SDK Launch Takes LevelUp From Product To Platform

Since its 2011 launch, LevelUp has been a product, an app that consumers can download to make mobile payments at participating merchant locations and that merchants can use for payment processing. With the launch of LevelUp's software development kit (SDK) on September 11, however, the Boston-based mobile payments firm is adopting an open platform approach. 

"Now, any developer, any merchant, any business, any third party can take any piece of LevelUp's existing functionality into their existing app to build a new app around it," Seth Priebatsch, the founder and chief ninja of LevelUp, told in an exclusive interview.

The LevelUp Development Platform provides developers with a host of tools. This includes its SDK, which allows developers to enable apps for mobile payment; its APIs, which provide access to rich transaction data; and its authentication flow, which makes it easy for them to ask for permissions.

The result is that developers can "do all sorts of cool and crazy things," according to Priebatsch. For example, Priebatsch revealed new use cases for the development tool that will enable merchants from tourism companies to review sites to gain access to perform like never before.

With this in mind, Market Platform Dynamics (MPD) CEO Karen Webster spoke to Priebatsch to find out more about the platform and how it compares to others on the market.

What SDK Use Cases Are Already Percolating?

So far, Priebatsch says LevelUp has 50 active projects underway, though only five or six are live. Looking forward, Priebatsch said gyms and sports clubs are in the process of using LevelUp's platform to enable their customers to pay without their keys or wallet.

Further, he said review sites will be leveraging the platform in order to foster higher levels of credibility with users. Priebatsch said that a service like Yelp could enable users to verify their reviews by connecting their activity with a physical purchase.

What About LevelUp SDK Is Most Appealing To Developers?

To this question, Priebatsch stressed the ease-of-use and acceptance of LevelUp SDK. He compared the new services to other payment platforms like Google Wallet, Isis and PayPal, which he characterized as being limited versions of what LevelUp now provides.

"We are at our core a community and also an underlying technology. If you're taking part in the community, you're taking part in the community, and if you're using the underlying technology it's our job to get out of your way, to give you access to this utility and let you do what you want," Priebatsch said.

To Priebatsch, LevelUp's SDK has more in common with older examples of platforms such as affiliate-branded MasterCard and Visa cards.

How Do LevelUp And MCX Compare?

Priebatsch acknowledged the "overlap" between the two companies in his talk with Webster, but was careful to focus on what sets LevelUp apart - the wide potential appeal of his company's new platform. By comparison, he said the use cases for MCX are much more limited.

"[MCX is] hey, here are these 40 merchants, we're going to build a tool by us for us... the most important thing for them is that [the platform is] owned by the merchant. That will never be the case with levelup," the chief ninja said.

What's Been The Reaction So Far?

Priebatsch said that so far he's been impressed with the platform, but acknowledged that with the launch just hours in the books, LevelUp's SDK will still need to live up to the hype in order to be called a success.

"Obviously with any platform, we won't be able to tell you if we've been successful for six, nine 12 months, but [it's] off to a good start," Priebatsch said.

For more on the announcement, read the official press release here.



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