Payment – Winds of Change for Acquirers

Europe has a fragmented card acquirer market with around 400 acquirers accepting cards at millions of POS terminals, on the internet and mobile. From 2010, domestic card acquirers face significant competition both from foreign cross-border card acquirers and PSP processors becoming acquirers.

Contactless form-factors (e.g. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay), digital scheme wallets (e.g. MasterPass, Visa Checkout), new security requirements (e.g. 3D-Secure 2.0, tokenisation security) and legal authentication requirements (e.g. RTS SCA) are constant challenges for the card acquirers.

In addition, more digital payment service providers compete with card acquirers. They offer the acceptance of IBAN-based digital payment services (e.g. iDEAL), online wallets (e.g. PayPal, Amazon Pay) and prepaid account services to merchants.

Both the payments industry and competing card-less payment service providers benefit from the European legal framework for border-less payment services (e.g. PSD2) and a unique IBAN-based bank payments infrastructure (e.g. SCT, SDD, SCTINST).

Driven by connected consumers, modern retailers intend to offer omni-channel retailing services. Retailers demand omni-channel payment acceptance services from their supporting acquirers, both for cards and card-less digital payments.

The quintessential business startup strategy

What is a business plan? Do you need a plan before you start a business? How do you prepare yourself to enter a marketplace and compete? I will show you the importance of planning your startup strategy and how to prepare it effectively. Once you have a reliable plan you can execute your startup strategy with confidence.

Planning is certainly necessary to achieve success, regardless of what you do in life. You want your decisions to be calculated… they should only be made after performing proper due-diligence to know exactly what you are getting into ahead of time. You must avoid being blind-sided by the unexpected.

Risk, hazards, and many pitfalls exist on the path to business ownership.

What does plan really mean? It is defined as a scheme or method of acting, doing, proceeding, making, etc., developed in advance. If you are a military General, will you go to battle without a plan? Of course not! So why would you go into business without one? The marketplace is quite a battle-field out there with many foes who are ready to fight (compete) with you.

Knowledge and experience are your weapons, and if they are sharp, you will compete well. The problem is strategy. Knowing where to start and how to proceed. Eight-out-of-ten businesses fail after 18 months, statistically. The primary reason for failure by the intelligent entrepreneurs is lack of proper planning. You can overcome just about any obstacle in life if you fully understand it, and then devise an effective strategy to overcome it. Be a calculated decision-maker and your chances of success will be high.

You have a good business idea and you wish to find investors, open a location, develop a product, or market a service. Stop and prepare a good plan of action first. It does not need to be extensive or formal, but it certainly needs to be comprehensive. Put in the effort and cover all of the angles. Consider this action-plan your battle-plan, since you will need it to compete.

All of this may sound quite involved, and even discouraging since you just want to get out there and do business, BUT… you won’t be out there long if you get squashed by your competition. The businesses that belong to the 20% club… those two-out-of-ten companies that survive beyond 18 months, most certainly involve themselves with this kind of research and planning. You WILL need to compete with them.

Pre-plan preparation

Fully educate yourself regarding your industry, your target audience (demographics), your competition and the economic conditions. Anticipate how your customer base will react to your idea, and how your competition will make their moves when you enter the market. Document the weaknesses of your competitors and target them. The knowledge you gain from this research will be used to form an effective tactical plan which will allow you to anticipate outcomes and to be prepared for pitfalls.

All of this preparation will be used to define your business model. That is, the purpose and process of your new venture. Your business model will also include customer base definition and distribution-channel identification… how you will receive goods and how you will deliver products to your customers.

Study your industry

Who are the suppliers and vendors you will use and what kind of bargaining power can you bring to the table? You always need to keep costs as low as possible to improve profit margin, so arm yourself with an understanding of how well you can negotiate deals. If you understand the potential market-share you can achieve, and you can back that up with tangible fact and figures, you may be able to convince them to sweeten the deal in your favor.

