Entrepreneurs, Avoid Offering Free Pilots at all Costs

“Oh yea, we lost the iPad on the second week and couldn’t test it out.”
“Sorry, we didn’t get a chance to install the integration because we had to put out a bunch of fires.”
“We used it a couple times…”

If you give away your technology to businesses under the guise of “beta” or “pilot”, you are guaranteed non-use. It WILL be a waste of your time. You CAN’T get that time back.

The first three months after a new technology hits the marketplace are critical. Every second your product is being used and tested by a customer is precious, with valuable learnings pouring into your database like VCs  to a hot startup’s party round. The only way to begin to collect this data is for the end user to care, and the only way to get them to care is to make them pay.

Every couple weeks I’ll get on the phone with a young startup looking for advice on how to get their brand new app into the marketplace. In the most typical case, they have spent the first three months live giving their product away to any business that has a heartbeat and agrees to test it out. These businesses feel like they’re doing you a favor and typically don’t give your “game-changing”  app the time of day. The driving force for success is getting them to open their checkbook.

 Start With Your Competitor’s Price

For guidance on pricing out of the gate, look at what your competitors are charging for their product. While there likely won’t be perfect comps because your product is differentiated in some way, you need to ascertain what your prospects are comfortable paying for a similar service.

 Go After Perfect Fits First

It’s so tempting to ‘spray and pray,’ spreading your product far and wide to anyone who says “sure, I’ll try it out!” You will spend more time troubleshooting your product with the worst fit clients and less time helping a select few succeed. Do your research and identify the companies that need your product the most, serve the right demographic customer, have the right management team in place to pull the trigger on a deal, absolutely need your product, and have the desire to be seen as innovators. If you can’t find a dozen customers who absolutely need your product, go back to the white board.

Price It Low to Start, but Make Them Feel the Pinch

Since I recently tied the knot, a bunch of my friends have asked me how much money they should spend on an engagement ring. Some websites will tell you 2-3 months gross salary, while contend net is the best way to go. My advice is to find a price point that hurts a little bit. Proposing is a huge life decision, and there is no better way to internally gauge your commitment and seriousness than making it a bit painful in the wallet. The same applies to business.

In your prospect meeting, they will inevitably ask who you’re working with already, and in the early days there will be few. For taking the leap of faith, you should give them a sizable discount and promise to grandfather them in when prices rise and new customers come on board. In exchange for the discount, ask to use their data for a case study. This give makes them feel special and appreciated, deepening your relationship with them. The case study request afterwards is an implicit signal to the client that you will bust your butt to make sure they’re satisfied.

Give Those First Clients Impeccable Customer Service

By hand-holding your first clients, you can turn them into cheerleaders. The easiest sale is the referral sale. Executives trust their friends in the industry, and you want to be the insider’s vendor choice. Be their Sherpa to gain their loyalty. The second reason to be involved in their use of your product is to gather valuable user data firsthand. Be present to listen to their delights, challenges, and struggles. This feedback will help refine your pitch and inform the development team which features to build next.

Expand Using the Respect Factor

With case studies in hand from happy, perfect fit customers, spread the gospel in your industry, widen your net, and attack the next concentric circle of good fits for your product. Use the first few clients as a benchmark that others in the industry respect. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Entrepreneurs, Avoid Offering Free Pilots at all Costs

Keep Your Personal Burn Rate Low

As I was finishing up an externship at a Philadelphia-area law firm one spring, one of the partners pulled me into his office. He told me not to waste the rest of my 20s playing it safe. Now was the perfect time to take risks because I had no responsibilities or obligations beyond my law school student debt. The partner didn’t follow his passion while he was young, and he felt limited by the time and financial obligations of his young family.

With a festering entrepreneurial bug keeping me up at night, I took my law diploma and confounded family and friends by joining an 8-person tech startup with seed funding and an 18-year-old CEO…so much for walking the well-worn legal path.  While some of my friends were pulling down six figures in biglaw, my starting salary was barely scraping entry level for college graduates.

In order to stay afloat financially, my burn rate needed to be slashed hard. I moved in with a friend for a year then rented a tiny room in a 4 bedroom house. My Boston Sports Club membership was traded for Planet Fitness. I made sure to live in an urban suburb of a major city so I could use public transportation. All lunches and dinners for the week sat in Tupperware containers in the fridge. I stayed on my family’s cell phone plan to take advantage of economies of scale.

