Yesterday I pulled into a badly needed Exxon service station in the city of Santa Monica, where two observations struck me.
First, $4.45 is an egregious price to pay for a gallon of regular grade gasoline. You loyal Zaarly followers reading this from Rock Springs, Wyoming, enjoy your national low of $3.49. Oil futures be damned!
Second, the woman at the adjacent service pump conducted her entire payment transaction without cash, debit, or credit. There was no shiny plastic to dip into a card reader. No Abe or Alexander or Andrew to part with. The woman simply waved a tiny inch-long device across a scanner and moments later started pumping. No fuss, no muss, no bother.
What Exxon refers to as its “contactless” payment system (aka Speedpass) has been around for a while, I’d just never seen it in action until yesterday. The transaction itself didn’t introduce me to any revolutionary tech advancement or even inspire me to sign up for Speedpass, instead it served simply to reinforce the undeniable and irreversible direction in which our consumer payment world is headed. I suppose it comes down to three simple words: Smaller. Faster. Easier
But how did we get here? My grandfather drove across this country from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean in a Model-T Ford way back in the 1920s and I’m fairly confident he filled his tank using good old U.S. greenbacks. The reality was there simply weren’t any payment alternatives to cash, be it for gasoline, groceries, or gumballs. So before examining the current state of consumer payment options and the innovative future ahead, lets roll back the clock…way back.
The evolution of our modern day payment options are rooted some 4,000 years ago. Historians suspect the first use of money took the form of receipts, representing documented ownership of grain storage in Ancient Egypt. Receipts gave way to the rise of coinage in the form of valuable metals (e.g. copper, silver, gold), before those clever Chinese introduced paper money, or banknotes, around 600 A.D.
Fast forward through the next 1,400 years of payment evolution and jump right to 1949 and a fateful business dinner in midtown Manhattan between Frank McNamara and Ralph Schneider. Having forgotten his wallet and cash, McNamara saw an opportunity in providing a payment alternative to cash and set about developing the first modern day credit card. A year later the Diners Club Card was born.
In 1950, Diners Club issued its first card, made of cardboard, for use in 27 restaurants in New York City. A year later, nearly 20,000 Americans carried it in their wallet.
However, until 1958, no one had been able to create a successful revolving credit instrument that could facilitate merchant transactions on a meaningful scale. All that changed when Bank of America launched the BankAmericard and American Express issued the “Don’t Leave Home Without It” card. Nearly a decade later the ancestor of MasterCard was born when a group of California banks established Master Charge to compete with BankAmericard.
By the mid 1970s, with international credit card use gaining momentum, the tag “America” was dropped from the original BankAmericard card and VISA was born. Two years later, in 1979, Master Charge followed suit and changed its name to MasterCard.
U.S. adoption of this new payment method would help define our national consumer culture identify and forever change the American consumer marketplace. Just how much has the U.S. public come to embrace and rely on that 3.3” by 2.1” rectangular piece of plastic for all its ease, speed, and instant-gratification power?
The three main pillars that enable our credit payment addiction reported the following figures on total card circulation in the U.S. (through year-end 2010, unless otherwise noted):
- American Express credit: 48.9 million (Source: AmericanExpress.com)
- MasterCard credit: 171 million (Source: MasterCard)
- MasterCard debit: 123 million (Source: MasterCard)
- Visa credit: 269 million, as of Sept. 30, 2010 (Source: Visa)
- Visa debit: 397 million, as of Sept. 30, 2010 (Source: Visa)
That’s one and a half credit cards for each man, woman, and child living in America (slightly higher – 1.7 – for debit cards)! More representative of wide spread card adoption since introduction in the 1950s are the following stats from the U.S. Census Bureau:
- Individual U.S. credit cardholders (1950) – >50,000
- Individual U.S. credit cardholders (2000) – 159,000,000
- Individual U.S. credit cardholders (2006) – 173,000,000 (+9%)
- Individual U.S. credit cardholders (2010) – 181,000,000 (+5%)
We’ve gone from zero to 60% of the American population possessing a credit card in sixty years. Now that’s product adoption!
But let’s face it, we’ve grown to enjoy the path of least resistance. We tend to adopt that which makes our lives faster, easier, less cumbersome, and less stressful. The credit card is instantaneous, simple to use, virtually weightless, and the ultimate tool for deferment of poor-decision-making guilt! Is there really any surprise behind its global growth after sixty years? Human nature says no.
