Thoughts from the front lines of payment's big shift

The CEO of Rentalic, winner of the the PayPal X Developer Challenge, looks at the future of payment

There’s a lot brewing in the payment space and much of that activity traces back to developers. You can get a sense of the seismic shift by looking over the winners of the recently concluded PayPal X Developer Challenge.

Rentalic, Paypal X Developer ChallengeThe big winner in that competition was Rentalic, a service that uses PayPal to let regular folks rent out their gear. And by “gear” I mean virtually anything — sporting goods, electronics, tools, toys, etc. This video and the company’s FAQ spell out its process.

Rentalic CEO Punsri Abeywickrema has a unique vantage point in the payment world. He’s in that interesting spot where code is turning theory into application. I asked Abeywickrema for his take on the current and future state of payment and the role startups will play in shaping that landscape.

Mac Slocum: What have been the most important recent innovations in payment?

Punsri Abeywickrema: An important change is that companies like PayPal and Amazon are opening up APIs to provide more flexibility for the developers to build their payment solutions. This will result in a big wave of innovation and a whole new line of payment apps in the months and years to come.

Also, as a result of more flexible APIs, companies will figure out new ways to monetize their features and technology. That will result in more innovation and revenue growth while providing convenience and better security to the users.

MS: Do developers bring a unique perspective to payment?

PA: The way I see it, companies that provide goods or services online are the best ones to know the challenges their customers face. And it’s not just the developers. It’s the product people, architects, business development, marketing, sales and all other parts of the organization that come together to build the next generation of payment solutions. Empowering organizations to come up with their own solutions to address their own problems in their own business segments will continue to drive activity in the payment space.

MS: What’s the upside to a competition like the Paypal X Developer Challenge? Is it the prospect of funding? Is it the focus competition can bring?

PA: I’d say both. Initially we were planning to release our new transaction solution at the end of March. Then we got to know about the competition and really had to speed up the development effort. Definitely, the competition helped us to focus. Prospects of funding is another huge advantage.

If it weren’t for competitions like the PayPal X Developer challenge or events like Maker Faire, a small company like Rentalic, which has a great idea and a business model with huge potential, would have gone unnoticed.

MS: Could you run Rentalic through traditional credit cards, checks or cash?

PA: Probably not. I don’t know of a way for credit cards or checks to process chained or split payments and handle deposit refunds. I would have been able to handle the pre-approval part through traditional cards and Automatic Clearing House, but the rest of the requirements would not have been possible. Or even if it was, it would have been too expensive to implement.

Note: This interview was condensed and edited.

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