My salary and relational responsibilities have grown in the past five years, but my “low burn” mentality is still alive and well. I take pride when sharing stories about getting a deal on a 1993 Corolla or using airline and hotel points to finance our honeymoon. Too many of my peers are hell bent on maintaining a heightened lifestyle that they don’t realize how financially captive they’ve become. Below are a few pro tips that steered me well at the beginning of my career.

  1. Don’t Let Salary Determine Your First Job (learn in your 20s, earn in your 30s)
  2. You Don’t Need a Fancy Car in the City
  3. Shed the Swanky Gyms, You Can Shower at Home
  4. Cook Your Lunches and Dinners at Home, Saving Eating Out for Special Occasions
  5. Resist the urge to rent sweet digs downtown, you’re not at home much longer than is necessary to eat and sleep
  6. Spend nights at events to build your network and nosh on free pizza and beer
  7. Use apps like Mint, Betterment, and others to drive savings and monitor entertainment spending
Keep Your Personal Burn Rate Low

Has the Sharing Economy Given Way to the Scalping Economy?

Wave upon wave of new consumer-facing apps are hitting the home screen of millenials’ smartphones. Uber and Lyft have harnessed technology to acquire and expand upon the cab industry’s inventory, extracting additional rents to meet true demand more efficiently. Airbnb piggybacked on excess inventory in people’s homes and rental properties, meeting lodging demand in ways that still confound Starwood, Hilton, and Marriott. Like Uber and Lyft, Airbnb was so successful that their service expanded the total available inventory of homes, rooms, couches, and air mattresses to rent.

Convenience, Delivered

New upstarts like Drizly and Instacart are following in the predecessors footsteps, but in different industries. These companies are tapping into consumers demand for convenience with other people’s inventory. Drizly delivers alcohol to your door within the hour, and Instacart delivers groceries from your local supermarkets to your door within a day or less. By creating a platform on top of someone else’s goods, these companies can focus on service and eliminating the hassle of high overhead costs (storing and showing products). The showroom is the app, and the goods are only in their possession en route to the consumers’ home. As time passes, I speculate that these services will do so much volume it will be more efficient to warehouse the goods themselves and cut the liquor stores and supermarkets out of the equation completely. AmazonFresh and others are already making use of this strategy in key cities.

Aside from a delivery fee, these on-demand companies often charge a premium on goods sold. While it might cost me $4.00 for a gallon of milk when I walk into my local Market Basket, Instacart might charge me $4.25 for milk in my digital basket. While it is completely fair to extract rents from consumers in exchange for near-instant gratification and convenience, I can’t help but draw light comparisons to scalpers who buy sports tickets and flip them to consumers at a premium. If you don’t want to take the time to buy tickets from Ticketmaster the second they went on sale, or if you’re just too lazy or don’t have enough time to buy groceries yourself, you pay the price. Drizly and Instacart are market economics at its best, benefiting the inventory-providers with higher sales, aiding willing consumers with convenience and speed, and allowing these new services to pocket the premium. In these scenarios, the proposition is often a win-win for all involved.

One Step Too Far?

Now imagine an industry where they offer their inventory for free on the promise they will be paid once a service is later performed. In this industry, everyone has an equal opportunity to avail of the inventory should they be able to afford the later service, and the most players in this space have followed tradition by not charging for their inventory…even though it is clear the best could. A new tech company arrives on the scene, starts capturing lots of inventory, sells this inventory to consumers at a premium, and even allows consumers to sell their captured inventory to others. The company directly benefits from this efficiency, and the industry doesn’t see a dime from the inventory value created.

That industry is the restaurant industry, and the company is ReservationHop. In my opinion, this practice is worse than scalping. Allow me to break down the challenges present at each step in their business model:

“If you have a reservation you can’t use, you can sell it on ReservationHop. The most attractive reservations are at prime times at the hottest local establishments, and we identify the high-demand restaurants that are booked up on other platforms.”

– Just as ticket brokers scoop up the hottest tickets the second they are released and immediately put them up on StubHub, enterprising individuals and groups will call to book as many reservations as possible at the hottest restaurants…only to post them on ReservationHop. They will use multiple accounts (should they be booking on OpenTable) or multiple names if they are booking by phone. All great holiday seatings will be quickly scooped up and sold to the highest bidder. There is technically no way to prevent this abuse aside from restaurants checking IDs before seating guests.

