Have you ever been to a nice dinner with 7 great friends? The food is great, the wine is flowing, and the jokes are flying back and forth. The last thing you want to do at the end (or start) of a great evening is spend 15 minutes collecting money from each person or waiting for the poor waiter to have to run 8 separate credit cards through the slow-as-hell machine while he silently seethes at how he should have spit in your food when he had the chance.
Or let’s say you’re running an *unofficial* NCAA tournament pool and need to collect money from 50 of your frat bros who are spread out across the country? What do you do?
I recently came across a brilliant new app called Venmo that seems to have solved all of these problems. Venmo is a quick, simple, fun, and FREE way to pay your friends using your mobile phone.
When I was showing the app to someone last week at a bar, I whipped out my phone and paid a friend in less than 15 seconds.
As you can see below, Venmo tracks your payments and shows your payments as well as those of your friends (although you can choose to make a transaction private if you’d like).
There are several other apps (like Venmo and the big-boy PayPal) that do what Venmo does. Here are a couple probably dumb ideas that Venmo could implement to help them differentiate themselves from their mobile payment competitors.
1. Add a Leaderboard - I floated this idea with some friends last week and they all agreed it would be fun to have some “Superlative” type awards like:
3. Track potential payments before processing payments (i.e a Tab) - Perhaps have a way to keep track of payments before paying. This would be useful if I’m at a bar with a few friends and don’t want to exchange cash right away after each round but also don’t want to let that one cheapskate friend who never buys a round off the hook. It would be great if Venmo had a way to privately keep track of who paid what and then settle up with one simple transaction at the end of the night.
4. Add Instagram Functionality - To truly make Venmo social it would be really cool to have people take pictures of what they are buying / paying for (when appropriate) and incorporate it to the Payments stream in the app.
5. Partner with Foursquare - Foursquare collects a ton of valuable data from its users but doesn’t have a way of figuring out how much their customers are spending at each location they check into. A Venmo-Foursquare partnership could a great way to garner valuable information on how much money is spent per user at specific locations.
6. Partner with Small Businesses - If local businesses can get customers to pay via phones from their bank accounts and not credit cards, they may be able to save significant amounts of money (as long as the fee is less than the credit card fee)
7. Target Fantasy Sports - Venmo could solve a major issue that fantasy sports leagues have - timely payment of funds. While I don’t really think it technically is legal to collect and pay out money for fantasy leagues, the reality is that fantasy sports are a billion dollar industry. Venmo is one of the easiest ways I know of transferring money to the League Commissioner at the beginning of the season and then having him/her payout the money in a timely manner throughout the year.
Venmo is a fantastic product that I love and frequently use. It is easy yet extremely effective. My only concern is how Venmo can generate sufficient revenue. I’ve used it 8 times and don’t believe that Venmo has made a penny on any of those transactions. Now as a customer, I love this, but as an impartial observer of the Company it does raise some potential concerns as Venmo starts to actively try and generate revenue (a recent press article said that the company was currently focusing on the product and that “that the app may eventually allow individuals to pay bars and restaurants, for example, and in that case Venmo would charge the merchants a small fee”.
If you haven’t used Venmo, download it and try it out. It really is a great app.
Note: An earlier version of this post had screenshots from my Venmo account that did not show up correctly. Thanks to Steve Giordano for pointing this out.