Portland Digital eXperience: Startups take on the finance industry and all its red tape

simple chirpify pdeA hot topic at Portland Digital eXperience has been traditional industry disruption — and what old market doesn’t fit the bill better than payments? The finance industry is chock-full of regulation, governmental bodies, and ancient attitudes. Suffice it to say there are hurdles.

The CEO’s of Simple, a banking solution, and Chirpify, a Twitter payment client (you read that right) were on hand to talk about the evolution of digital finance, and how they’re helping to change it.

“On Wall Street there’s so much innovation, but so little of it helps real people,” Simple founder and CEO Josh Reich, a Wall Street vet, said. “Our real motivation was to make a financial application that would help people’s lives.”

The idea behind Simple: It’s a fully digital banking card and account, that includes a physical debit card accepted everywhere Visa is accepted. Simple believes its customer service and attention to detail, along with its mobile-friendly tracking and payments system, are its biggest assets.

Chirpify’s stab at uncomplicating how we pay for things is less calculated, although it’s had a huge early impact. The concept: Connect your Twitter and Paypal accounts using Chirpify, and then use the integrated service to @ pay connections. Shocked people would do that? You’re not the only one. “The first surprise with Chirpify was that people wanted to use it at all… to pay for something with a tweet online,” said founder Chris Teso.

But clearly, the masses approve. During this past SXSW, Chirpify got its API wrapped and ready for a tweet-a-beer promotion, where Chirpify users could buy a beer for their Twitter contacts at certain locations in Austin. And the viral nature of online — very, very public — payments has only helped Chirpify’s usage spread.

“There’s a pretty high conversion rate when you get a tweet saying ‘someone sent you money, come here and sign up to claim,” said Teso.

All the viral usage and word-of-mouth in world isn’t enough to topple what is arguably the oldest, most institutionalized industry though. For every brilliant idea, there is a mountain of red tape to deal with and work-around. “It’s hard because engineers want to work fast,” says Reich. “And banks work slow. You have to manage your product process carefully.”

For its part, Chirpify hasn’t had to go its own road — yet. For now, the service piggybacks off of Twitter and Paypal, the latter of which being a service which Teso mentions gets and deserves plenty of user ire. Not for long, though; he says that Chirpify plans to go it alone, launching its own payment service within the application and cutting out the middle man.

“We are platform agnostic, but the one friction point for us is Paypal,” he says. “People don’t like it. There’s no mobile flow. So we’re working on owning the entire payment platform. So in the next year, we’re going to do that and handle it ourselves.”

For its part, Simple would like to add business banking support (it’s focused on individual usage at the moment)  — something that will require a great many hoops to jump through, regulation-wise.

Combining tech and money is a tough sell, and the road ahead is paved with plenty of potholes. But the outlook is bright: Both Simple and Chirpify have launched alternative payment platforms that five years ago would have sounded impossible — and people are buying into it quickly. Blame it on distrust or frustration or trust in tech… whatever is happening, it’s clear users are increasingly comfortable with new and innovative solutions when it comes to handling their money.

Product Review

Nokia’s 3.1 Plus is an affordable phone that’s crippled by its camera

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is HMD Global’s first smartphone to be sold by a U.S. carrier in-store. It’s only available on Cricket Wireless right now, which underlines its focus on affordability. Should you buy a phone this affordable?

Apple loses battle to use Intel modems in Germany in latest clash with Qualcomm

Apple is following the Federal Trade Commission's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Social Media

Twitter boss again teases the idea of a button to edits tweets

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has suggested the company is still looking at options for allowing people to edit tweets. Ideas include a function that gives you up to 30 seconds to recall a tweet before it goes live on the service.
Social Media

‘Instagram egg’ embarks on a new adventure as man behind it is unmasked

The Instagram egg made global headlines recently after it became the most-liked post on the photo-sharing app. The person behind the account has now been revealed, as has his reason for choosing an egg for the stunt.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.