TECHCRUNCH: Snapchat, one of the ten most popular instant messengers in the world, has raised $200M from Alibaba Group and Saudi Arabian investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal at the valuation of $19B. Alibaba’s only weakness against its traditional rival – Chinese Tencent – is the lack of a strong position in the messaging market. With this investment (as well as the investment of $215M in Tango messenger last year) Alibaba is trying to strengthen its position in the market by diversifying assets and insuring itself against the negative effects of the growing popularity of instant messengers as a means for communication, shopping, financial transactions, etc.
TECHCRUNCH: Mobile payments and retail tech company Square has acquired Kili Technology, a Toronto-based startup specializing in silicon, electronic and software design for improvement payment processing. The newly-acquired company will remain in Toronto, which will now act as a second Canadian office for Square, which had previously opened its country HQ in Waterloo, home of one of the most-respected engineering schools in North America.
ВВС: Bitcoin might conjour up visions of dark doings on the Silk Road website and wildly fluctuating value for some – but could it provide a safe haven for the money sent home to loved ones by Africa’s diaspora? Over 30 million Africans live in the diaspora. They sent almost $40bn (£26.5bn) home in 2014, a figure that is likely to grow significantly in the coming years.
TECHCRUNCH: Starbucks’ mobile ordering system, which allows customers to place orders in advance of their visit to the store, pay from their phone, then skip the line when they arrive, is today rolling out to more locations across the Pacific Northwest, including Starbucks’ home base of Seattle. In total, there are now 650 more locations supported in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska, says the company, ahead of the national rollout planned for this year.
PYMNTS: MasterCard and Microsoft have announced a partnership to support Mexico’s economic development. The companies support the foundation of the national economy – micro merchants — with complex projects, innovative technological, communication and payment tools. The partnership is said to be aimed at encouraging the use of electronic payments, as well as legitimacy and formality of technology products and services.
VENTUREBEAT: Less than a week after Kickstarter saw the new Pebble smartwatch smash its previous funding record to smithereens, fellow crowdfunding platform Indiegogo has an all-new record to boast about too. With $5.3 million in the coffers so far and 27 days still remaining, the Flow Hive campaign has now passed the previous record-holder — Hour of Code— which had received some big-name donations from the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to help increase uptake of computer science in schools.
VENTUREBEAT: Today, Square announced a new program for merchants that protects them when customers dispute purchases. When buyers contest a charge on their credit or debit card, that money is immediately put on hold. That means the merchant loses the money generated from the sale as well as the product or service it sold. Starting today, Square is giving merchants in the U.S. and Canada access to charge-back protection, which will cover the money being held in instances of fraud. Meaning, sellers won’t lose out on sales that are being contested. Square will cover expenses related to sales disputes up to $250 per month.
TECHCRUNCH: Apple CEO Tim Cook offered a quick update this morning on the rapid growth of Apple Pay. Apparently the company’s mobile payment technology is now supported by 2,500 card-issuing banks (up from only six when the product was announced in September), while the number of locations accepting Apple Pay has tripled to nearly 700,000.
E27.CO: The startup aims to make transactions simpler by offering easy multi-currency management. Tofupay is one of the 11 teams chosen to join the blueprint accelerator programme. This international team of five will be working on their not-so-stinky idea, Tofupay, an alternative service to make online payments and transactions easier and more economical.
DIGITAL CURRENCY MAGNATES: Fidor is not your ordinary bank. You can actually sign into your account through Facebook Connect. They have offered a savings account with an interest rate determined by the number of Like’s awarded on the company’s Facebook page. Customers can interact in the Fidor online community with each other and even support staff, should they have inquiries. They also offer P2P loans through crowdfunding and P2P betting. So it’s only natural that they’ll take a liking to P2P currencies. (more…)
FAST COMPANY: Thiago Olson, a 25-year-old founder and CEO of payment company Stratos, is now the focus of attention of the American media because his company has released a plastic card that can replace all bank cards in your wallet. However, Olson is no stranger to media attention: he built a nuclear reactor in his house at age 17.
