PayPal Innovate: The Future is Already Here

Thoughts from Day 2 of the PayPal developers’ conference

Shortly after the close of PayPal’s conference the 2010 world series started at PacBell stadium a few blocks away. This year’s series pits two team that were not expected to be the last standing at the beginning of the season (or so I understand).  Yet game 1 was all excitement.

The same could be said about PayPal’s developers conference. A couple of years ago who would have thought that a Payment conference would make developers the heroes? Yet Day 2 of the PayPal conference was truly the day when developers from around the world shone through with their creativity, energy and imagination. 2100 of them visiting from as far as England and Peru, discussed implementations with PayPal experts, demonstrated their applications and created new ways to transact, on the spot, with 300 developers registering for the Hackaton.

The day started with a keynote panel featuring John Donahoe and Marc Andreessen. Whimsical and serious at time, it covered the importance of Mobile, Social and Local, with touches of teaching money to mobilized kids, privacy and consumer choice, innovation and relationships with incumbent providers. Marc was quick to note that “the web could have been different if payment had been included in browsers from the get go but there was a culture gap with the traditional payments and commerce industries”. And as John and Mark remarked, this lead to a number of successful companies such as eBay and PayPal which are to this day helping traditional providers innovate. There was a definite sense in the room that history might be repeating itself as younger generations embraced applications – such as FourSquare and Groupon – and services – such as replacing a wallet with a phone – that spoke of changes and opportunities.

 Throughout the rest of the day I met with developers, discussed the potential of commercial payments, using PayPal and PayPal Apps and the new PayPal commercial pricing (“A dream come true” according to Freshbook’s CEO), and witnessed waves upon waves of start-ups pitching to Venture Capitalists in rounds of “speed dating, Innovate style”. No wonder investors would be interested, since session after sessions pointed to the size of the markets still to be captured by electronic payments.  

My sentiment walking the halls was that developers are truly the future of our industry as we weave payments in the very fabric of commerce. And the working relationship with PayPal was best expressed by a representative of OrderMapper, a young company offering online ordering and payment services for local restaurants, who shared that “Integrating PayPal in the application was easy and the platform team really listened to our suggestions”. This should resonate deeply for anyone who has been developing payment applications for legacy systems: historically payment applications have been hard to develop, harder still to get certified, while protocol specifications were often developed by a select few. In the new world of Open Payments this will change, this  IS changing.

The day finished with the announcement of the Developer’s challenge winner, the X prizes and the Hackaton winners. IConcessionStand, which provides order automation in sports venue “replacing the paper and pencil system”, won the Developer’s challenge out of ten finalist.

As I left Moscone Center I couldn’t help but reflect on how right Tim O’Reilly was to quote of William Gibson the prior evening: “The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet”. This was a succinct description of what I had witnessed at Innovate.

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Patrick Gauthier, is a payment industry executive with 20 years of experience in developing, selling and deploying around the world, new technologies for payment and commerce. Patrick is currently Head of Market Intelligence at PayPal. The views expressed in this column are that of the author only and do not necessarily reflect that of PayPal or EBay Inc. Patrick can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter