You’re used to reading about startups when they sign big deals, receive major funding or disrupt the industry in a major way. But what is life really like for those who found and work for payments startups? PYMNTS.com spoke with Jack Funk and Will Funk – brothers and founders of OrderNow – to learn how starting from scratch in a dynamic industry can be terrifying and exhilarating all at once.
If you just focus on the press releases and the headlines, life in a payments startup can seem like a breeze. Who wouldn’t want to be labeled as innovative or disruptive? There’s enormous appeal to being known as “the next big thing.”
Such are the accolades afforded to the most successful startups in the payments industry, but what about the hundreds who never make it or have yet to take off?
OrderNow is one young company looking to break into the payments industry, starting from humble beginnings in New York City. A company founded on a desire to streamline the QR code scan-and-purchase process, OrderNow has undergone changes to its product, strategy and outlook as it navigates the murky waters of the payments startup world.
PYMNTS.com spoke with brothers Jack Funk, CEO of OrderNow, and Will Funk, CMO of OrderNow, about their triumphs and failures, what advice they’d give to budding payment entrepreneurs, and their candid views of the payments startup space.
According to Jack, the origins of OrderNow began over a year ago but the company worked “in earnest” on its product for the past six-to-nine months. The initial idea behind OrderNow: find a way to scan a QR code and instantly buy something with the touch of a button.
“Even still today, QR codes are really misused. You can scan a code and don’t really know what kind of experience you’re going to get, and usually it’s not mobile-optimized for your device,” Will said. “We really wanted to streamline that process by standardizing the scanning experience so that when you scan a code; it always takes you to the same landing page that provides the same checkout experience.”
The basic concept may sound simple, and given poor U.S. NFC adoption rates, the time may seem right to enter the QR code space. But according to the Funk brothers, their product design has shifted over the past few months as they discovered that QR codes were not quite widespread enough to give their initial design a meaningful scale.
Now, the four-person company is changing its product to center not on QR code conversion, but rather on the landing checkout pages consumers can use for a simple, repeatable transactional experience.
“We realized that we want to focus on the creation of those checkout pages and then let our retail partners distribute that however they want, whether that’s through QR codes in the real world, short links for the web or widgets for their website,” Will noted.
The sudden shift in product design underlies what the Funk brothers cited as perhaps the most challenging aspect of beginning a payments startup: understanding just what you want your product to be.
“We had this idea, this dream and this vision for a specific user experience, but that’s an idea. That’s an experience, it’s not a product,” Will said. The Funk brothers agreed that confusing product with experience – plus waiting too long to get to market -were biggest initial mistakes. “We took the time to try and make our product perfect without really knowing what perfect would be,” noted Will.
When asked how they were able to recover from early missteps – especially given their relative inexperience in the payments industry – the brothers admitted that the process has been difficult and at times frightening.
“It’s terrifying,” joked Will, “but it’s also exhilarating. One day you’ll be living on cloud nine, and the next you’re wondering why you ever pursued this venture. It’s exciting, scary and thrilling all in one.”
Jack agreed, and emphasized that he views OrderNow’s learning process as a positive, noting that the company has a better idea of what both consumers and the market demand now that they’ve changed their strategy.
“It’s a competitive market, it’s an exciting market, and I think to be a player in it you just have to trust that you’re going to be able to do the things that are core within your organization and do the things that you know you’re capable of doing,,” Jack said.
“If you don’t know something, just figure it out,” Will added. “That’s been our approach the whole time.”
After gathering data from an initial QR code-based beta test earlier, the Funks say OrderNow is planning to launch its payments landing pages soon, and will be targeting the low end of the market: individuals who sell items part-time, or small-scale retail stores. They have plans to expand their analytics capabilities in the near-term future, and are trying to become a vehicle through which companies can sell their products online quickly and efficiently.
“We make it really easy for small retailers to sort of set up a one-stop shop,” Jack summarized.
The Funk brothers say they’re well aware that they’re entering a competitive and dynamic industry, but view that as another factor in their favor rather than a barrier to success.
“There’s a great old saying that goes: ‘with great uncertainty comes great opportunity,’” Jack said. “We just have to trust that we’re going to be able to solve any problem that comes at us.”
To listen to more of Jack and Will on life behind the scenes of a payments startup, listen to the full podcast here.
*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.
Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer for OrderNow
Will Funk is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer for OrderNow. He handles product design, front-end development and all user outreach initiatives for the company. Will graduated from Boston University in June 2012 with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a focus in advertising. He came up with the idea for a simple mobile checkout solution as a junior at BU, and decided to pursue the tech venture full time immediately after graduating.
Before founding OrderNow, Will interned for MEC London and MEC New York. At the London office, Will worked with the Press Team to plan and book ads in national, daily newspapers. In New York, he worked with the Community Activation department to enhance organic social media traffic for major brands. He was born and raised in Oklahoma City.
Co-Founder and CEO for OrderNow
Jack Funk is Co-Founder and CEO of OrderNow, where he is responsible for strategy, operations, and business development. Jack’s career started in the clean energy industry with SunEdison, a solar development company. At SunEdison he helped develop one of the first merchant solar facilities in the US. Immediately prior to founding OrderNow, Jack was a member of the investment research team at Offit Capital specializing in global macro and credit strategies.
Jack holds a B.A. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University and is also an Oklahoma City native.