Sometimes it’s up to the entrepreneur to just be honest with himself and pull the plug. That’s exactly what Wences Casares did with his mobile payments company BlingNation about a year ago.
What went wrong? A handful of customers loved it, but it just wasn’t taking off. Credit cards were too ingrained in the way people purchase goods and at the end of the day a mobile wallet application like BlingNation made things only marginally faster and more convenient. And while merchants love to diss credit cards, they’ll stick with them if the alternative means missing a sale. (Essentially, Casares exactly lived what Farhad argued in his post last week.)
But while the highly-succesful serial entrepreneur may have cried uncle on payments, he still wants to make something in your wallet digital. Now he’s focused on something a lot bulkier: Receipts.
He launched his new company Lemon.com last October to be a Dropbox for receipts and it is showing much better traction with 1 million users. He is launching a new version of it today. He’d never pitch it this way, but in a lot of ways it’s Blippy done right.
The good thing about Blippy was the record it kept of your spending habits, and there were interesting benefits to that that too few consumers explored. For instance, one of Blippy’s investors George Zachary used Blippy to track his credit card for work expenses, and at the end of the month his assistant would just submit everything from his feed. No more annoying expense reports.
As that example shows, it’s not that people aren’t willing to share payment information with one another. We do that all the time. That’s the entire reason we have to keep track of and organize tiny bits of paper confirming what we spent to begin with. People just don’t want to share those details with everyone. They want to share them with people they have a reason to share them lwith.
Similarly, the new version of Lemon allows you to take a picture of your receipts with your phone and extract data from them to analyze your spending habits. It focuses on the part of your spending habits that are the hardest to track: Small cash and debit card payments throughout the day. A cup of coffee here, a burrito there.
It’s in some ways the opposite of Mint. Not only is it mobile first, but it has more friction at the time of entering each transaction than Mint since you have to take a photo of each receipt. But it has less friction to sign up since you don’t need to enter any account information.
And new versions incorporate that Blippy idea of sharing payment information– only it restricts it to people you’d be sharing that information with anyway. A $3 family account allows up to ten people to track their spending patterns on the same account with special admin provisions so that the parents can see all the spending, but kids can just see their own. It’s a way to see where all the family’s cash goes every month.
The application I got excited about was for businesses. For $4 a month, anyone in a small business takes pictures of any receipt and can submit it as a business expense on the spot of payment. Admins can tag them in the system for reimbursement and simply issue a check. You need the receipt for exactly the amount of time it takes to capture the photo of it, then you just throw it away. No more George Costanza wallet. No more hunting down tiny scraps of paper to put in some God-awful seventh-circle-of-Dilbert-hell expense report software. And Lemon is working on a Yammer integration that can allow you to easily annotate the receipts, in a place where you are communicating with your team anyway.
This is a game changer for me. I can’t tell you how many thousands and thousands of dollars I’ve lost over my career, because I couldn’t be bothered to keep track of tiny slips of paper and enter them into a God-awful reimbursement system. I never did it at AOL– once. I gave up after months of trying to log in. My time was simply worth more to me than getting reimbursed for that postage or dinner I bought a source. But over the year that reimbursement leakage can add up to a lot of money.
I should note that my husband has spent the last twenty minutes reading this over my shoulder and bringing up every niggling issue with it. He is dubious I would actually use it to record each receipt, and thinks it sounds like more of a hassle than it’s worth. To be fair, he’s had 13 years of living with me so he knows just how bad I am at tracking this type of stuff. We’re going to try it out and report back on which one of us is right.