How competitive is your industry? Analyze what makes the successful businesses tick and understand exactly what the poor performers are doing wrong. Really dive into expected profit margins in your market since tough competition tends to drive those margins down. Learn how profitable your competition really is.

What is the market structure of your industry? Determine the number of firms that exist in your industry and how large they are. The market entry conditions must be fully understood. That is where and how companies typically do business (meet and connect) with their customers.

Determine the product or service differentiation in your field. Know how many types of products or services there are and what kind of differences exist. Understanding and defining your market structure will prepare you to operate tactfully in your industry.

Challenge the status quo…the existing state of affairs. Maybe you can come up with a new way to do business in your industry. But be careful and cautious since mindsets are difficult to change. You will need some good vision to pull this off. The rewards can be exponentially higher, but there is much more risk.

Understand your target audience

What are the demographics… what makes them tick? To start, the SBA (Small Business Administration) provides many such market research tools. Local economic indicators are available for your geographic area of interest which includes income and employment statistics along with others. Visit the Bureau of Economic Analysis to find a barrage of economic indicators that will provide key data about the region you wish to do business in. Or you can use this to find a good target region. There is a wealth of other tools and resources there including business training, financial support, and a broad network of affiliates ready to help.

You will need to know how your target audience reacts to your idea. Perform Qualitative research using focus groups and Quantitative research using surveys and questionnaires to perform effective market studies.

After you have collected the market study data, it’s time to really get to work preparing and interpreting the data. Put all of the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) into your market research outline. Then, evaluate and prioritize the KPIs that you used in the market research data collection stage. Be objective in your approach to interpreting the data.  You need to avoid statistical bias as you proceed with this process.

Now that you understand what the public thinks about your company, product or service, you need to make any necessary adjustments for marketability. Make your idea marketable, and then your advertising will have the potential to be very effective.

For an in-depth explanation showing how to perform all of this market research, please read Effective Marketing Strategies. There is much more to this than I will detail here, and a deep understanding of marketing will really make the difference

Identify and evaluate your competition

Investigate them. Discover who and how loyal their customers are. Determine the yearly sales volumes of your competitors. Detail their strategies. Read customer feedback and gain insight from resources like Better Business Bureau about your competition. Study indicators like longevity so you can determine how long each competitor has been in business. Review their history to understand what changes they have undergone over the years and why.

That was quite a list! Knowing who your competitors are and what makes them tick will allow you to survive as you compete with them. I will compare your competitors to sharks. If you dive with sharks, you need to have a properly designed cage to ensure they can’t bite through it. Also, you need to understand sharks and fear them without being afraid, if you wish to swim with them not using a cage. Same with business. You can swim with your competition if you understand and have a healthy fear of what they are capable of. A nice thought may be… we are much smarter than sharks!

I will soon publish a blog post detailing how to Identify and evaluate your competition, so stay tuned, there is more to come! For a short but informative post that will help with this topic right now, read: Competitive Analysis from Entrepreneur

Product or service differentiation

How are your products or services different from the competition? What makes them better?  If you plan to enter the market with another version of an existing product, there needs to be an advantage to yours. Quality, functionality, price, or appearance, just to name a few factors that can vary. First you need to identify the existing differentiation among what is already in the market. Then you need to perform a good comparative analysis to provide confidence there is ample differences or advantages.

Pre-plan-prep is all about becoming an expert in each of these areas, and the level of difficulty should not be very high… it just takes some research and study. Keep good notes for reference, and update them regularly as changes occur. The insight you gain from all of this will provide good visibility into what kind of strategic moves you can make to gain market-share.

Put your strategies into your startup plan

Now you are ready to start creating your winning plan. Having performed all of the due-diligence you should now be an expert in your industry. An effective tactical strategy to start a business will be vital to the success of your startup. Do this part correctly, and you will ensure your position in the 20% club!

Creating a formal business plan, which is also important, will not be the focus here. That is an important process in itself and will be covered soon in another post. It is the strategy in the plan, the meat and potatoes of the plan, that I will be covering here. The actual action you will take to start a business, laid out informally, as a guide for you to follow as you execute.

