CircleUp launches SmartPay: make social payments in AOL, Facebook + email

CircleUp launches SmartPay: make social payments in AOL, Facebook + email

Newport Beach, CA – EMBARGO: March 4, 2009, 8AM ET CircleUp, Inc., the leading group messaging service for membership Web sites, today launched SmartPay, a powerful new service for online payments made among members of groups and teams. SmartPay runs on the SmartMessage Platform, an innovative messaging service operating across multiple channels, partner destinations and platforms.

I don’t normally spout press releases verbatim, but this opening paragraph is pretty good, so I’m making an exception. And I am keeping to the embargo of 08:00 Eastern Time (14:00 Amsterdam). Last time I did that, the US party involved broke their own embargo, but the Next Web was first to receive this news release, so I have a good feeling this time.

I like the cheeky way there’s a “Collect Money By Email” statement in the press release from Circle Up. I usually refer to ‘‘ as ‘Totally Meaningless’ in a legal sense, but it signals an intent to ‘own’ the phrase. Good luck guys! But I do like the fact that the service uses Amazon Payments® – apart from the fact I’m not in the USA (of which, more later).

There’s a short screencast to illustrate how SmartPay works, illustrated below:-
SmartPay Enrollment

Teacher’s and coach’s gifts, group photos, event t-shirts, group transportation, group parties and meals etc have traditionally been paid with cash and cheques – and that’s the area of pain that SmartPay zeroes in on.

And here’s the killer touch:

Over 150 million AOL® and Facebook® members may log in directly to enroll in SmartPay and collect money by email at without creating a new account by simply using their AOL or Facebook user name and password.

Now that’s convenient. No new account, password, phishing worries or lost password anxiety. Just log in and ker-ching!

This is a game-changer, especially with the first 30 days free. And it’s precisely in the area of small payments that it’s likely to succeed – $0.99 per transaction under $20 is an easy-peasy number, as well as being a nice margin. If there are $140bn of transactions in this area as Circle Up’s press release suggests, then even a small percentage of penetration into this market is likely to put a smile on their face and a few dollars in their pocket.

Solves a real problem – well

It’s also making me smile for the the kudos of solving a real world problem that bugs people. “Service solves major pain point” is how they say it. I can say that as a parent, expenditure on nursery, school, team, dance class, tuition, outings, nights out and PTA / PSA events all would all benefit hugely from using this. And I’d be grateful to avoid the darn hassle of doing it the old-fashioned way. Integrating the service with social networks like Facebook or applications like Google Groups is a very smart move. And AOL members trust AOL, naturally. Being able to use and AOL or Facebook login is not just smart, it’s pushing you towards buy-in to this service.

Negative Points: The issue of limited use outside the USA is still a slow-down feature, but you can’t blame Circle Up for Amazon’s limitations in scaling beyond Seattle. World class is as world class does. I can’t sign up for Amazon Payments anywhere else other than in the US of A last time I tried, at 7am this morning. But I’m sure Amazon will fix that soon.

Account Information

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