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The Right Way: Venmo is Like Money, But Better

By: Daryl Bernstein / Thursday, August 16, 2012

Our new series “The Right Way” profiles RightSignature power users, revealing their success secrets and the technology tools they use every day.

Venmo makes peer to peer mobile payments fun. Facilitating payments between any two users with a bank account, Venmo’s mobile apps offer a convenient replacement to cash. RightSignature’s Steve Stormoen spent some time with Venmo co-founder Andrew Kortina to learn how Venmo seeks to disrupt money itself.

To someone who’s never used Venmo, how would you describe it?

Andrew Kortina: Venmo lets people make and share transactions with friends.

When friends go out and have fun together--group dinners, cabs to the next spot, weekend trips, bachelor parties, lunches, coffees, etc--there’s an awkward moment when you have to figure out who’s paying and how to split it. Our apps for iPhone and Android make paying easy and social, so it becomes part of the fun, less of a burden, and a way to capture and share the fun experience you just paid for with your friends.

This video really says it all:

What’s the story behind Venmo? Where did the idea come from?

AK: About 2 years ago, Iqram, my co-founder was visiting me in New York for the weekend. He forgot his wallet, and ended up writing me a check to pay me back for everything we did. We both thought, “why aren't we (and more importantly, why aren’t all of our friends) using Paypal or some other app to pay each other back? We should be.” But when we looked around, all of the options we found were clunky and awkward for using with friends, and more appropriate for checking out on some website. So we designed Venmo, and made it fun, conversational, and social, just like all the other apps we saw our friends using.

What has been the biggest challenge Venmo has faced? How did you overcome it, or how are you planning to overcome it?

AK: One of our biggest challenges has been just letting people know that Venmo exists. Chase is running ads during the Super Bowl for their mobile payment app. We don’t have that kind of marketing budget, so we rely on our users to spread the word about Venmo.

Our advantage, though, is our design. We are designing our product to be easier to use, more fun to use, and more optimized for mobile (vs desktop) compared to our competitors. Our users aren’t tied to one bank, either: with Venmo, any 2 people with any 2 US bank accounts can pay each other. Finally, some of the things that make a service like Paypal a good option for online transactions---like on Ebay, where you don't trust the other party in a transaction---make it a little inconvenient as a way to pay friends. For example, with Paypal, it takes several days to withdraw your money, which is not so bad if you're doing an Ebay transaction, but not cool if you're trying to get the cash your roommate just gave you. So, on Venmo, you can withdraw funds overnight.

Since word of mouth is so important, we encourage users to share Venmo by continually improving the experience and trying to make it so amazing that they really want to tell everyone else about it.

Tell us how you use RightSignature, and which 4 other tech tools you can’t live without.

AK: I use it for signing all sorts of legal documents, of course! Printing and signing is just as old fashioned as writing a check, so I feel like in some ways Venmo and RightSignature solve similar problems. I also love Spotify, Dropbox, Asana, and Github.

What’s next for Venmo? What does the future hold for you?

AK: We want to give people even more opportunities to use Venmo. We get lots of feedback from users who say they love using Venmo with friends, and they want to use it at more places. So we’re figuring out what that looks like, and, of course, continuing to improve the core experience of paying friends.

In 5 years, we hope to be the app people go to whenever they want to make a payment using their mobile.


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