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A Brief & Balanced History of Platform Payments
I joined the Lithic podcast to talk about Finix, Balanced, and the history of platform payments.
A few weeks ago, I recorded a podcast with Lithic's legal team: Matt Janiga and Reggie Young. It’s uncommon for two lawyers to host a funny and engaging podcast but I promise you Matt and Reggie are wonderful and full of great legal and regulatory context about what drives the payments industry. I had a blast talking with them and highly recommend you listen to the podcast, which was just released last week.
Most of the podcast is focused on Balanced, a payments company I co-founded in 2011 with Matin Tamizi (CEO) and Mahmoud Abdelkader (CTO) which was among the first to offer a payments API to online marketplaces and software platforms.
At our peak, we had 400+ customers, processed hundreds of millions of dollars in annualized payments volume, and—I’m obviously biased and maybe a bit nostalgic—for four years, Balanced set the pace of innovation for payments companies in the US. We struck a deal with and transitioned our customers to Stripe in 2015 but while we were operating, we were the first or among the first to introduce:
White-label merchant onboarding via API vs. web page redirect
Consumer payment credentials stored across Balanced merchants. Consumers could simply enter in CVV rather than the full 16-digit card number to check out. This is similar to the Shop Pay of Google Pay checkout experience today.
Balanced partnered with messaging app GroupMe to support in-message payments. This is now a popular feature in Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, etc
Soft-descriptor control so each transaction would show up with a unique description (or even a short URL) on the consumer’s credit card statement.
Immediate access to funds via account balance
Same-day ACH disbursements
Push-to-Card disbursements (instant)
Novel API Design:
Idempotency parameter on transaction requests.
Tag parameter (simple key:value JSON object) added to each resource so metadata can be stored on each resource. Most commonly used to link a single transaction and multiple disbursements together as part of a single order.
Today, Balanced’s legacy lives on at Finix, a payments infrastructure provider for software platforms, where I’m currently the Chief Growth Officer.
If you’d like to learn more about me, Balanced, and Finix, check out the following podcasts:
Bringing Payments In-House With Jareau Wadé of Finix, PayPod - Jun 2021 (Finix)
Life As A Chief Growth Officer, Divergent Unicorns By HBCUvc - Apr 2021 (me, Finix)
Jareau Wadé Head of Growth at Finix, Around the Coin - Sep 2020 (Balanced)
Jareau Wade on the Of10 Podcast - Feb. 2015 (Balanced)