17. New payment methods. There are almost certainly things whose growth is held back because there’s no way to charge for them. And the people who could implement solutions don’t realize how much demand there would be, precisely because this growth has been held back. So pretty much any new way of paying for things that’s easier for some class of situations will turn out to have a bigger market than its inventors expected. Look at Paypal. (Warning: Regulated industry.)
My Idea – MyVC
Shucks. I had two ideas around this one, but I did some quick searches and turns out they’ve both already been done. The first was an option called “PayLater”, where users could opt to purchase items immediately and then get a bill up to one year in the future (there would be an increasing fee depending on how far in the future they wanted to be billed). But, BillMeLater is already in that market – and doing really well. The other idea was for a virtual currency that you would earn by playing mini-games (and viewing ads). But I knew it sounded familiar and, sure enough, my buddy Adam had already cornered this market with his awesome ZuckerBucks Facebook app.
Well, as my grandpappy used to say: “When life gives you lemons, make a consolidated online virtual currency gateway and payment system”. I never quite understood what he was talking about. Until today.
My idea is a consolidated online virtual currency gateway and payment system. The limited number of virtual currency systems in the market today are already ridiculously fragmented and closed – and it’s not likely to change as new virtual currencies come online. What if I wanted to use my XBox 360 points to buy something on Amazon.com? Or use my Facebook dollars (this has to be coming and it will be huge) to buy some shoes on Zappos.com? Or use my MySpace bucks (they’ll jump on this along with every other social network once Facebook rolls it out) to buy party favors from eBay? Or what about a more complex case, such as using my Linden Dollars to refill my Starbucks card using the current exchange rate (approx 250 LD to 1 USD)?
The core feature of this system is the ability for e-commerce sites to add a simple bit of code (like PayPal offers) that users could click on for an additional payment option. Users would be redirected to the site, and once they logged in they would see all of the balances across each of their virtual currency accounts (converted into USD or their local analog currencies). Users could choose the virtual currency they’d like to use, and under the hood the system would manage the process of deducting points from the virtual currency and passing the payment on to the e-commerce site. Users could also set up “quick pay” options, where they would just have to enter their name/password (or click on an infocard) and the system would automatically carry out the transaction via the user’s primary virtual currency account.
This idea is a little bit ahead of it’s time, but what do you think? Maybe something worth patenting now, and waiting a few years before the technology catches up before it would be implemented? Or maybe start by defining a standard for adding or deducting to/from a virtual currency system? Thoughts, feedback, and mockery are all welcome in the comments below.