WIRED: Remeber Coin, the credit card-sized gizmo that promised to streamline your wallet by consolidating all your other, actual credit cards? It raked in approximately a gazillion dollars in pre-orders when it debuted in November 2013, only to become another certified crowdfunding debacle, beset by delays and acrimony. Buyers were initially told it would ship summer 2014; the vast majority are still waiting. If nothing else, the saga proved that there is interest in a wallet-slimming wonder card. Now, those interested have another option to consider. Stratos is more or less the same concept as Coin, just with a slicker design and one other key advantage: Its creators claim it’s actually ready to ship. The question is whether or not it will be relevant once the payment world starts the shift to chip-enhanced cards this fall.
TECHCRUNCH: Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening. (more…)
TECHCRUNCH: PayPal, the payments service with 162 million users preparing to separate from e-commerce giant eBay later this year, is announcing an acquisition today to help build out its mobile business targeting physical merchants, and sharpen its focus in competition with other tech payment hopefuls like Apple and Google. It is buying Paydiant, a startup out of Boston that makes mobile wallet technology. That technology, in turn, powers payment apps for large business like Subway, Harris Teeter supermarkets, Capital One bank, and — perhaps most notably — MCX, a merchant-owned network that is developing a payment app called CurrentC.
FAST COMPANY: Kickstarter may have kickstarted the crowdfunding movement, but it did so with arbitrary and capricious rules that embraced some projects while refusing to host others, and limited its own growth. But the company underwent a leadership change in late 2013, and last year reengineered itself as an integral part of the startup hardware boom. It saw two companies that started on its platform, Oculus and SmartThings, get acquired by Facebook and Samsung, for $2 billion and $200 million respectively. And it neared in on $1.5 billion in money pledged to projects.
WIRED: When you buy art, you typically get something physical in return: A print, a painting, a sculpture. And that piece of art, depending upon who created it and what happens after you bought it, can become very valuable down the line. Or not. But here’s an interesting idea: What would happen if you were to invest in the artist instead of the art? That’s a question Sarah Meyohas, a young photographer from Yale’s MFA program, hopes to answer with her latest project. Meyohas, working with Brooklyn’s Where gallery, created BitchCoin, a new cryptocurrency. Like bitcoin, BitchCoin is virtual and “mine-able,” but has just one purpose: to buy Meyohas’ art.
WIRED: Perhaps you’re one of the many thousands of people who’ve automated some small part of their digital existence with IFTTT. Maybe you’ve instructed it to post your Instagram shots to Twitter, or to text message you whenever someone in your city puts an acoustic guitar for sale on Craigslist.
Until now, these “recipes” have been dependent on something else happening. If this, then that. But with its new trio of apps, IFTTT wants to let you start taking action yourself. (more…)
WIRED: Long ago, your parents probably gave you some advice: never borrow money from a friend. More importantly: never let your friends borrow from you. If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that mixing money and friendship rarely ends in anything other than blood and tears.
Skylar Woodward wants you to forget all about that. Woodward is the CEO of Puddle, a recently-launched service that lets you borrow money from your social network instead of through traditional avenues like banks and credit cards. Explained in brief: Throw money into a digital pot and you can take out five times as much as you’ve put in when you need it. So for example, say you throw $10 into your Puddle; that automatically gives you a credit line of $50 that you can dip into whenever you need. $100 turns into $500 and $500 into $2,500. You can choose to pay off the borrowed monthly installments over either three or six months. No interest beyond a set fee for every month you’re paying back (this incentivizes early repayment Puddle says). Sound crazy? It’s really not. (more…)
The Payments Industry Explained: The Trends Creating New Winners And Losers In The Card-Processing Ecosystem
Business Insider: The payments industry had a huge year in 2014 and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. On the one hand tech giants like Amazon and Apple released new products that affirmed their long-term payments ambitions (Apple Pay and Amazon Local Register). On the other hand startups such as Stripe and ShopKeep continued to carve out market share, challenging older players like PayPal and VeriFone. (more…)