“Up until 4 hours before the alotted time, anyone can claim any reservation in the marketplace for a fee. Claimed reservations will be taken off the market immediately; don’t worry about overlapping. If a reservation is not claimed 4 hours before the alotted time, we personally call and cancel the reservation as a service to the restaurant, to prevent no-shows.”

– Assuming there will be excess inventory on ReservationHop each night, restaurants could be inundated with a flood of cancellations. Eateries currently have problems with short seatings, imagine the problems that could arise from guests booking reservations they had no intentions of filling. Four hours may be enough time to fill a couple open slots, but it’s definitely not enough time for the maitre’d to fill a large number of seatings.

“Upon purchase, we provide you with the name the reservation is under. 99% of the time you can show up at the restaurant, give them the name and grab the table, no problem. If you have any trouble, email us.”

 – As restaurants become aware of this service, some will move quickly to protect the integrity of their reservation lists by turning away anyone who’s ID doesn’t match the name on the reservation. Others, not wanting to turn away cash-carrying diners at their doorstep, will feel powerless and allow the practice to continue. 

“For Restaurants: We believe that we can reduce no-shows through a paid reservation system, without putting tables at risk. Alinea did it and dropped no-shows 75%. So let’s meet and talk about options.”

– Alinea’s system is quite different. Instead of charging extra for reservations, Alinea, Aviary, and the like charge tickets as deposits towards the meal or the total value of a prix fixe meal. This strategy was meant to reduce no-shows and cancellations, not to drive additional dollars per meal. They are of the thought that the customer should not have to pay a premium for access…even if the customer is willing to pay more. Through their ticketing system, revenue has popped and no-shows have dropped. With ReservationHop, there is nothing tying a customer to their initial reservation…so short seating will inevitably rise.

Where Do We Go From Here?

ReservationHop will certainly not be the last company to take an industry’s inventory and force them to adapt. MonkeyParking is an app that allows drivers to sell their parking space through an app to the highest bidder. The negative externalities of this app jump right off the page. Enterprising drivers will hop to dozens of parking spaces each day, preying off those who need city parking. Fewer open parking spots will be available for normal drivers, forcing them to use the app and pay this 3rd party service layer a premium for metered parking.

Will the proliferation of apps targeting supply/demand inefficiencies cause inventory holders to launch their own technology and pricing schemes to close the gap? How will regulated spaces like municipal parking authorities use their power to control variations? Will these new apps grow fast enough to leverage their user bases against the inventory-holders? 

I believe the impact on each industry will be unique. Efficiently matching supply and demand is the inevitable result of technological influence, and these battles will be played out across every line on a consumer’s credit card bill. Welcome to the app “optimized” economy.

Has the Sharing Economy Given Way to the Scalping Economy?

Hacking your Credit Score

As someone in his late 20s, I’m continually shocked by how little my peers know about their credit score, how it’s comprised, and why it’s important.  Credit agencies use a number of different factors to distill your creditworthiness down to a number between 250 and 850.  Just as colleges give scholarships to those who score high on their SAT, lenders give lower interest rates to those with high credit scores.

First thing’s first: I am not an accountant, a money manager, or a financial planner.  If you have questions about anything financial, I suggest you see a professional.  The tips I’m about to dispense have come through my own analysis of credit score criteria and not through any traditional learnings.

Those with the highest credit scores are not necessarily richer or more intelligent; they have simply achieved high marks in many of the factors that produce a high credit score.   If you follow these tips, you’ll be on the road to credit score excellence in short order.

1.Have 2-3 credit card accounts open

Credit agencies show favor to those who have multiple open revolving credit accounts because, if those accounts are used correctly, it indicates reliability and organization.  Don’t feel any pressure to sign up for credit cards with annual fees.  I’d suggest opening a Visa, Mastercard, and an AMEX.

2, Never close older credit cards

Credit agencies strongly weigh age of credit history.  If you have had one card open for 10 years and a second open for 5 years then proceed to close the first card, your “age of credit history” will drop from 10 years to 5 years.  Please, keep the first credit card you ever opened.

3. Lower your debt-to-credit ratio

Credit agencies look for debt-to-credit ratios under 20%.  That means your credit score will suffer if you carry balances that are greater than 20% of available credit on your cards.  If you have $10,000 in total credit on your cards, make sure to keep running balances under $2,000.  If you carry heavy balances, the best thing you can do is to pay that down over time.

