Date: August 21, 2009

Appreciating TipJoy

It’s shocking and sad to read Jason Kincaid‘s  Tipjoy Heads To The Deadpool story this morning in TechCrunch. Ivan and Abby Kirigin were neighbors just up the road from Cambridge (I understand they’ve recently moved back to California), and kindred spirits to the VRM community as well. Keith Hopper and I had a nice get-acquainted lunch with them a couple months back, and talked often in conversations about how EmanciPay might use the excellent TipJoy API, among other possibilities. The key paragraph from their final blog post:

When we evaluate why there’s been so much hype about payments on Twitter, and yet so little traction for us (and even far less for our competitors) it is clear to us that the reason is that a 3rd party payment service doesn’t add enough value. We strongly believe that social payments will work on a social network, provided that they’re done within the platform and not as a 3rd party. “Simple, social payments” is *the* philosophy needed to do digital payments right, but once a service groks that, they need only to implement it on their own. We’ve been the thought leaders in this space, we see the hype and excitement, and yet we know very intimately the difficulties in gaining actual traction. The only way to get around this is for the platforms themselves to control payments – then all people wanting to operate on that platform would have to play along. We believe that a payments system directly and officially integrated into social networks such as Twitter and Facebook will be a huge success.

This is consistent with our thinking as well. It’s why we’re designing EmanciPay not as a payment system but rather as a lightweight customer-native and -controlled set of methods (rather than a “system,” which implies something big, heavy and central) for choosing not only how much to pay, but when, where and under what terms — and leaving payment itself up to the Twitters, Facebooks, PayPals and Google Checkouts of the world.

EmanciPay is also not a business in itself. When it’s done it will be a set of specifications (data types, protocols, logic) rather than a commercial venture. It will add to the still-small portfolio of native customer capabilities as independent actors in the marketplace.

To leverage what Dave said long ago, Ask not what the marketplace can do for you. Ask what you can do for the marketplace. VRM is about answering that second question.

Meanwhile, we salute the pioneers. TipJoy did much for the marketplace. I just hope that the marketplace will repay Abby, Ivan and their colleagues generously. In fact, I have faith that it will.

Testing the all-tip system

Arlington cafe serves gourmet food and lets customers pay what they want, by Shane Stephens in the Dallas Morning News, probes some of our assumptions with EmanciPay—a customer-controlled way to choose how much to pay for online goods that cost nothing but are worth more than that. The financial end of the story:

The no-set-price concept is intriguing, especially in this economy. Chippindale says it was inspired by One World Cafe in Salt Lake City, a pay-what-you-want community kitchen founded by her friend Denise Cerreta. But while One World Cafe is nonprofit, Chippindale intends to make money. “I definitely do not turn away from a profit,” she says.

So far, she’s not getting rich; in fact, she’s not even breaking even. Customers have been leaving an average of about $7 per person in the envelopes, and Potager’s food costs are running about $8 per person, she says.

That’s two small tests in a trial that needs many more. Think payment levels might change if the restaurants’ costs were fully exposed?

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