Balanced launched a crowdfunding campaign yesterday to gauge interest in building an API that gives marketplaces the ability to pay sellers using only a seller’s debit card number and expiration date. In 25 hours, we reached our goal of $50k with our biggest backers being Raise, Wanderable, Crowdtilt, and InstantCab. I don’t think it would have been possible to take this approach to product validation prior to a white-labeled crowdfunding platform like Crowdhoster or without taking an open approach to building a business and communicating with customers. This post talks about our reasoning and approach towards developing a new product.
We don’t have the flexibility to try out functionality in our API. We either release and support it forever, or we never build it at all. It’s just not possible to rip something out once your customers depend on it to run their business.
We struggled with that challenge a year ago for ACH debits. After a lot of research, we decided that it didn’t make sense to move forward, but it was a public discussion, and we operate as an open company. I had to explain why.
In the end, there was so much demand and a push from our customers to pay even more than what we thought they would pay. The public conversation changed everything.
There was also a public conversation for Balanced to build an API to push money to cards. We did the research, realized it was in fact possible, but it wasn’t enough of a priority. It wasn’t clear whether there was enough demand, so we took a different approach this time by running a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdhoster to ask our customers to put their money where their mouth is. If you really want this, show us … and they did.
The Main Backers
Raise jumped in right away with a $20,000 contribution becoming the largest backer, and one of our primary partners to make this happen. Raise is a marketplace for gift cards. George, the Founder/CEO, and Angelo who runs payments at Raise immediately got it.
It all became clear when I had dinner Monday night with George, Angelo, and George’s girlfriend who is also Angelo’s sister :-). I asked her about having to enter her account number and routing number into a site. She explained that she’d prefer not to share her bank account information and would have to call her bank to even find out what her bank account information was. Raise wants anyone to be able to sell their gift cards online, and that means making it as simple as possible to do so.
What’s interesting is that Raise wasn’t a customer of Balanced prior to the campaign. They just saw the value to innovate and be an early and, thus far, the largest backer.
Wanderable is a free wedding registry for honeymoon destinations. As a current Balanced customer, we’ve worked with them to manage couples mistyping their bank account number. It’s not possible to validate a bank account number in real-time, so Wanderable would have to ask the couple to come back days later. Paying a couple using their debit card number solves that problem.
Crowdtilt lets you crowdfund anything. They are the company behind Crowdhoster–the platform that powers our crowdfunding campaign. Crowdtilt is also a current Balanced customer. James and Khaled, the co-founders of Crowdtilt, have shared with me on numerous occasions how annoying it was for their customers to have to hunt down their bank account information. Their iPhone app lets you launch a crowdfunding campaign in under a minute. Now, they’re going to reduce the friction even further.
InstantCab competes with Uber and Lyft to provide an amazing service to get a ride. Aarjav started pinging me on Twitter asking about more information. He shared with me last night that they had challenges with drivers mistyping their bank account number, and that is was easier to just ask them for a check to verify the driver’s bank account information. That’s a painful operations challenge that they’re now going to solve.
It’s clear now that we have to move forward, and our community has shown us that there’s real demand. We’re going to continue the campaign to provide backers with early access and a discount. All of the contribution will go towards the transaction fees for the service.
I’m incredibly excited to build something I’ve wanted to exist for a long time and support companies that enable new forms of commerce.
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