4. Spend on each card every month

I have three credit cards, and I only use one for day-to-day purchases.  The other two generally lie dormant at home.  Since credit agencies like to see some sort of activity on each credit line every month, I put autopay my credit card bill each month with one of my formant cards, then autopay the credit card with my checking account.  I put my gym membership on the second card and autopay in the same manner.  This method allowed my two dormant cards to get activity without me consciously remembering to use them.

5. Bump up your credit limits

Most credit cards have a stated limit, an available balance they are allowing you to spend.  Anything higher and your card will be rejected.  One great way to improve your debt-to-credit ratio is to increase your credit limits or “credit” part of the equation.  Every six months, call the number on the back of each card and ask to be connected to someone who can discuss raising your credit limit.  There are many reasons to request an increase: a promotion, a pay raise, buying furniture for a new apartment or house, needing more credit because of more business travel.  They will give your limits a bump as long as you have been paying your credit card bill on-time and have an improving credit score.

6. Don’t miss a payment

Nothing will destroy the goodwill you’re building with credit agencies than missing payments.  Lenders don’t typically report delinquencies to agencies unless they’re 60-90 days overdue, so you typically have time to correct the problem.  If you can, put as many of your bills on auto-pay to reduce the chance of forgetting a payment

7. Keep your spending in check

The sad truth is if you carry a balance on your credit cards, you are paying way more than the sticker price in interest.  Overspending can put you in a world of hurt, and you’ll have bigger challenges than your credit score.

8. Once you open your credit cards, stick with them

You may get a 20% discount off your purchase for signing up for a Macy’s card, but your average credit history takes an immediate hit.  I know some crafty people who keep two credit cards with a long history, sign up for a new credit card to realize the benefits, cancel it, and repeat the process.  The intricacy of credit card signup bonus strategies is another piece for another time.

9. Pay your installment loans on time

Your student loans, car loan, and mortgage payments may be through the roof, but all credit agencies general care about is that you’re paying them in a timely fashion. 

10. Be patient

Playing one thousand hours of Halo on XBox is likely to improve your player rating dramatically.  The same can’t be said for credit scores.  Much of their criteria measures reliability, and you can only show that over long periods of time.  The best time to start building credit is now, so get started and watch your score rise!  CreditKarma.com has done an awesome job of gamifying the credit score.  Their service is free to use and the user interface is beautiful.  To see your full credit report for free once a year, head over to annualcreditreport.com.

Hacking your Credit Score

Are You a Consumer or a Producer?

America has always been known as a consumer society, and evidence is everywhere.  The subway car, airport waiting area, household, and corporate workplace are bastions of consumerism.  People on the subway listening to music on Spotify or iTunes are consuming.  People ordering takeout and watching movies are consuming.

As I booted up the web this morning and browsed my favorite sites, I realized I was being inundated with producers.  Programmers build websites and writers provide content.  Seth Godin has an incredibly popular blog, and he produces a post almost every day.  Professional athletes and coaches wow fans with their on-field production and are written up on ESPN (by producer journalists).  Startups building products to change the world raise funding, sign deals, get traction, and are praised on TechCrunch.  Corporate titans compete fiercely in the marketplace, and their decisions affect stock prices.  Recording artists spend months in the recording studio to produce songs millions of fans revere.  These people are doing things.  I’m just reading about them, watching them, and listening to them.

Successful people are always producing…and they embrace it.  When Jim Cramer discovered his love for the stock market, he put stock buy/sell recommendations on his voicemail recording.  After a few months, he developed a steady following of strangers calling him just to get through to his voicemail.  Those voicemails turned into a $500,000 check and a chance to break into the money management industry.

Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, started with the Colts as a $25-per-week assistant, a jobs hundreds have around the NFL and college programs.  He produced great work at every stage in his career, earning himself better positions and preparing him for success on football’s biggest stage. 

New advancements in technology make it easier than ever to consume.  It’s way too easy to lay in bed for an extra couple hours watching drivel on TV or zoning out of work for a while on Facebook…but it feels kinda dirty afterwards.  Most of the time, I can’t even remember what I just watched or heard.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly derive a ton of happiness from a nice dinner with the family, sharing a moment with my fiancée while laying on a park bench in Boston Common, or cheering on the PC Friars at the Dunkin Donuts Center. While these events are technically filed under “consuming,” they produce certain intangibles that provide a foundation for a fulfilling life.  They make me happy.

Stop for a second the next time you boot up Chrome and prepare to type “fa” into the browser then hit enter.  Spend less of your life consuming low value content.  The future belongs to the producers.  Get after it.

Are You a Consumer or a Producer?

