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Dwolla launches in Iowa


Dwolla, a web-based money transfer system based in Des Moines, officially emerged from beta today with the launch of the public system in Iowa. I first interviewed their founder, Ben Milne, at Highlight Midwest and learned about their product and plans for the future.

Here’s their official press release on the launch:

Dwolla to Launch Website Dec. 1, 2009 in Iowa

Dwolla, a new payment processing network, will be launching it’s website on December 1, 2009 in Des Moines Iowa.

http://www.dwolla.com is a new payment network that will change the way businesses exchange money online. The sites new payment network can cut costs currently being charged by other providers. Dwolla uses a $0.25 max transaction cost on all money transfers, instead of the standard 2-5% fee […]

Read their full post

Amongst the chaos involved in taking a product to launch, Ben was able to take a couple minutes out of his morning to answer a few questions for us on how the product is progressing:

SPN: What is involved with your Iowa launch?

Ben: Releasing the software publicly out of beta is the largest thing. When your using the site a lot of things just sort of happen (i.e. money moves). Dwolla’s payment network and website are completely custom software and each part of it really did take a lot of fine tuning.

For the past year we’ve been quietly working on this and not talking to anyone about what we are doing. We’re ready to start sharing a little about the project.

The launch date  also means manning a platform for customer service. As of December 1st emails and client support are a part of daily life at Dwolla. Until now it’s been all about software development and setting up platforms.

Integrated live support was released yesterday for all users on our website. Free or not.

Also, I put a sign on my door that says “Dwolla”. It’s official. Keep in mind it’s printed on paper. It’s a start up.

SPN: I live in Iowa and want to pay my registration for SPN’s Big Omaha event in Nebraska through Dwolla — can I do that?

Ben: If the seller / merchant has a Dwolla account. Yes. If not. No. If the merchant is in Iowa. It’s pretty easy to sign up for a invite. It’s free for them to offer it as a payment form and it will save them money in the end. They should sign up 🙂

If they are outside of Iowa. Tell them to send us angry emails, sign up for invitations, and generally hound us to move to their state next. They should sign up 🙂

The best thing to do if we’re not in your state is sign up. The more sign ups we see in that state the faster we start offering the service there.

SPN: When will other states be launched?

Ben: Right now we’re looking at two other states in the next four months. We have in-house projections and assumptions about the computing scale of the project which largely dictate how quickly we move forward. As we feel its safe and beneficial to expand…we will. We know the market is too big and too full of financial fraud for us to roll out everywhere over night.

Controllable growth at the beginning is paramount to our success.

It will take some time. Enthusiastic support is a huge motivator in which states we go to next and how quickly.

SPN: How did the beta test phase go?

Ben: Great. This is all about the quality of beta users and the sheer amount of feedback we received.

Thanks to beta, on day one we have numerous business in the system using Dwolla as part of their everyday business. We also have some promotional partners which we are going to be working with on a small scale in Iowa.

Without beta we never would have been able to start out like this. Dwolla has been a very fortunate company. Our user support and direct feedback has been pretty stunning. It’s amazing what people will tell you if you just give them the platform to make their voice heard.

SPN: I hear it’s now free to setup accounts — how did that come about?

Ben: Initial feedback told us people wanted a chance to use the site and that it should be free. Part of growing any business is listening to your users. We sat down and found a way to pull it off and we did it. Now accounts can be free, or paid. We assume most users will opt for a free account initially.

For heavy volume users we have quite a few things in the pipeline we think will also show them a great deal of value in their applications which will not be available in our free options.

It’s important to note the other account plans did not get more expensive to offset the cost.

SPN: On the Dwolla blog you mention that “world domination” is not your plan for growth — what’s stopping you?

Ben: Dictators suck. We’re here to offer a good service at a good price. If the market demand is as strong as we believe it is, growth will happen organically.

The idea here is very simple:

  • Make customers happy.
  • Consistently deliver on your promises.
  • Give people what they pay for.
  • Watch your company grow.

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