Dwolla founder and CEO addresses the audience at the Dwolla Meetup in December 2011.
During an interview Thursday with Ben Milne, I posed a question that drew a smile from the Dwolla CEO: Is it fair to say Dwolla’s upcoming meetup will be like the classic Dwolla meetups of the early days?”
“That’s totally fair,” said Milne, the founder of the four-year-old, Des Moines-based payments startup. “This is us recognizing that we kind of want to go hang out with our friends … it’s as much about building a culture here as it is about building culture in the community.”
People at tonight’s Dwolla Meetup at Vaudeville Mews won’t bear witness to the unveiling of an innovative new feature inside Dwolla. Instead, they’ll hear the latest in Dwolla’s evolution, one that goes outside of the network.
“This is kind of our first public step off platform,” Milne said. With 20 partners on board, Dwolla today rolls out Guest Checkout, an option for online merchants and marketplaces to process customer payments through Dwolla even if the customer isn’t a Dwolla user.
“The thing that we kind of live by is to create the ideal transaction,” Milne said. “In this case, for a web merchant, the ideal transaction is you shouldn’t have to force your consumers to go sign up for another account, you just let them pay you.”
To use Guest Checkout, users are re-directed to Dwolla’s site (above) where they enter basic personal information, verify their phone number and connect to their financial institution. They’re then sent back to the original site, where they are able to pay. Dwolla does not retain any guest user information in the process.
For the consumer, it’s another way to pay. For the merchant, it’s another way to take advantage of Dwolla’s 25-cent flat fee network, which Dwolla hopes will also reward the consumer. The startup is marketing what it calls the “Dwolla Price,” a price that discounts around half of what the credit card processing fees would have been on the purchase.
Why is Dwolla making this move? “More transactions,” Milne said.
Though the company loudly rolled out the latest version of FiSync, a product for banks, in June, Milne said Dwolla’s core business is built around the consumer market.
“If we do (this) right, it will result in people utilizing Dwolla where Dwolla’s essentially moving the money but they’re not even really aware that Dwolla’s the one doing the work,” Milne said. “There is a lot of opportunity in us shifting from this kind of network-centric model.”
With that in mind, the company has continued to expand its API – in October, a blog post announced “major API updates” – and engage the developer community to build integrations with Dwolla. This weekend, for example, Dwolla will hold its second hackathon in a less that year.
After Milne shares the latest evolution of Dwolla at tonight’s meetup, he’ll give the audience a sneak peak of planned future changes to his company’s web and mobile interface.
“It’s important not to be shy about what it is that we’re up to,” Milne said, noting that it’s been almost a year since Dwolla brought the community together to share what it’s up to. “Being open about not only what’s working but what’s not with the community is something that we can definitely contribute, and we should be encouraged to and encourage everybody here to.”
The Dwolla Meetup is at 6 tonight. The Old MacDonald Hackathon kicks off Saturday at 9:30 a.m. The company is holding a party with Derby Jackpot, an online horse race betting parlor that uses Dwolla, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Johnny’s Hall of Fame.
Note: Silicon Prairie News is an event partner of the Old MacDonald Hackathon.