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Klink Mobile CEO Jessie Bishop bets that the future of moving money is on your cellphone

Klink Mobile CEO Jessie Bishop believes cellphones are the key to moving money.



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In early January, Klink was preparing to launch a text-message campaign, inviting users to try the service in Afghanistan. The risk was high for the young company — when a Klink transfer is made, the company fronts the cash, later recouping it from the sender's bank or credit card. That means Klink's scant resources (angel investors have pumped $80,000 into the company) could be strained and possibly drained.

"That's a really scary thing for me," Bishop says. "I'm like, shit, we better go raise some money."

Bishop is building Klink on a shoestring budget, or "bootstrapping," the startup code for hiring a few employees and working long hours for no pay. The entrepreneurial lifestyle has left Bishop with little time for a social life or friends.

"I haven't had a boyfriend in I don't know how long," she says. "That's a lot to ask from someone."

Despite a lack of funding, Bishop never gives off an air of desperation. She has been here before; this is the second time in three years that she has built an international company.

Bishop sounds like a career counselor when she talks about her pre-entrepreneurial life: "Don't ever be too good for anything. You never know when you're going to be rock-bottom or king of the hill."

She has been both.

Bishop grew up just outside De Soto. Her parents, Riley (a clinical social worker) and Linda Joslyn-Bishop (a psychologist), commuted daily to their Country Club Plaza offices. Her mother is the breadwinner and a breast-cancer survivor. She is an inspiration to her three daughters.

"We have a role model of a woman who had a career and never gave up her career," Bishop says. "She still works seven days a week, and she's 71."

Joslyn-Bishop says her daughter showed flashes of entrepreneurial hustle as a kid.

"She started the violin at 3 years old, and I remember the violin teacher telling me that she was the most fearless violin player he'd ever met," she says. "She just didn't know fear."

After graduating from Pembroke Hill School in 2001, Bishop attended Purchase College, State University of New York. But she left New York after the September 11 attacks, and she studied abroad in Spain. After her freshman year, she briefly moved to Morocco, where she lived in William S. Burroughs' former home. She later enrolled at the University of Puget Sound, earning a degree in fine art in 2005.

Finding a job in the art world proved difficult, so Bishop moved back to Kansas City and took a job as a barista at Beanology, a now shuttered boozy coffeehouse. She was looking for a more sustainable career when a regular customer hired her to troubleshoot VeriFone credit-card-payment machines.

"I know how to dissect those and put them back together," she says. "I know more than you could want to know."

But Bishop tired of corporate jobs. "I can't stay inside the lines," she says. "I need excitement. I need new things."

So she traded her office job for a waitress gig at Sullivan's Steakhouse in Leawood.

"I had to wear fishnets and black miniskirts, and I served cocktails for a while," she says, rolling her eyes. "You know, whatever. If you need money, you need money. If you need money, go out and make it."

Then Bishop decided to make money in a way that didn't involve fishnets or miniskirts. In 2009, she created her first startup, Prepay Nation, an international prepaid mobile-minutes company.

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