Keep it cheap

Set rules to follow when you execute your startup plan in order to keep costs down. Use low-cost or free resources throughout your operation like free trial software versions which you can evaluate while starting your business. Utilize your home office and garage vs. renting a space. Identify every area of spending required during your startup venture and document it.

When your plan is complete, list everything you will need to buy. Brainstorm each item to come up with ways to save money. Take your list, which is basically a shopping list, to second-hand stores and start saving. Be frugal in all you do. The good stuff can come later when the profits roll in.

Position your product

Establish the positioning statement about your product or service.  This statement is of the utmost importance and should shed light on the unique value your product or service offers. What benefits will you bring your customers? Also, it will define the target demographic which will focus the advertising specifically on them.  The product or service category must be clearly defined by this statement, and that will prevent any confusion about what you are selling.  In this positioning statement, you must prove to your audience that they can trust you and what you have to offer them.  The final statement you develop must be short, concise, and deliver impact in each of these areas.

There is one key difference between a positioning statement and a tagline. Taglines are outward facing. They are simple, compelling statements viewed by the customer. The positioning statement is internal, and will be used to define all advertising and even internal operations. You can use the position statement to test all new ideas, to ensure they match up with what you are really going for.  A fun example is from Harley Davidson:

The only motorcycle manufacturer that makes big, loud motorcycles for macho guys (and “macho wannabes”) mostly in the United States who want to join a gang of cowboys in an era of decreasing personal freedom.

That is a clearly defined identity for sure!

Their tagline:

American by birth. Rebel by choice.

This fits well and sounds compelling to their target demographic, right?

Here is a simple template you can use to set up your own positioning statement:

  • For (target customer)
  • Who (statement of need or opportunity)
  • (Product name) is a (product category)
  • That (statement of key benefit)
  • Unlike (competing alternative)
  • (Product name)(statement of primary differentiation)

Once you have this statement completed, allow it to fully sink in, so it becomes instinct.  That way, you’ll always be able to answer correctly when you question any idea, to see whether it seems to fit into the identity of your company or product line.

Build a winning brand

Having a consistent company theme throughout your organization causes customers to become accustomed to the environment that is conveyed to them from all of the points of contact at your company. This called cross-channel customer experience. Familiarity can be achieved from your customers and that is very powerful. It will heavily contribute to brand recognition and appreciation.

Keep your staff excited about your products and services. Be a motivational speaker for your company!  Your staff will be more responsive to you and your customers.  When your customer gets the feeling that you and your staff are excited about what your company has to offer, that excitement can spill over… especially when it’s consistent across all points of contact with your company.

Brand building is the process of creating deep connections and forming an emotional relationship with your customers. This is not easy and it takes much time. Read Gaining Customer Loyalty for an in-depth dive into what it really takes to make customers stick with you.

Use charitable causes and missions to your advantage

By aligning with one or more, you will start to establish brand recognition and trust in the marketplace. Be authentic and truly care about the community. The public will call you out on it if you are not genuine, and that will destroy all that you have created. When you show that you care by contributing to a charitable cause, public support for your brand will grow nicely.

Targeting specific demographics

Never target the general population, that is a recipe for failure. Narrow your focus on who will actually pay for your products or services, your target audience. You already identified them in the pre-plan-prep, so now put this into your plan of action.


There is no need to discuss all of the many, many forms of advertising out there. You see it all around you, on the streets, on television, online, and you hear it on the radio. The forms of advertising you chose will be based on your industry and what you can afford. More than that, which form of advertising will be most effective for your business. Choose the variety that provides the best bang-for-the-buck. Be sure to start small, so you can optimize your ads affordably.

One defining factor used to determine your advertising budget is the cost of customer acquisition. This number is derived from a simple equation:  Money spent to bring them in divided by the number of customers you receive. The equation gets more complex when you add customer loyalty and repeat business, but those factors lower the cost of customer acquisition.

