve by concentrating on business customers, but the collapse of a high-profile trailblazer such as Beenz shows that the "old-economy" credit card firms have probably won the online shopping battle.
Experts believe that online currency sites such as Beenz were overtaken as a way of shopping online by credit cards, which had the advantage of being virtually universally accepted both on and offline. In contrast, digital currency appealed to Internet merchants because they avoid the hefty charges involved with credit cards.
Some two to six companies are negotiating to buy bits of Beenz operations, Vindel said. The London layoffs will happen in the next several weeks, he said.