Does Color hint at Payment Social Graphs?

I read daily (and fanatically) Fred Wilson’s blog AVC. How he can manage to publish a daily post and of this level of quality is a mystery for me. On top of that, he has created an incredible community of commenters, which one up each post with their own insights. Thursday’s post The Implicit Social Graph, mused on Color and the underlying assumptions on social networks future.

To summarize, contrary to what Facebook is trying to achieve, Fred’s point of view is that there cannot be a single social graph and that multiple ad-hoc graphs, especially implicit graphs will develop. Implicit graphs are social graphs based on an underlying common activity but moving in terms of members and relationships. They are especially important since maintaining social graphs is difficult and a struggle for users. To quote Fred Wilson:

I believe we will have at least dozens of social graphs in our lives. But even more, I believe that we will have social graphs that come and go and that are formed implicitly not explicitly.


SiaaS : Simple as a Service

In a twitter exchange, I discovered that the creators of Monopoly were launching a new, “simplified” version of their famous game and that their new game could be a paradigm for financial services:

Yes, but simplifying by adding intelligence behind or simplifying by dumbing down? RT @shamir_k: Interesting take

In the same time, Jack Dorsey explained in an interview with Technology Review his philosophy of product design

All this feels surprisingly satisfying. Square is elegant. The user’s flow through payment or application has been reduced to the fewest possible steps; the app has minimal features. This emphasis comes directly from Dorsey, who says, “I’m really good at simplifying things.” He espouses a tremendously attractive belief that good industrial design wins customers’ trust by disappearing.

He explains, “People think of design as being visual, but to me it is editorial: ‘What can we take away to get to the essence of what we’re trying to do?’ What I love about a really well-designed product is that you don’t think about it. Steve Jobs is a great editor: when you use an Apple phone, its form fades away and all you think about is the content. I want a similar thing for Twitter. With Square, we’re trying to accept payments. We have two groups we need to address: our users—the merchants—and their users, consumers. We want the merchant to be focused on taking a payment. And for the consumer, for me, I want to be able to walk into a coffee store, enjoy my coffee, and walk out and eventually question whether I had paid or not.

1+1 = Simple as a Service. What if a successful strategy for companies was to provide simplicity? But then what is being simple? Not all companies with a minimalist offer or product qualify as a SiaaS company: simplifying for their customers has to be part of their DNA, how they see and improve in their industry.

A relevant example is probably Southwest airlines:
– A single website to find tickets –
– One plane type – One seat type
– Price include 2 checked bags
– Free food offer, which has remained the same where other companies have changed.
Simple flying, efficient service to go from point A to B. While other airlines have slowly degraded their offers, Southwest’s has not changed to the best of my knowledge.

Take in comparison most of other airlines trying to cut cost: variable fees for bags, no food or pay for it, multiple seat types with various prices. All these things makes it difficult to evaluate the total price of a flight by confusing customers.
Not simpler : dumbed down.

As web based services allow innovative approach in User Experience (in a relatively restricted framework) and because financial services have been built knowingly or not around complexity, several startups are attacking entrenched incumbents by using a SiaaS approach:

Square – start accepting credit card, the simplest way to make money
I have written a lot about Square (here) but there global approach is targeted towards making things simple, not just only the payment:
– Simplified sign in without the previously required checks and controls
– 1 small and simple device
– Really easy interface
– Beautiful receipts (because being simple is not dumbing down)

Betterment – invest better
Betterment offers a simple approach to investment account, by allowing users to create a portfolio of treasury bonds and stocks (via ETFs) and automatically reallocating the proportion of each products.
– Simplified allocation process: expected returns (positive and negative) via sliders on allocation and time frame
– Peer comparison via a simple speedometer
– Single fee structure: no fees for reallocation, no minimum balance (to be fair, the echo on the fees amount is sometimes negative with 0.9% being high, but it depends on how the betterment account is used)

BankSimple – a bank that doesn’t suck
While not launched yet (covered on this blog here) Banksimple aims at simplifying banking. There will be strong emphasis on UI, as described in the following post by Bill DeRouchey, BankSimple’s creative director : read

“Usually people are forced to do a lot of mental math about how much money they ‘really’ have at any given monent,” says DeRouchey. “We do that math for them. Our UX philosophy is, let’s do all that stuff — let’s make it nearly impossible for you to fail with your personal banking.”

How to create your SiaaS startup?
+ Beautiful design
+ Easy to understand pricing
+ Complex competitors
=Value to your customers

What criteria would you add? Do you have other example of SiaaS companies?