Seconds Was Just Given A HUGE Holiday Gift, And It’s Not Even Halloween Yet!

Christmas is still more than 2 months away, but we are already full of holiday cheer.  We have been chosen to be a part of a large holiday tradition, putting Seconds payments on the national stage and changing the trajectory of our company forever.

What it is?  Can’t tell just yet.  But I can tell you it’s not proving mobile payments at Macy’s.  And it’s definitely not a Starbuck’s payments deal, Square already go that one!  Stay tuned for more details in the next few weeks.

But let’s just say Square can’t do what Seconds is about to do.

The Evolution Of Digital Payments Says Anything Made Of Matter Is Toast

The payments landscape is changing almost daily and the overall industry is truly one of the most exciting business studies around.    Payments?  Exciting you say?  Yes, well if you don’t’ think $1 trillion up for grabs in the next 5 years is something to get excited about I would check your pulse.

As an natural observer I tend to look under the hood whenever something unusual is going on, since whenever peculiarity is present change happens.   Curiosity is actually what drove me to start Seconds, my mobile payments company.  It all started with observing how consumers interacted with merchants, repeat interactions in particular.  Isn’t it funny how we go to the same coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores, gas stations, and other everyday activities each day.  In fact, we do this so much the person at the counter who “swipes” your card actually recognizes you and may even know your name.

Although loyalty started my entrepreneurial journey, it did not end there.  I started to think a bit deeper about what usually happens each time you go to the coffee shops, restaurants, retail stores, or gas stations?  You got it – payment!  There it is, the one data point which can trace commercial actions, habits, relationships and trends.  Imagine being able to aggregate and see all those data points in your own life.  Things like where you spend your money, how much, when, buying what and how often.  Now imagine it on a merchant wide level.  How about a worldwide level?  I think you get the gist of where we are going.

This thinking brought me to Seconds, which is the fastest way to transact and interact with merchants.  I believe if you speed up a traditionally laborious process, make it available to the widest range of people possible and emancipate the data to be used in adding value to the system, great things will happen.

During this study it came to my attention how much the payment experience has evolved, and how much more it will change.   Below is a quick discussion on where we have come from and where we are going with digital payments.  You will notice this discussion is all about digital payments, since cash and coin have always been available and will still be around for quite some time.   The current focus is on the digital payment experience and the changes we should expect.

Payments 1.0

When plastic cards came into the market the obvious question became “how do we use these things?”  Naturally, swipe terminals popped up in retail locations everywhere, in addition to such places as gas stations and movie theatres.  Major players like Verifone, WorldPay and others transact billions of dollars each day through proprietary devices which translates information from your plastic card into electronic data and ultimately ending in a transaction.

Important to note is the placement and positioning of the terminal, which can be found on the specific merchant’s counter or apparatus.  Why is this important?  Without the terminal, I cannot pay.  No terminal, no card, no soup for you!  This gave credit card companies and the electronic payments companies a leg up in the economic chain.  But innovation has no master and things quickly change.

Payments 1.5

We are currently seeing new methods of swipe transactions involving the mobile device hit the mass market.  These swipe solutions enable a mobile phone or tablet to become, in essence, the terminal itself.  The terminal has jumped off the merchant’s counter and into their hands with products like Square or PayPal empowering anyone to become a merchant.  All anyone needs is a mobile device, the app, and the swipe dongle attached to the device.  They are now ready to take a card payment.

As amazing as these solutions may be I argue they don’t truly change the payments space, they only augment it.  They allow us to use our credit cards at more places – which depending on who you are that could be good or bad – yet it’s still a credit card.  Some people call this mobile payments but it’s really just a mobile terminal. The requirements of products and devices can be cumbersome and troublesome if lost.  Forward progress?  For sure!  But not truly an innovative new movement which will have landscape shifting effects.

Payments 2.0

True innovation upsets the masses and ultimately establishes a new norm, with new rules and new players.  Virtual transactions – payments made without having to swipe, show or display anything – will transform the payments landscape like no one has ever seen before.  Since people carry their mobile devices with them everywhere, it makes the most sense to streamline transactions through the computer in their hands.  True authentic mobile payments do not require any hardware outside of the mobile device.  With cloud computing and offsite secure services holding payment credentials for every consumer, people now have an ability to make simple, quick and easy mobile payments ANYWHERE.  As the consumer, the terminal is now in your hands.

Platform agnostic solutions will enable any mobile device holder to transact and make a purchase with any merchant or brand connected to the platform.  It shouldn’t require me to have an iPhone, Android or any other specific device.  I don’t’ think “sorry, we only accept iPhones” should replace “sorry, we don’t accept American Express.”  Everyone is created equal and every dollar bill is $1.00, no matter who is holding it.  This principle  should remain the same as we evolve into a purely digital society and work through determining the appropriate payment methods.

And as payments become virtual, platforms such as Dwolla start to make a lot more sense.  If you were a merchant looking to accept mobile payments, which would fee you rather pay – a flat 25 cents or between 2-3% of a transaction?  It’s no contest, Dwolla’s fee structure could put credit card companies directly out of business, unless they bring down their fees to a competitive level.

