Stuypend is an alternative payment processing system designed to help small independent businesses avoid the high fees of processing credit cards. Think of it like Venmo, but for buying stuff in stores.
It’s a mobile app that interacts with a device given to merchants. Customers tap their phone to the merchant device at checkout, or scan a QR code to receive the bill on their phone. They then finalize the bill on their phone, adding a tip and confirming the amount is correct. No more awkwardness from deciding on a tip in front of your server!
Co-founder and SGPIA alum, Andre Powers, says, “For the customer, it’s the same as using a debit card or Venmo. Since our system doesn’t use credit card networks,which take a percentage of every transaction, and is direct from customer to merchant, we are much more affordable for merchants.”
The idea for Stuypend came from shopping at stores in his neighborhood of Bed-Stuy. “As a consumer, I liked the convenience of paying with plastic. Cash was such a headache to deal with, like making sure I had enough on me, finding an ATM suddenly if I was short, paying ATM fees, carrying around change, etc. I noticed that even with new apps like PayPal and Venmo being popular, not to mention plastic having been around for decades, that many shops still didn’t accept digital payments or required minimum purchases to use plastic,” Powers explains.
He started talking to merchants in the neighborhood about why that was the case. “I learned that the fees and fee structures credit card processors charge them are a real problem. The average fee is 3% of a transaction, but can be higher and also include a fixed per-transaction cost too. For a smaller merchant, or one that sells low-dollar items, these fees can disrupt not just revenue, but profit margins as well. One merchant told me that if he allows a customer to charge just a $2 or $3 cup of coffee, he might lose money on that sale and that’s why he has to have a minimum for cards.”
Powers had worked in the Financial Technology sector previously, at a start-up that collaborated with investment firms and banks, and so followed developments in payments technology. “I knew there were alternative ways to process payments, and knew I could build an app to bring those technologies to the merchants in my neighborhood. So I teamed up with a couple of friends with tech backgrounds, Mike Arulgnanendran and Ryan Laszlo to get the app built. There was a lot of demand for an alternative; we confirmed 20 merchants to pilot our product when we launched. We are now rolling out to these merchants and promoting the app to consumers.”
Powers describes why he knew that the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bed-Stuy would be the right location to launch the app: “It’s a neighborhood with a long history of community engagement and support. That’s critical to Stuypend, because we are all about supporting local businesses in the community, and need a market that values that. Bed-Stuy is also seeing an influx of young, more tech savvy residents who are comfortable using technology across their lives. There is more support for social impact businesses than ever before.”
“Its community orientation, launching in Bed-Stuy, the potential to challenge the oligopoly of credit card companies, the opportunity to move into more offerings in financial services that we can make more inclusive using technology,” have contributed to Powers and his co-founders at Stuypend being excited about the possibility of the project. “I know there will be many in the New School community who will want to support a project like this, and that’s exciting, too.”