Before you advertise, you must first be fully prepared to sell. You and your sales staff must truly understand your product or service, and be ready to deal with the public when they inquire about it. Ineffective answers to inquiries after advertising simply wastes the time, effort, and money that went into finding customers in the first place. After you have sales people in place that can really sell and close deals effectively, you will be ready to advertise your products or services.

A successful advertisement will compel your target audience by creating a desire and revealing a nice way to satisfy that desire. Appeal is very important but can be very difficult to determine. Usually, ads, after much evaluation and improvement, need to be tested.  Good statistics must be kept with every ad design iteration and then compared to the previous version. This is a very involved process but will allow you to tailor your advertisements for your target audience to maximize their appeal. Set a tone which caters to your customer’s wants and needs, and helps shape their associations, feelings, perceptions and attitudes to your brand when they think of products or services related to your industry.

One rule to consider for any advertising campaign, if your small business is unknown, is to be seen multiple times in order to gain trust from the public. It is human nature for people to slowly gain trust in something or someone simply by having reoccurring contact. The first time they see an ad from your company, they will probably disregard it. They don’t know who you are.  But after seeing an ad from you multiple times, if they have an interest in your product, their confidence will begin to build and they may finally inquire about your product. Knowing this,  just be patient. Repeat your ad campaign over and over until you really start seeing results.  After that, like magic, your phone may really start ringing off-the-hook, or your in-box will start to fill with inquiries.

As I stated before, there are many, many forms of advertising out there. Find the one that will be most effective for each dollar you spend on it.

Plan your market entry

Now that you fully understand your target audience, your negotiating power with suppliers and vendors, your competition, and you are an industry expert based on your research, put a plan together for how you will enter the marketplace. Just detail all of this out, and thoughtfully plan how you will execute in each area. This thought process is of the most important, now that you have a differentiated product that is ready for market. Document it well and commit it to memory. You don’t want to be caught off-guard.

Remember… challenge the status quo. The rewards you will receive if you can change the way business is done in your industry will be wonderful if you can mitigate the risk. Put it into your plan and test it!

Customer service strategy

To the customer, your company will only be as good as the last time they had contact with you. Small businesses, not having universal brand recognition, must provide stellar customer service along with a stellar product in order to stay on top of the customers mind. Good memories don’t stick in the mind of your customers as well as bad ones do.  This provides an on-going challenge… keep the good memories flowing to your customers!

There is a strong bond that can be achieved with your customers when you provide them with repeated good memories… customer loyalty.  Customer confidence comes from the trust you establish with them, but customer loyalty is the bond that keeps them coming back. Use the examples below to provide the kind of customer service that demands loyalty from every customer.

For a great level of detail on how to provide the best customer experience, and what type of actions to avoid to prevent those bad memories, read Gaining Customer Loyalty.

Exit strategy

Sometimes major setbacks occur that may put you out of business, like the death of a key stakeholder, or your own illness. Be sure to start and then contribute to a retirement fund. Purchase some of the many types of insurance. To list a few: Employee liability, commercial auto, general liability, property, worker’s compensation, professional liability and data breach.

There are many types of insurance that an agent would love to sell you, so get the information about what is available, and what each one covers, but then be shrewd. Insurance is a service, even if much of it is mandatory, so treat is as a product and weight the cost vs. value for each type. Don’t over-insure. First, comply with what is required by law, and then go with your instinct, based on research and shopping around.

If you plan on selling your company after reaching a certain mile-stone, like gaining a specific amount of market-share, put that into your plan so you know when and how to start advertising your business.

Select a team (staff)

You will have to wear many hats… perform many jobs as a startup business owner. But you can’t do everything. Plan to hire key staff members that can help you get to then next level, time and time again. Lay out the details for this in your plan so you can anticipate what kind of help you will need based on your own talents and short-comings. Think through and document what stage you expect to need this help and write up your plan to convince them to join you, since you probably won’t be able to provide a competitive wage at first.

