Paymentpalooza: PayPal's New Dongle and BOKU's New Bucks

Several years ago I met with someone working for PayPal and we talked about how the company could more deeply penetrate the small-business market. We talked about various ideas but everything seemed "hard." Cut to the arrival of Square; the solution is now obvious.

Square has blazed a trial that has been followed and copied by Intuit and now PayPal, with PayPal Here, a similar but triangular dongle that also fits into smartphones and iPads. In Q4 last year Square announced that it was processing $11 million in payments per day. 

How will PayPal's service differentiate from Square? PayPal Mobile VP David Marcus (who came via the Zong acquisition) explained in a blog post:

So, you’re asking, how is this different from other small business mobile payment solutions? The key differentiator is that it comes from PayPal, a trusted brand in the online payments industry with more than 100 million customers around the globe and years of proven payment innovation, driving growth for millions of businesses globally. PayPal Here comes with our world-class fraud management capabilities, and our 24×7 live customer support. In addition to accepting more payment methods, PayPal Here offers a simple flat rate of 2.7% for card swipes and PayPal payments. Merchants are also given a business debit card for quick access to their funds and 1% cash back on eligible purchases – which means if you use the debit card, your fees are actually just 1.7%!

In other words: 

  • The PayPal brand, merchant support and scale
  • Cheaper transaction fees (1.7% - 2.7%) 

Square's transaction fees currently stand at 2.75%. However I suspect Square will respond to PayPal's reduced rates.

Beyond the (somewhat smaller) transaction fees, if PayPal Here can deliver on its promises of security and customer support it could impact Square's growth opportunity. Yet Intuit has had a competitive solution for some time, and that hasn't really affected Square. More likely, PayPal's entry into the market will grow the overall payment-dongle market and affect banks and existing vendors that make money from merchant accounts and credit card processing. 

Separately, payments startup BOKU received another substantial infusion of capital to focus more on the offline market. Companies like Zong and BOKU initially focused on virtual goods and online transactions. However the real action is offline -- a market that is many times larger than e-commerce and virtual goods. 

The $35 million received by BOKU brings to roughly $75 million (per TechCrunch) the total funds raised to date. Spanish telco giant Telefonica is one of the investors in this latest round. 

In the SMB segment, the growing number of payments options and startups will likely create confusion. PayPal and Square (and maybe Intuit) are the companies that will be able to rise above that noise given their brands. While Square doesn't have the same brand equity as Intuit and probably PayPal, it does have more momentum than either in the SMB mobile payments segment. 

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