Mobile payment system Paydragon fights the food cart line

paydragonThe point-of-sale payments market is begging for disruption. The more smartphones invade our pockets, the more we’re all in pursuit of seamless transactions. Merchants and buyers both stand to gain, and perhaps the only looming issue is an abundance of competition.

It’s a big, roomy space right now, and plenty of platforms are ready to give it a go – including Paydragon. Paydragon (available for iOS and Android) allows you to order from local food carts, pay via a card saved to the app, and then skip the line to pick up your food. Merchants are pinged when you place your order and use the Paydragon interface on their end to see how long customers have been waiting. You’ll also receive a notification when your order is ready.

Paydragon was spun out of Paperlinks, the Y Combinator backed QR code startup that’s been focused on advertising. But the desire to make sales happen is what drove CEO of both companies Hamilton Chan to create Paydragon. “Really, in the end it’s about the transaction,” Chan tells me.

“We switched from B2B to the B2C arena to focus on the transaction and give value to the customer,” he says.

The payment app launched today but was introduced to a handful of merchants at SXSW – land of the food carts. “The number one feedback we got was that it was simple,” says Chan. “We debated internally over whether it was too simple, but merchants loved the lack of complexity.”

paydragon1Paydragon is indeed minimalist – to say the least. Chan describes the app as “uber-streamlined,” and with its limited tapping experience and visual aesthetic, he’s right. Merchants can choose a total of six menu items to list. You tap to reveal big, bright photos, and hit pay. It’s not only customers that benefit from this UI; in a demo Chan showed me the merchant-end of the software, which is also incredibly simple to use and understand.

While Paydragon is a fantastic, clean app and is at least initially targeting the increasingly tech-savvy food cart niche, I had to ask Chan about the competition. Square, Isis, Google Wallet, and PayPal are just a few of the systems out there making a play for merchant business and buyer loyalty – it’s an industry facing some serious fragmentation.

paydragon“I think there will be consolidation in the market,” he says. “It’s still a wide open field, which is really exciting for startups to get into and apply their solution to. But there are advantages for consumers in having one solution.” Chan says that users will start to commit eventually, based on the value for them in a platform’s community – something Paydragon knows and is working on. “We don’t want it [the social and game side] to be gimmicky. We want it to have real value.” As it currently stands, you get Paydragon points when you use the app that translate into rewards.

This isn’t the only feature in the pipes. Chan says Paydragon (currently available in LA and Austin, and launching next week in New York) will move beyond food. Through Paperlinks, Paydragon has connections with a number of big name product companies, like Neutrogena and Nestle, who are “dying to try out some kind of cool consumer solution.”

One thing you shouldn’t plan on seeing is order customization. Right now you get what you see: no “dressing on the side” or “hold the ketchup” caveats allowed. “I’m going to resist it for as long as I can,” Chan says. He wants to keep the service an expressway for ordering and keep it clutter-free.

It’s a good – albeit busy – time to get into mobile payments, and this simple stab at it seems to resonate with retailers and buyers well. “The difference between us and other alternatives is that with those you pay and then wait and line. With us, you skip it,” says Chan. “We’re disrupting the line.”


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