Monitor changes in the market (customer needs, new competitors, and new technology)

This is something that should never ever stop. Changes occur often, in every industry, so stay on top of them and make adjustments to stay competitive. Anticipate changes before they occur and you will be able to change course on a dime, out-witting your competition.

Line up customers before you open your business

Getting your products out to your market ahead of time will allow you to get feedback and testimonials that you can use in your advertising when you open your business. Provide free samples of your products in a creative, promotional way.

Set new trends with your idea

Following market trends is safe but strategically setting new market trends will truly make you stand out. Put your vision to the test with this one!

Manage your strategic action business startup plan like a project which has timeframes, milestones, commitments and good communication and understanding. Use good resource allocation so key players get their piece of the project and assign key deliverables. Project management is key to successful execution of a business startup plan. Be calculating and tactical every step of the way.

(article by G.Hixon)

Mentors: The good, the bad and the ugly

I have mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs from dozens of countries.

Pretty much every flavour, from MBA graduates or successful professionals that discovered they want to suffer the freedom to start from scratch, to young developers in accelerator programs across Europe.

The lost causes, the predictable success stories and everything in between – half probably don’t remember me, a few hate me, too many take my advice too seriously.

I’ve managed dozens of mentors that gave up the time they didn’t have for their families to help the next generation in many of these programs. They obviously also had an opinion on how to manage a business to support entrepreneurs launching businesses.

As a consequence of launching my first FinTech startup 3 years ago, with both the benefits and challenges of having never worked in financial services, I’ve dealt with both people who wasted my energy as well as geniuses that we couldn’t have survived without. And, truth be told, geniuses that could have ended us and other people who we owe being alive to.

I’ve experienced from both sides of the table how mentoring can make or break a startup: in many ways mentoring will shape your startup more than the little cash you’ve got left in the bank. Cash is probably a more urgent issue, but that merits another post.

Like a cult movie, mentors play three roles. It obviously helps if you figure out what shapes potential mentors before they become your companion.

The Good

Good mentors are the worst. The best startups navigate uncharted waters by definition, normally working on a problem no one has solved that way (if at all) before.

Domain experts will view everything from the lense of their (corporate) successes and failures. They are likely to answer the questions from the startup instead of helping them identify the right hypothesis to work on testing.

Serial entrepreneurs will rarely be transparent about the endless times they almost gave up, and rarely realise how much things have changed since they last spent time in a basement. Yet many can boost morale, share great ideas and introduce you to powerful friends. Handle with care.

The Bad

Bad mentors are relatively easy to spot. Conflicts of interest. Lack of hobbies. Ego driven. Trying too hard or not listening at all.

They might to be able to provide marginal value, but they are guaranteed to distract you as long as you allow them to.

Run as fast as you can unless you are out of ideas – in which case you should probably try to get a job.

The Ugly

Ugly mentors are the ones that hurt repeatedly, but that can gauge the urgency of the long list of unsolved problems that can make your startup fail, and help you identify options to continue your quest.

They are the ones that let you know when you are wrong, trying different angles to make you aware of risks you are oblivious to.

They are also the ones that provide data driven emotional support in times of need, the ones that understand that as a CEO one of your toughest challenges is managing your own psychology.

Always keep a few on speed dial. If you can’t find one, try talking to a stranger whose life could be better thanks to what you are up to and learn why he doesn’t care.

Worth it?

So is mentorship worth it? Most definitely.

You have to push your limits and try your luck. Learn and share. Share and learn because at the end of the day, beyond the human need to help others develop by looking at their problems from your perspective, enjoying the intellectual freedom of thinking about challenges that you are not committed to, or the comforting feeling of your opinion having a positive impact on projects that might change the world, the best thing about being a mentor is that it helps you realise whether you are ready to launch another startup or if you’d rather watch from the sideline.

(article by Luis Rivera)

What is the sharing economy?

An introduction to the difference between Couchsurfing, Uber, Airbnb, DoorDash, and Etsy

The sharing economy: We all have an understanding of it, but describing it is still a challenge.