I have said this before but it bears repeating: what if SMS messaging was not only for communications?  What if, as a very efficient information transport  mechanism organically built into billions of mobile devices around the world, it was used for payments and transactions?  Seconds drives secure payments through text messages, allowing someone to quickly make a instant and automatic transaction by simply texting a keyword to a merchant.   Conversely, a merchant can ping your mobile phone with a message to complete the transaction by simply responding with a specific prompt.  How did they know to do that?  Your phone number has now become your payment credential, and interestingly enough they can instantly reach you via short message from pretty much anywhere in the world.  Imagine how things will change when we all can interact and transact with any brand in the world in Seconds?

I am not sure how much quicker we can make things but a second is pretty damn quick.


Where Is Your Favorite Payments Company In The Mobile Payments Landscape?

The mobile payments market is white-hot right now.  PayPal just announced their latest creation, a Square knockoff (at first glance), LevelUp is seeing more than $1,000,000 worth of transactions per month and Square is now measuring their transactions in billions of dollars on a yearly basis.

The chart below is an illustration of the current mobile payments landscape.  The horizontal axis is the spectrum of where the product can be used in relation to proximity to the merchant.  Do you have to be in the store to complete the transaction?   Do you need to actually be at the register and touch or scan your mobile device to complete the transition?  If you do, I would argue it is not much of a step forward in payments technology.

The vertical axis is the spectrum of user accessibility, or the ability for an average mobile user to actually use the mobile payment platform.  As you can see, most mobile payment platforms are app based and focus on Apple or Android, the two main operating systems.  This excludes many millions of mobile consumers.  Also, the requirements for NFC enabled devices is even more far reaching and pretty much isolates payments to very few merchants and consumers.

Where’s Seconds?  It’s all the way to the upper right.  The most accessible to merchants/consumers and is the most dynamic in relative proximity to a merchant.  Using Seconds, I can send a text and transact from anywhere in the city, state or country.  Shouldn’t mobile payments actually be mobile?

Don’t see your favorite?  Just let me know and I’ll place it on there.


Hey Google Wallet, Square and PayPal – Mobile Payments Should Be This Easy

NFC is not required.

There’s no app to download.

No special device needed to make a purchase.

Apple’s iOS and Android may be popular operating systems, but they aren’t needed to use Seconds. Seconds merges transactions into one of the most popular technologies in the world, SMS messaging.  More than 234 million consumers holding mobile devices in the U.S. can use our payment system today because they can text.  Step back a second and think about that.  Why are barriers in the way of an everyday activity like payments?  There should be no barrier to usage, no device requirements or specific apps to download.  Isn’t that how mobile payments should be –  simple, quick, easy and available to anyone?

Why is that so important you might ask?  The diffusion and resulting adoption of a new technology is at the mercy of its availability to consumers.  Why did email spread so quickly?  Simply because people only needed a computer and an internet connection.  The same goes with credit cards, people don’t need a special wallet to carry a credit card, they just need it in hand to correctly communicate with the terminal and make a payment.  If mobile payments are to be available to all we must start at the lowest common denominator.  Today’s common denominator is the device – not a specific model or operating system – but the general mobile device itself, which at last count was almost 6 billion worldwide.  That’s a big market.  And the first to grab consumer mindshare will be one of the big winners.

Once an account is set up, which connects Seconds to your mobile device, all you need to do in order to pay for something is type the keyword and you are automatically charged. Or if you have communicated purchase intent with a merchant, they simply hit one button and a confirmation text is sent to your phone.  Interestingly, this makes a consumer’s mobile number their new payment credential and opens up many new avenues for quick mobile transactions.

The video below shows how one of our pilot customers is using Seconds to distribute their food products around Seattle and beyond.  The hungry person approaches the fridge, texts the word ‘wrap’, a payment confirmation is automatically sent back a few seconds later and they grab the wrap and go on their way.  That’s the future folks…  it’s so much a part of the future Walmart, Target and other large retailers are fussin‘ to build a custom mobile payment experience of their own.

Even better, Seconds allows merchants to program their mobile payments system to create any number of keywords with prices attached so their customers can text and pay with certain words sent to the merchants’ Seconds number.  We have already sat around and wondered what happens when Siri gets involved?

Seconds sits at the convergence of communications and transactions, two activities going through tremendous innovation and both which are germane to commerce.  It’s a perfect marriage and a perfect time to merge the two.  Quite frankly, you really don’t want one without the other since more communications leads to more transactions and vice versa. It’s an absolute virtuous cycle for any merchant.

Also realize Seconds dissociates proximity from transaction, meaning I don’t have to be standing in front of a barista or wave my phone on something to make a purchase, the obvious limitation to NFC payments. This frees up the mobile device to become the new payment terminal, a terminal that resides in the consumer’s hand rather than sitting on the merchants counter.

Mobile transactions will explode once the experience is so quick and simple it only takes Seconds to complete.

Welcome to Seconds.