The Disruptive New Wave of Student Loan Consolidation Companies

In today’s credit environment, student loan lenders have been exiting the practice of student loans in droves.  You can’t blame them, the percentage of borrowers who defaulted on their federal students loans within two years of repayment has increased again, from 9.1% to 10%.  The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that over 200 schools had default rates of 30% or higher.  As college costs continue to spike higher and the job market absorbs fewer and fewer new graduates, default rates won’t be dropping anytime soon.

Capture ONE

The problem with student loan consolidation isn’t any better.  I, like thousands of other law school graduates across the country, took out far too many Grad PLUS loans with fat interest rates to match.  My bar loan interest rate was 10+%, and other loans came in at 7.5%, 8.15%, 6.5%, and 7.75%.  A passion for debate and writing and blind faith in the prospect of a $100k+ lawyer position at a solid firm has made me Sallie Mae’s bitch.  I’m paying the equivalent of a house mortgage payment each month for the next ten years.  Naturally, I began looking for ways to consolidate or refinance my law school student loans.  My main goal was to achieve a lower interest rate than my mishmash of student loans with Sallie Mae.  I had a couple consolidated loans from undergrad under 5%, so I wanted to leave those out of the consolidation.  Here are the options:

Direct Consolidation Loan – Federal Loans Only

The federal government offers the Direct Consolidation Loan to combine your existing federal education loans into one payment.  The main advantage they tout is the ability to make one monthly payment instead of making payments to potentially several different lenders.  This doesn’t seem like much of an advantage to me, as I have no trouble staying organized and paying the various lenders on time.  Also, Sallie Mae combines my federal loans into one grouping already, and I’m making one payment to them anyways.  The interest rate for Federal Consolidation Loans is the weighted average interest rate of all loans considered, rounded up to the next nearest higher one eight of one percent.  In essence, they are increasing the total payment under the guise of providing an actual service to the loan holder.  Another disadvantage to this option is losing the ability to fully pay off your highest interest rate loans if you come into some money.  In my opinion, this option provides no advantages.

Wells Fargo/CuGrad Student Loan Consolidation – Private Loans Only

There are a couple options on the market for consolidating private student loans, and Wells Fargo and CuGrad are two of the more popular options.  I went on their website, selected my law school, and they produced the following options and associated rates:

Wells Fargo Student Loan Consolidation Rates

Variable rates offered were from 3.75% (for high earners/credit scorers) to 8.75% (for higher credit risks).  Fixed rates varied from 7.24% to 12.29%.  Since I was looking specifically for fixed rate loans, and most of my loans sat around the 7.5% range, Wells Fargo was not saving me any money at all.  The high consolidation interest rates were starting to weigh on me.  The LIBOR was so low, but Wells Fargo is protected themselves against a rising rate of default.  My rate is higher than it could be because of the high average risk and the fact that there is no collateral on student loans.  I made a mistake and was certain to pay the price.  Consolidating with Well Fargo or CuGrad would provide no additional savings for me and my fellow legion of graduate students.

SoFi Financial Services Student Loan Consolidation – Federal and Private

As a professed tech geek, I was surprised to find a student loan refinancing company pop up on TechCrunch…then on a banner ad…then on US-93 South on my way from Boston to Providence.  SoFi, you got my attention.  I dug into their history and mission, and I discovered a very unique value proposition.  SoFi helps you consolidate all your federal and private loans with one monthly payment.  In addition, they provide a host of service never seen before in the student loan industry.  SoFi has a career services team that helps you find jobs when you get laid off or fired as well as a calendar of events to promote networking within the community.  Alumni from 100 eligible schools can offer their funds for loan to alums from their school, and they can participate in the success of the borrowers.  One distinct downside to the program is that it’s available to what some would consider 100 of the top schools in the country.  Without a doubt, SoFi is limiting their pool of applicants intentionally to lower default rates, drive margin, and even afford their borrowers a better rate than the competition.  Here are the interest rate ranges for variable and fixed loans as of the publishing of this article:

SoFi Fixed and Variable Interest Rates

This chart immediately opened my eyes, because even the highest interest rate offered by SoFi is lower than the lowest interest rate offered by Wells Fargo or any of the other consolidators.  I applied, got an interest rate in between 4.99% and 6.75%, and executed the consolidation.  Everything went smoothly, and I am now the proud owner of a loan for the same total amount, but with a shorter payoff time frame and lower interest rate.  I had finally won.  The benefits were just too great: (1) I had the opportunity to consolidate private and public loans into one monthly payment, (2) I locked in a rate below every loan I held, and (3) I feel like I’ll get assistance in finding another job instead of incessant calls from the lender if something happens with my current position.  In other words, check it out.