We’ve also heard it called many things: “sharing economy”, “collaborative consumption”, “peer economy”, “on-demand”, and even “peer-to-peer marketplaces”.

All the companies placed in these categories have similar attributes: they wed supply and demand. Too often, however, we use the phrases interchangeably when there are actually key differences that should be considered in order to understand how these new categories shape our economy.

The phrase “sharing economy”, most similar to “collaborative consumption” and “peer economy”, suggests an economy based on resources, and not on any abstract system of money. For example, one of the most pure representations of the sharing economy would have to be Couchsurfing, which was founded over a decade ago.

As a host on Couchsurfing, you offer a spare bedroom in your home (or even just a couch) to “surfers”, usually foreigners travelling through the area who need a place to crash. In this case, there’s no exchange of money whatsoever, reflecting a true sharing model.

Yet Uber and Airbnb, not Couchsurfing, are considered the biggest “sharing economy” companies out there, most likely because Airbnb and Uber are valued at $25.5 billion and $62.5 billion, respectively. So where’s the sharing? Someone is either hiring an Uber or renting an Airbnb unit. The only “sharing” piece of the resources used is that the cars and the spaces are owned by individuals and are often underused assets, such as a car, space, and in some cases, a person’s time.

But there’s still money being exchanged. Uber and Airbnb would better be described as “peer economy” companies, because “peer-to-peer” is a decentralized system versus a more traditional capitalist system, where a business owner owns the production and hires the labor. In either case, however, money changes hands.

Further discrepancies arise when you take a closer look at these two peer economy companies. Most obviously, Uber is an “on-demand” service powered by “peer-to-peer labor”, whereas Airbnb is more of a marketplace. One can get a room on-demand, but that’s not a core part of the platform. And there’s no labor component at all.

This differs from Uber, when every Uber call is immediate. It’s an action that demands immediate action.

So what are the other on-demand startups out there that also aggregate labor? Dozens of food delivery companies (e.g. DoorDash and Instacart), household errands and services (e.g. Handy, TaskRabbit), and many others (e.g. Postmates, YourMechanic, Staffly)—these are less “sharing” economy companies, and more “excess labor” companies. In the case of these companies, there are no assets being shared, but services are being provided by a person.

Companies like Breather, WeWork, and Rover, on the other hand, are more like Airbnb, in that they’re marketplaces, with an on-demand component, but not an excess “labor” component.

Finally, there are the peer-to-peer models that are pure marketplaces, including Etsy, Shapeways, Vinted, and Wallapop. For example,  Vinted has no “on-demand” component, but it is a flavor of the peer-to-peer model since individuals are buying, selling, and swapping each other’s clothes. It’s basically Amazon for secondhand clothing.

But across all these companies, consumers are still paying, which is why the Harvard Business Review argues we should be calling Airbnb and all its peers (Uber, Lyft, WeWork, Instacart, Handy, etc.) part of an “access economy”, not a sharing economy:

Sharing is a form of social exchange that takes place among people known to each other, without any profit. Sharing is an established practice, and dominates particular aspects of our life, such as within the family. By sharing and collectively consuming the household space of the home, family members establish a communal identity. When “sharing” is market-mediated — when a company is an intermediary between consumers who don’t know each other — it is no longer sharing at all. Rather, consumers are paying to access someone else’s goods or services for a particular period of time. It is an economic exchange, and consumers are after utilitarian, rather than social, value.

While HBR makes a solid point, however, it doesn’t look like their article (published a little over a year ago) will make any inroads in changing how we speak about this new generation of companies. As a phrase and category, the “sharing economy” is here to stay, and it will continue to be used to describe services as wildly different as Couchsurfing (a website where people host strangers in their home for free), Uber and Lyft (apps where you press a button to hail a ride from a company contractor), and Vinted (an online marketplace where people buy, sell, and swap clothing).

My next pieces will expand on the sharing economy divisions introduced above, and will reveal how even “peer-to-peer” and “on-demand” are broad umbrella categories that don’t always mean the same thing in every case.