Similar to the advent and adoption of the 20th century credit card, we now find ourselves witnessing the next stage in the payment evolutionary process. Receipts led to coins, coins to paper notes, and paper to credit cards. Now, enabled by revolutionary advances such as smartphone and wireless technology, the credit card will soon abdicate its throne in favor of the next payment innovation iteration.
This time however the change won’t stem from one innovative product. The innovation won’t be a tweak to the coin or banknote or credit card. Instead the future of payment will be driven by changes not to the individual players but rather the playing field itself.
Sorry cash, sorry credit. The future is about to change. Move over George and make way. Smaller, faster and easier means one thing… MOBILE.
We rolled into Los Angeles about 9 a.m. and the energy from the second we hit the ground was intense (or maybe it was the traffic).
It’s crazy to think that a little over 10 weeks ago Zaarly was just an idea at a Startup Weekend. Since it all began here, we knew LA had to be one of the main kick off cities and we decided to hold our event at the same space where it all began, Coloft.
The Coloft team provides one of the best co-working spaces in the country. They are passionate about everything they do and they run a top notch place to work. Thanks for everything they have done for us thus far.
LA was so dynamic. Its energy was contagious and the diversity of our team was incredible.
The team was that was built had some really interesting people. From 3 guys who started a national eyewear chain, a few developers who were at the original Startup Weekend to a Los Angeles Laker Girl. We had all ends of the spectrum covered and it was a very energizing night.
Los Angeles just has this vibe that gets everyone going. We spent a lot of time talking about entrepreneurship and how Zaarly could help unemployment. The drive to help non-profits and get people back on their feet was inspiring.
After a few hours in the room where it all began, it felt like I had connected with a group of friends that I had known forever. It was there that it hit me that this is what it was all about; building communities and connections that come together to work on something amazing. It’s the community that gets me out of bed everyday and it is the community that makes Zaarly such an amazing team to be a part of.
Thanks LA, you are awesome… Now off to Seattle.
Stop 3 of 7 on our city rollout tour was San Francisco. Since we have an office in town we decided to invite the team over for some pizza and beer. On top of that, a few blocks away from our office there was a Startup Weekend event happening so we took everyone to meet the people who run the event that catalyzed Zaarly eight weeks ago.
This team is awesome. Our team captain is the biz dev rockstar at Dropbox, we have college students from Berkley and Stanford, a Googler, a jewelry maker, a charity fund raising guru, a superstar event planner and the list goes on. People from every imaginable background are coming out of the woodworks to join the movement.
The best part about these events are the stories. It’s amazing to hear where people came from, what they like to do and why they are a part of the Zaarly team. That’s what this is all about. We spent an hour introducing ourselves and then went over a few key initiatives on how we are going to make Zaarly kick ass in SF.
One of the coolest things that happened in SF was when a couple ladies showed up because they heard from their friends in NYC (where we were the night before) that they had to come check this out. Connecting people across the country to come together and build something great is amazing.
Thanks to an awesome team in SF and here’s to dominating the most tech friendly place on earth. San Francisco seems up to the task of keeping ahead of the other awesome communities being built across the country.
If you’re a young club-goer living in Santa Monica, California and you take a roundtrip taxi to Hollywood (about 12 miles each way) twice a month, you’ll end up paying over $1,600 per year making that trip. That represents 50% of the total amount the average American household spends on healthcare each year.
Why so expensive? Well, cabbies have bills to pay. Their cars exist for the sole purpose of transporting people in exchange for money. If they don’t bring enough in, all the cash goes towards car payments, the cab company, and, depending on the city in which they operate, expensive licensing fees. After that, they may be left with nothing to take home for themselves. Taxis are so pricey because drivers are being crushed under the weight of their operating costs.
Compare that to a hypothetical world where an individual needing a ride would simply get on their smartphone and name their desired location and the amount they are willing to pay. Then, car-owners (literally anyone who owns a car) within the same geographic area could make the decision as to whether or not to accept the offer. If you’re heading to Hollywood anyways, why not let someone occupy your passenger seat for $10? In this scenario, there is literally no marginal cost for adding a passenger. The taxi cab business model simply can’t compete with that.
In this same hypothetical world, if you own a car and are bored with nothing to do on a Friday night, why not check your smartphone to see if anyone nearby needs a ride? You already own your car, so the only marginal cost for you is gas. If it takes a gallon of gas for the round trip from Santa Monica to Hollywood, your marginal cost is $4.60. Anything you receive in excess of that is pure profit.
