Glassjar Startup Wants To Make Group Payments Easier

A new group payments app from a startup called Glassjar takes a more businesslike approach to the problem of friends who need to chip in to pay a bill: It literally sends them invoices, according to Tech in Asia.

The Silicon Valley-based startup, which started life in New Zealand and relocated to the U.S. late last year, was originally conceived as a way for college roommates to track rent and other bills that were paid from a shared bank account. That’s not how it’s done in the U.S. “The banking structure is wildly different,” Glassjar CEO and co-founder George Smith told Tech in Asia, adding that payments in general are far more fragmented in the U.S. than in other nations.

“People even use checks to pay each other back,” Smith said. “So we pivoted to the more general kind of payment app, but still very focused on how to facilitate payments between a group of friends and really streamline that process.”

Only one person in a group is required to have the Glassjar app on a phone (it’s currently available for Android, with an iOS version due soon). When it’s time to pay in, say, a bar or restaurant, that user creates a “glass jar” to input the amount due from the group, then scanning the friends’ payment cards using the phone’s camera. The app then emails an invoice to each member of the group for the amounts due. There’s also a feature called “credit card roulette” that can be used to randomly select a single person in the group the pay the entire bill.

The app is free, but Glassjar takes a 2.9 percent fee out of payments made in response to the emailed invoices, which may not be paid immediately. There’s also a risk that one of a Glassjar user’s friends won’t ante up at all. “You need to make payments with people you trust,” Smith said.

While that’s a problem for Glassjar users, the problem for Glassjar itself is that millennials have a variety of group payment apps available, the most popular of which is probably Venmo (which is integrated into Glassjar). Smith said he hopes to grow to critical mass in a community of early adopters — such as 20-somethings in California — and then use that momentum to spread Glassjar across the U.S.