The shifting web behaviors across Desktop and Mobile



The psychology of web design – How to make websites & influence people



IT and the Internet: the last 30 years



How to start a Startup

Here is a literal and actionable guide on how to start up.


Based on a much longer eponymous essay by Paul Graham, I reinterpreted it so it makes sense when you don’t know where to start:

  • Live in the future. Most of us live in the past or the present. It is easier to analyze what already succeeded and think of ways to replicate the success. It’s thinking by analogy. It is a valid way to think, except that this isn’t the way to create a big startup. Big startups are based on ideas of two kinds – obvious and hard, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX; and non-obvious and hard, like Uber. If you don’t see the obvious and hard or the non-obvious, there is a name for it – “Schlep Blindness”. SpaceX is an obvious idea because the only other enterprise that could send people to Mars, NASA, had no plan to do so at the time SpaceX started. So it is obvious. Because it is obvious and no one else is doing it – a reasonable assumption is that it is impossible. Yet if you live in the future, it will also be obvious to you that humanity will either go to Mars (or another planet) or go extinct at some point. More likely we will find a way to leave this blue pebble. So the impossible must be possible. With UberPool, the idea that at any given point in time there are at least two people going from about the same location to about the same destination is non-obvious. It requires at least three assumptions. It is hard because you would have to gather and store mountains of data about where people actually go in a city. That kind of data analysis is only becoming available now. But Uber thought of it when they offered their first ride back in 2009. They were living in the future.
  • See what is missing in the world. You probably noticed that before Uber, taxi rides weren’t enjoyable. You probably noticed that before SpaceX people were less interested in space. But that is already the past. What is missing now? More importantly what is missing from your life now?
  • Write it down. No matter how smart you are, you will not remember all your insights. Your conversations with others, random observation, and shower thoughts that are worth following up on. Write these done or lose them. Daydreaming has value. Einstein had another name for it – thought experiment.
  • Make a prototype. Most of your thoughts, even the best ones, will never see the light of day sadly. You will forget them into oblivion even if you write them down. The only exceptions are those thoughts you prototype. Makethem physical if they can be – program them, design them, do anything that makes them more than just thoughts. Most people will stop right here. So if you do this, you are already ahead of the imaginary curve.
  • Show the prototype to 100 people. Now you will need to step out of your comfort zone and seek out people who will critique your prototype. Ideally, these are both people you already know and complete strangers. Why 100? Because you need a breadth of perspective and hopefully a pattern to recognize from all the feedback.
  • Iterate. Although a few people will get it right on the first try, the odds are you will not. So prepare to redo everything from scratch. This is your “founder MBA”, except it is free.
  • Find a co-founder. When the prototype starts making sense, go find another person who will pour a decade of their life into this project because it will change the world and they probably don’t have a more meaningful thing to do in life at the moment.
  • Register your business. Split equity. Finally, an easy step. Get a lawyer who will register your company. Give your co-founder as much equity as will make them work their hardest, while you keep as much as will make you give it your all.
  • Look for funding and build version one. Unless you have enough savings to build version one, go find an investor. While you are doing that build version one. You have to keep building because there is no guarantee about when or whether you find an investor. Don’t assume that you will just because other startups are getting funded. Assume the worst, and build your product.
  • Launch. By the time there is even an iota of usefulness in your product, launch it. Extra features, better interface, faster load time and other optimizations probably won’t save it, if the core features have no use.
  • Follow up with users. Are users coming back? Find out why they are not.
  • Launch again. Launch as many times as it takes. At some point, if at least a few dozen people are coming back on their own, you probably made something valuable.
  • Get to 1,000 users. This may not seem like a lot, but the first 1,000 users will show the weaknesses of what you have built. You probably will have to recruit them manually. How manually? Take their computer and open your website for them. Whatever it takes.
  • Grow. Paul Graham encourages startups to grow at least 5% a week. If you grow that much, within 4 years you will get to 25 million users. In other words, you will be one of the largest startups.
  • Success – whatever that is. You can IPO, sell your company to another or stay private by convincing investors that there is a bigger liquidity event coming. Even now, though, you may or may not have made the world better. WebVan IPO’ed, but quickly disappeared. Think about what kind of a dent in the universe you want to leave with your startup.