Think about it. As a poor college student, would you have accepted $20 to drive someone across town? I know I would have. Give five rides in an evening and pay for your biology textbook or a week’s worth of bar tabs.
Within the next few weeks this hypothetical world could become a reality. Zaarly’s proximity based, real-time platform will allow anyone to put a price on anything (my focus in this post is on transportation, but the possibilities are truly endless).
Zaarly can match drivers to riders in mere seconds. No yellow cars with a partition and a meter needed. Peer-to-peer rideshare is not a brand new concept, but the only programs that seem to achieve success are those that involve routes that are known well in advance and are recurring, like work commutes. What sets Zaarly apart is the “real-time” aspect of the platform. Currently, I can go on Craigslist and click the “rideshare” section and request a ride from Santa Monica to Long Beach, but I’d have to create a post and description, click “publish,” and wait for the confirmation email to come through before responses came pouring in (which would come over a three day period from seemingly anonymous users). Zaarly can take a three day process and shorten it to a matter of seconds. I choose where I want to go, when I want to go, and how much I’m willing to pay, and someone nearby will accept, provided the offer was reasonable.
With a taxi or Craigslist, there’s an uneasy feeling of anonymity that riders feel: they have no clue how good or bad previous customers’ experiences were with a given car/driver. With Zaarly, the user-feedback system will provide comfort and allow you to choose a driver who is experienced and trustworthy. Don’t want to accept a ride from someone new to the service? Then don’t. User feedback will make drivers accountable for the experiences they provide.
Zaarly will be faster, closer, and more personal than Craigslist when it comes to the exchange of any good or service (not just rides). Until now, craigslist has provided a nice moat around the space that Zaarly intends to fill, not allowing would-be challengers an opportunity to gain any traction in this realm.
Zaarly has the platform and the firepower necessary to disrupt the taxi cab industry in a way that Craigslist never could. Providing a ride across town is practically unskilled labor requiring only a driver’s license and a car, assets that over 90% of households already have at their disposal. With that kind of supply currently sitting idle, it’s about time that a trip across town became a whole lot cheaper.
Exhausted. Inspired. Excited. There’s nothing quite like waking up after a three hour nap to catch a 6am flight from Chicago to New York City. It’s getting easier to get up in the morning because of knowing what lies ahead. Sara, Shane and I cruised over to the Big Apple for our second of seven meet ups with our Dream Teams and several meetings with really inspiring groups of people.
The team arrived a little after 9am after almost missing our flight (thank you hotel front desk guy), getting stuck in what seemed like the longest security line ever, passing out immediately on the plane and a rough touch down. Good news? It was supposedly one of the most beautiful days this year in New York City. Bad news? We were starving after no dinner (turns out we’ve been too excited and focused) and no breakfast (timing).
We met up with Jessica Lawrence (NYTM), David Spinks (BlogDash) and Michael Constantiner (FastSociety). This was a really great group of personalities in the NYC Tech scene and just kick ass people. We talked current projects, future plans and of course what we need to do to make Zaarly a smashing success in the city.
After lunch I mentioned I was hoping to stop by Dogpatch Labs to say hi to a buddy Trevor Owens (Lean Startup Machine) and found out that FastSociety was actually working out of there as well. Perfect. Lots of cool things going on in that place and just a great vibe. I wish I had the chance to stop by New Work City (personal favorite) and the much buzzed about General Assembly as well. Next time…
Everyone we spoke with had either already heard of Zaarly or was really interested.
The tour continued with a meeting with Lane Wood and Paull Young at Charity Water. Our platform lends itself well to some really creative fundraising opportunities and Charity Water is high on the list of potential partners. We talked integration, promotion and execution. Got some big ideas down on paper. That group is doing some incredible things.
Vayner Media was next on the list where we chatted with Marcus Krzastek about their recent growth, marketing tactics, hiring and the absence of a previously known beard. We both love to build and engage communities. Shane and I also had some great feedback from AJ Vaynerchuck about Zaarly.
People are beyond excited.
Shane setup a meeting with Jonathan Crowley at the FourSquare HQ to discuss some downstream opportunities. We came up with some clever ideas beforehand and needless to say, the future looks bright.
The right things keep on happening.
By now it was close to happy hour time so we cruised over to our destination for a get together some of our Dream Teamers planned. We were hoping that ten to fifteen people would show up before the team meeting. It started at 6pm and 30 minutes in we had taken over the entire bar area. The level of talent from across many NYC scenes was mind blowing, but what happened next was the kicker. It was time to move downstairs to talk strategy and get with the core team. Sara made the announcement to the group that the happy hour was over and that we would be starting soon. Almost every single person headed down. Most of which were not on the official Dream Team…Until now!
In.Spir.Ational! (say it slow)
We spent the next two hours with our new team telling stories, getting organized and talking actions. Most common quote of the night?
“What can I do to help you guys? Just let me know and I’ll make it happen.”
What started off as a small community has totally transformed in to what will be a major movement. A very special thanks goes out to everyone who attended and Sara Davidson for coordinating such a magnificent group of people. Thank you from the entire Zaarly team.
The bar has been raised.
San Francisco strut your stuff. Can you out do Chicago and New York City?
Managing work, school, family demands and trying to squeeze in a social life can be difficult these days. Savvy users of mobile technology are discovering that properly integrating certain mobile apps into your life can save valuable time in your busy day.
And even though you can’t put 25 hours in a day, there are more ways than ever to maximize each of those 24 hours.
Manage your calendar and t0-do list
Services like MobileMe enable you to access and manage your email, contacts, calendar, photos, and files all online. You can add an event to your the calendar on your phone and automatically sync to the calendar on your laptop and desktop via the cloud.
Several different to-do list and reminder apps, such as the Evernote app, let you do everything from recording voice notes to jotting down those brilliant ideas in the middle of the night to taking pictures of whiteboards in your office that you need to refer to later.
And if you need to share files between home and office, the Air Sharing app enables you to make your phone a thumb drive. You can view slideshows, documents and PDFs and more.
Several hot new group chat apps such as Beluga enables you to keep in touch with groups of friends or family all at once. Group messaging apps make it simple to communicate with the people you want to communicate with. You can quickly create and reorganize social circles, on the go, according to the situation. And that communication is as private as you want it to be.
Travel with ease
The Kayak app can help you locate the best deals on hotels, air fare, car rentals — and even help you save money by enabling you to look up baggage fees.
TripIt trip planner keeps all of your travel plans in one spot, so you can quickly retrieve confirmation numbers, addresses and itineraries from your phone.
Further your education
Remember the days of Encyclopedia Britannica salesmen going door-to-door trying to sell you dozens of volumes of books? Well now all of those books can fit in your pocket.
You can find a plethora of education apps ranging from first grade math to graduate level physics. A new app called Voxy lets you incorporate learning a new language into the flow of your life.
And if you’re in school, or your son on daughter is, the MyHomework app will ensure that you always remember the due dates for papers and homework assignments.
Shop til you drop
You can use apps like RedLaser to do comparison shopping and find the best price. The Amazon app provides one-click ordering and allows you to make quick purchases on Amazon’s site. Target offers an app that allows you to scan the stores weekly ad instantly, see clearance items and buy products without even getting in your car. Yowza shows you coupons from stores near you using GPS, and there’s no need for clipping — the barcode appears on your phone screen. And you can pay for everything electronically using PayPal.
Manage daily activities
There’s an app to manage every part of your day — from alarm clock apps to help you wake up in the morning to relaxation apps to help you fall asleep at night.
You can keep track of your password, bank account numbers and other important information using 1Password. Manage your finances with iXpenseIt, a smart and handy tool to log, track and manage your daily expenses and budget.
Prepare a meal using Woman’s Day Cooking Assistant, a personal cooking assistant that includes meal ideas, cooking tools, and more to make cooking easier. Or don’t feel like cooking? Urbanspoon can find a restaurants in your area, complete with reviews. And after dinner you can use the QuickTip Tip Calculator to determine the appropriate tip you should give based on the amount of the bill. And even locate the gas stations with the cheapest fuel prices using the Fuel Finder app.
If you constantly find yourself sitting inside your house on a Saturday afternoon, use the free Geodelic app to search for shops, attractions and restaurants in your area. The app also senses what your interests are and will suggest places to visit in your town. And you can find your way around using Google Maps.
For a busy person, Zaarly is the perfect app. Even if you can’t afford hiring a full-time assistant, Zaarly can help you check some mundane tasks off your to-do list. Whether you’re looking for help personally (buying weekly groceries) or professionally (market research, data entry), Zaarly can connect you with people to provide the work you need, when you need it, at the price you’re willing to pay.
Now, if only there was an app to help you download all these apps…