If you found my article helpful and you would like to receive $100 if your loans get fully funded, use this link to fill out your application.  I know, it’s basically just enough to take your sweetie out on a nice date, but hey, when was the last time dear old Aunt Sallie Mae left enough money in your checking account for a steak dinner?

The Disruptive New Wave of Student Loan Consolidation Companies

Why Mobile Payments Will Take Off

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On July 3rd, Felix Salmon wrote a piece on why he thinks mobile payments will never take off.  As a consumer in the current marketplace, it might be easy to agree with his thoughts.  Haven’t we been talking about mobile payments for years?  Shouldn’t I be able to pay with my phone everywhere by now?

In technology, there is always an assumption that change and disruption happens quickly.  When you’re dealing with fragmented POS hardware providers, VARS, banks, ISOs, smartphone carriers, smartphone hardware manufacturers, and more, change is a process.  ISIS and Google Wallet went all-in on NFC and later realized, like the rest of us and TechCrunch, that Nobody F***ing Cares.  LevelUp started with non-integrated scanners and local merchants in a few cities, and have now integrated with the major POS companies like Aloha and Micros.  Pay With Square is limited in scope because of its pairing with the Square Register, but they have found scale in with large partnerships with Starbucks and others.

But along with these tests come realizations: the QR code is the least common denominator and therefore best current use case for mobile payments.  Mobile payments without built-in offers, loyalty, incentives, or rewards will struggle to gain adoption because the status quo, cash and credit cards, is not an inherently broken experience.

Salmon uses the following arguments to shovel dirt over what he perceives to be a mobile payments casket:

1.  Paying with your phone is harder than plastic.

To argue this point, he uses sparse anecdotal evidence of failing to get Square Wallet to work a couple times.  I find it more tedious and time-consuming to whip out your loyalty card, then your credit card, and then wait for the receipt which you put in your pocket.  Most mobile payments offerings combine payment, loyalty, and receipt into one action, saving the customer time.  Through research, we have found that closing a transaction with a credit card takes 11 seconds, while a QR code-based mobile payment takes on average 7 seconds.  QR can achieve speed and simplicity.

2. I get self-conscious or embarrassed to pay with the phone

While it is true that one mobile payment experience with an awkward, untrained cashier can create apprehension in subsequent visits, I challenge anyone to watch a line at sweetgreen or Starbucks for 20 minutes.  At Starbucks, 10% of their customers pay with the phone.  At sweetgreen, they have achieved twice as many people paying with their app.  Those paying with their phones are almost always excited to do so, as if paying with the phone is a holistic, positive experience.   I’ve talked to Starbucks app users who now go out of their way to visit Starbucks because of the app’s ease of use.  Still, the uneven experience needs to be tackled.  Deeper POS integration and ubiquity will do a long way towards solving any stress people may have flashing their phone at a register.

3. There is no incentive to switch – a few cents off a macchiato isn’t enough

If a caramel macchiato costs $4.00 at Starbucks, a 10% loyalty construct could save Felix $0.40 per day if he becomes loyal to that coffee shop.  If he gets a macchiato every morning, he would save around $100 each year from the loyalty program.

Surface-level discounts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to savings over time.  Merchants can now target customers for discount, so paying with your phone just once at your local coffee shop or regional fast casual chain can put you in line for a re-engagement offer or birthday gift down the road.

4.  In less developed Africa, paying with M-Pesa and Zaad is becoming popular because they are more convenient and more reliable than paper currency

I respect this argument.  In less developed countries where paper currency fluctuates and building a credit card-based infrastructure is too expensive, mobile payments will certainly drive faster adoption than in developed countries with more stable currencies.  Money transfer is difficult and even broken in many countries, in stark contrast to the United States.

Good enough isn’t good enough.

Five years ago, purchasing books at your local Borders was seen as “good enough.”  Ten years ago, having a Nokia brick phone was viewed by many as being “good enough.”  If the status quo in payments is being deemed “good enough” by the public, it’s a clear indicator of opportunity.  Innovating payments is naturally difficult and slower moving, but as success is found scale will occur.  For a taste of what’s to come, check out this infographic on the near future of mobile payments.

Why Mobile Payments Will Take Off