(article by A.Vital – Inspired by Paul Graham’s essay “How to Start a Startup”)

Real-time payment systems launched across the world

When a person receives a check and has to wait for two-four days for its clearance, that’s not a good scenario. Many say that they have gotten used to it, but the younger generation is living a fast-paced life; millennials are challenging the status quo. There is a rising need for immediacy in payments whether it is banks, businesses, or even peer-to-peer. Solutions are available in some parts of the world for immediate transfer of funds. We have been tracking real-time payment systems launched across the world on an ongoing basis and have had discussions with people who built them. I thought of sharing it in the form of a timeline infographic to understand the trends.

People and businesses worldwide want payment systems that can achieve the desired speed of transactions, minimize the cost of transactions, reduce risks of fraud and bring satisfaction of service across different channels. That’s where real-time payments come into the picture. It has already been implemented in some countries and the US is not on the list.

Below is an infographic showing a timeline of countries adopting real-time payments:


1973: Zengin (operates 08:30-16:40)

Japan was the first country in the world to implement real-time payments.

1987: SIC

Switzerland was the first country in the Europe to implement real-time payments.

1992: TIC-RTGS (operates 08:30-17:30)

Turkey was the second country in Europe to implement real-time payments.

1995: CIFS

Taiwan was the second the country in Asia to implement real-time payments.

2000: Greiðsluveitan (operates 09:00-16:30)

Iceland was the third country in Europe to implement real-time payments.


South Korea was the third country in Asia to implement real-time payments.

2002: SITRAF (operates 07:30-17:00)

Brazil was the first country in South America and among the BRIC nations to implement real-time payments.

2004: SPEI

Mexico was the first country from North America to implement real-time payments.

2006: RTC

South Africa was the first African country to implement real-time payments.

2008: TEF

Chile was the second country in South America to implement real-time payments.

Faster Payments

The UK was the fourth country in Europe to implement real-time payments.

2010: IBPS

In 2010, China introduced real-time payments.


In 2010, India introduced real-time payments.

2011: NIP (operates 08:00-17:00)

In 2011, Nigeria introduced real-time payments.

2012: Elixir Express

Poland implemented real-time payments in 2012.


Sweden implemented real-time payments in 2012.

2014: Nets

Denmark implemented real-time payments in 2014.


In March 2014, Singapore introduced real-time payments.

Countries like Singapore and the UK have this service free of charge. Even countries like Nigeria and India are offering such real-time payment services.

In the US, we don’t have something which people enjoy in many countries across the world and that is an opportunity to build free real-time payments for any amount.

NACHA, the electronic payments association, has recently proposed a solution to provide a new, efficient and ubiquitous capability to expedite the processing of ACH transactions. With the new rule, the same-day processing of virtually any ACH payment can be enabled. But it will take some time for the rule to become fully effective. Same Day ACH would become effective over three phases during September 2016 as follows:

  • In Phase 1, ACH credit transactions will be eligible for same-day processing, supporting use cases such as hourly payroll, person-to-person (P2P) payments and same-day bill pay.
  • In Phase 2, Same-day ACH debits will be added, allowing for a wide variety of consumer bill payment use cases like utility, mortgage, loan and credit card payments.
  • Phase 3 introduces faster ACH credit fund availability requirements for RDFIs (receiving depository financial institution); funds from Same-day ACH credit transactions will need to be available to customers by 5:00 PM RDFI local time.

Phase 1 is scheduled to begin September 23, 2016.

In Australia, the service is in its implementation phase.

(article by Amit/LTP)

E-commerce: How men and Women differ shopping online

We all know about the battles of the sexes, but how do they stack up in the e-commerce environment?