This afternoon at the Hilton Garden Inn, a panel of VCs and startups discussed the future of online commerce with specific focus on online payments. Two of the startups, WePay and Stripe (represented by Rich Aberman and Patrick Collison respectively), are online payments vendors. Fundly, represented by Dave Boyce, does social crowd sourced philanthropy and is an online payments customer who had a bad experience with PayPal and has since switched off of it.
Dan Rosen of Highland Capital Partners said that while we’re a couple years away from ubiquitous NFC, there is a very big future in mobile payments. An interesting point made by Mr. Collison of Stripe was that in physical retail situations, once you get up to the register you are pretty much committed to the purchase; the rate of cart abandonment is low. In that context, different sorts of checkout experiences don’t have a big impact on the end result. But online in the same categories people abandon carts at much higher rates, and the impact of friction in the cart experience makes an enormous difference. And that’s why these startups and others are all striving to use new technology and improved UI to make the payment part of checkout as smooth as possible and as affordable as possible for small merchants.
A special nod was given to Kenya’s “M Pesa” initiative, which has enormous penetration into the Kenyan economy. It was given as an example of how innovation may actually be driven from the third world, where overcoming existing infrastructure and intertia is less of an issue because they don’t have much of either holding them back. Similarly, smaller merchants here will be faster to adopt and encourage new payment methods, since they currently pay significantly higher fees than larger players per transaction for merchant accounts.
Also discussed was the “iWallet” patent granted to Apple this past week, and how the launch of this functionality could be substantially disruptive.