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PayPal’s Ambitions Are Out Of This World

Welcome to What’s Trending In Payments – a weekly look at the most popular, irreverent and important stories the payments industry had to offer over the past five days. Which companies grabbed the most headlines – for better or for worse – this week, and which topics have the industry abuzz with intrigue, laughter or disbelief? Featuring breakdowns from the PYMNTS.com staff and commentary by Karen Webster, here’s our take on what all of you payments peeps thought.

TOPIC ONE: PayPal Shoots For The Stars: Literally

Why It’s Hot

We know that PayPal’s been big on physical merchant acceptance lately. Apparently those ambitions have no terrestrial limits, as news broke this week that eBay’s most powerful subsidiary is working on a payments plan for space tourists.

Details are scant, but the Wall Street Journal reported that the program will be called PayPal Galactic, and that the company is working with NASA, the Space Tourism Society and the SETI Institute for the launch. PayPal is “likely” to announce some specifics on June 27.

No word yet on how much this will help PayPal’s acceptance, given that outer space is devoid of life, but hey: this is certainly innovative.

John Donahoe also said this week that he plans to bring PayPal to China at some point in the future. Quite frankly, they probably have better odds in the great beyond.

Karen’s Commentary

Talk about finding the white spaces! In the words of the David Bowie classic, “ground control to Major John (Donahoe)!” Having that on- click PayPal experience will really come in handy when floating around weightless in space though. This could actually be a stroke of genius. There haven’t been many John Q. Public’s who’ve flown in space but those that have, paid anywhere from $22 to $35 million for the privilege! And, there are about 570 people who’ve plunked down $250k for a spot on the way cool Virgin Galactic/NASA collaborative version of space travel and some 600 more who say they will once flights operate. Among those 570, are the Biebs himself, Ashton Kutcher, Leonardo DeCaprio and Richard Branson. Those 4 alone could really juice PayPal’s volume and while circling in space , they’d surely have lots of time to develop PayPal payments preference for when their feet are planted back on terre ferma.

Top Tweet

@pete_rizzo_: How will space tourists pay for freeze-dried ice cream? #eBay primes #PayPalGalactic to be go-to choice. Ow.ly/m6pWT

PYMNTS.com editor Pete Rizzo (or PYMNTS Pete, as I shall refer to him henceforth) brings up an excellent point here. Exactly what are these space-travelers going to purchase? I thought ISIS had a limited audience, but space is an even tougher sell than Salt Lake City.

I’d also like to congratulate Pete on staying away from a corny space-related headline with this piece: a temptation I was unable to avoid with this topic header.

TOPIC TWO: If You Like NFC, Put A Ring On It

Why It’s Hot

Oh boy. Earlier this week, Engadget covered a new piece of technology that offers up an interesting use-case for NFC: a ring. That you wear. In public. On purpose.

Made by GEAK in Shanghai, the rings are designed to unlock NFC-enabled phones without the need of password, and also prevent phones from going inactive while being held.

Yet somehow, the NFC-enabled ring was not the strangest use-case for contactless we saw this week. That title goes to Adidas, which is embedding NFC chips in shoelaces. Customers can use their phones to tap certain Adidas shoes and gain information about their prospective purchase. Store employees can use NFC to register a customer’s purchase. I feel like I’m writing for The Onion.

All I can say is that Karen and our VC guest Matt Witheiler clearly jumped the gun by writing NFC obits for PYMNTS this week. See, guys? The technology is doing just fine!

Karen’s Commentary

Thank goodness we’ve finally found the killer app for NFC – shoelaces. I can’t imagine why it took us this long. It won’t be long now before NFC ignites! As for the ring version? Even NFC embedded in jewelry – one of my all-time favorite things – isn’t enough to get me to change my mind.

Top Tweet

@chokotoffcardi: Getting married soon and still looking for a ring? “@PSFK: NFC ring could unlick phones without a password: bit.ly/14KoXPv #NFC”

An NFC engagement ring, eh? I think someone’s sleeping on the couch tonight. It’s a whole different type of contactless!

TOPIC THREE: Square’s Leadership Is Losing Its Shape

Why It’s Hot

For what I can conservatively estimate as the 25th time this year, one of our most popular stories of the week came from yet another executive departure from Square. This time it was co-founder Tristan O’Tierney fleeing the scene, announcing on Twitter that he’s going to engage in “a bit of traveling.”

As we covered in this piece O’Tierney co-founded Square with Jack Dorsey in 2009 and focused on the iOS app that accompanies Square’s famous physical card reader. O’Tierney created the Obama 2008 iPhone app and met Dorsey at an iPhone DevCamp the same year.

While the loss of O’Tierney may not seem especially note worth in and of itself, it marks the latest in a long line of executive departures from Square. Former COO Keith Rabois, former VP of International Alyssa Cutright and VP of Partnership Alex Petrov have all left for greener pastures as well.

Karen’s Commentary

When the going gets tough, the tough go for a “bit of traveling,” at least that’s according to O’Tierney’s tweet on his last day. There is that point when startups shift from being the garage band operation (or in this case Jack Dorsey apartment operation) to a real business. It becomes less about building and more about execution, living in the trenches and getting stuff done. Many Founders and co-Founders would just rather leave that dirty work to someone else, and are told by their investors they have to or decide they’d rather build new stuff at a different place. Or in this case, maybe all of the above.

Top Tweet

@gregleos: What’s with all the exec. Departures recently? : 2013 – Square Loses Co-Founder Tristan O’Tierney Pymnts.com/briefing-room/…

A reasonable question indeed. Is this just part of a still-relatively-young company’s growing pains, or is there something fishy going on at Square?

After all, other companies in the payments space never see widespread turnover at the top.

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