Top Story: Snapcash
This week, I received another snap announcement from Snapchat:
Snapcash offers the same peer-to-peer payment service as Venmo.
The simplicity of its service and rampant word-of-mouth tactic catapulted PayPal’s Venmo to $1 billion in annual consumer mobile payments this year. The service launched publicly in 2012.
With 100 million active monthly users, Snapchat is very well positioned to beat Venmo at its own game. Powered by Square, Snapcash allows users to transfer dollars to other users after they upload their debit card information simply by typing a dollar sign before the amount they wish to send in the chat window.
Another feature is “swipe-to-send,” activated by typing three dollar signs into the chat window, which allows you to do this:
Announcing the service through its blog, Snapchat explains:
We set out to make payments faster and more fun, but we also know that security is essential when you’re dealing with money. Square has a ton of experience in this area and our teams have been hard at work to make Snapcash a great experience for everyone.
Users can view their transaction history and manage their settings from the Snapcash menu. The app also limits usage to a $250 weekly sending and $1,000 monthly receiving maximum – though both can be raised once you verify your identity through Square.
What do you think of Snapchat as more than just an app for sending “ephemeral” messages?
Tool of the Week: Fontus
Design student Kristof Retezàr has created a bike-mounted device that will never leave cyclists thirsty.
This simple but effective technology uses solar power to transform air moisture into perfectly drinkable water. Retezàr used thermoelectric mechanization, a way in which energy is converted into electricity that cools the top of the device, which makes moisture condense.
The design student said he got his inspiration from the rapidly growing concern of water scarcity. In 15 years, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress. “My goal was to create a small, compact and self-sufficient device able to absorb humid air, separate water molecules from air molecules and store water in liquid form in a bottle,” Retezàr said. “Every measure to ease this upcoming crisis is a welcome one.”
Though the technology only creates 17 fl oz of water in one hour, it would be just enough for a dehydrated bicycler to make it to the nearest gas station or river.
Retezàr’s Fontus is only a prototype, but he is hoping to gain crowdfunding and investors to make more of these cost effective water bottles (they cost less than $40 to make). In the future, he hopes to push the accessory’s idea beyond sporting purposes to tackle the wider issue of worldwide water shortages.
Under the Radar: Uber Falls Under Fire
Though uber might be the hot new way to get around in the city, the company is about to get burned: the app has accumulated criticism for an executive’s scathing comments about journalists and the ethical barriers of surveillance.
A highly ranked Uber employee recently suggested the idea of looking into the private lives of journalists who are critical of the app. The comment came from Emil Michael, Uber’s senior VP of business, who was speaking at a dinner in New York. Michael claimed the company was willing to invest up to a million dollars to investigate journalists’ private lives.
Up until this point, Uber has had widespread success and acclaim. The company, which received $17 billion in funding in June, has expanded across 220 international cities. Since 2009, Uber has completely transformed the ride booking industry, placing taxis, limos and private cars at a large loss of business.
It wasn’t long after Silicon Valley heard of the remarks that Uber went into damage control. The statement was “borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company,” Mr. Michael said.
Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, took to Twitter to address the issue. A 14-tweet long apology directly criticized Michael for his remarks and reassured customers of Uber’s commitment to its community:
Emil’s comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company. His remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals. His duties here at Uber do not involve communications strategy or plans and are not representative in any way of the company approach.
Instead, we should lead by inspiring our riders, our drivers and the public at large. We should tell the stories of progress and appeal to people’s hearts and minds. We must be open and vulnerable enough to show people the positive principles that are the core of Uber’s culture. We must tell the stories of progress Uber has brought to cities and show the our constituents that we are principled and mean well.
The burden is on us to show that, and until Emil’s comments we felt we were making positive steps along those lines. But I will personally commit to our riders, partners and the public that we are up to the challenge.
We are up to the challenge to show that Uber is and will continue to be a positive member of the community. And furthermore, I will do everything in my power towards the goal of earning that trust.
I believe that folks who make mistakes can learn from them – myself included. and that also goes for Emil .. and last, I want to apologize to @sarahcuda
Even with emotive pleas for forgiveness, Uber might not be back in good graces. The company is especially vulnerable due to its reliance on culture and reputation. With at-will contractors driving cars that don’t belong to the company, Uber has placed itself at high risk for drivers to join rival services and clients to follow suit.
From options ranging from taxis, other ride-sharing applications and public transportation, will people still be willing to choose an increasingly controversial company? Only time will tell if Uber will be able to adapt to large growth or buckle under the pressure of public scrutiny.
Around the Hub: Holiday Cheer
Too early to start thinking about Christmas? Possibly, but it’s never too early for holiday cheer.
The Boston Common Christmas tree, arrived from Nova Scotia this morning, at 55 years old and 43 feet high.
— BostonTweet (@BostonTweet) November 21, 2014
The lighting ceremony of which is slated for Thursday, December 4.
On the subject of holiday lighting ceremonies, another Boston winter staple marks the season this week. Blink! the free light and sound show featuring the music of the Holiday Pops begins tomorrow night. The show will run every half hour from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. until January 4th.
For a full list of holiday events at Faneuil Hall, take a look here>>