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« Complacent or short-sighted? | Main | Japanese notes »

More than a blip

By Dave Birch posted Mar 22 2010 at 4:53 PM

[Dave Birch] Part of my job is to mess about with new stuff and try to figure out what it means for the industry in general and for our customers in particular, so I've been having fun with Blippy. For those of you in the know, Blippy is a bit like Facebook but for your money.

On the site, which launched last week, people enter their credit card information and Blippy automatically sends out short, public "blips" of information about what people are buying -- including the prices of the items and where they were bought.

[From Blippy tells the world what you buy - CNN.com]

Basically, you sign up and hand over the login details for your various accounts.

Blippy-Wells

Then, whenever you buy something, all of your friends will get a "blip" telling them how much you spent and where. And, of course, you get a feed of what all of your friends are buying:

Blippy-Friends-Examples

Why would anyone do this? Well, put that to one side for the moment and just make a mental note that transparency is the new black and that they do. This introduces some fascinating dynamics into the payment space, as people exchange and share information about purchases and use to change their own purchasing decisions. By the way, I know what you're thinking and, yes, there is a filter so that your patronage of sex shops, Aldi or Fungal Footcreme Direct can be hidden. Anyway, I was so interested in this (and the fact that it plays to the "glass bank" transparency meme that I've been pushing with our customers for a couple years) that I went along to Blippy founder and CEO Ashvin Kumar's session at SXSW to see what the buzz was. It wasn't a huge audience, but they were generally positive about the service and (I thought) pitched in a number of excellent ideas during the session. My favourite, which I credited on my twitter feed to the chap with the "wooly hat", was to create a Blippy gift card so that you can see what your giftee spent the money on, a wonderful opportunity to create a new feedback loop.

In the new tradition of web 2.0, mashups, transparency and sharing, this will only be the first of an entire range of new services that will take Blippy and use it to do some great stuff. Of course, banks have all this data anyway, so their services will be the most compelling and excellent of all. Oh, wait...

Now, bear in mind that when I last wanted to query a credit card transaction I logged into my provider's web site and basically found myself looking at a paper statement, but on the screen. I automatically doubled-clicked on the transaction I was interested in and, of course, nothing happened.

[From Digital Money: Information rules OK]

I'm sure they're working on it right now.

There's one big problem that I noticed, and that's the quality of the vendor information. Just as with your own credit card statement, as I note above, sometimes you have no idea what a charge is for. It wastes everyone's time and money while you try to get access to your own data that exists somewhere in the "system" but no-one can find. Why not just feed it all to me?

Blippy-Vendor-name

Blippy said that they recognise the problem and so they are going to launch their own credit card and sign deals with retailers to deliver better integration between line item data and detailed POS data in the retailers' own systems. I imagine that the idea is that when you click on one of your purchases in your own Blippy feed then you are taken directly to the retailers database or something similar. In fact Blippy said that some retailers have already signed up. Interesting, some have declined. Ashvin specifically said that Amazon won't play because "they see the data as a core asset". A telling comment: banks should have been seeing this data as a core asset for some time.

While Blippy is very much about sharing personal data, this isn't the only opportunity. Being older and duller than the typical SXSW attendee, I don't really see any need to broadcast my purchases to my friends but I can certainly see why this data (properly anonymised) could be fed out to people who could use it to mashup genuinely new and useful services.

On the evening news, instead of half-informed guesses about the economy, we could watch the actual money weather forecast, showing us how the money has been moving all day. We'd know whether retail sales were up or down in real time. A couple of years ago when I was writing something about "hypermoney" I thought this might be one of the cool spin-offs, but now I'm starting to think that it might be part of the business model.

[From Digital Money: Information rules OK]

Therefore Blippy represents a useful case study and experiment even for non-personal data and I'll be looking at this aspect again in the future. Clearly some people think that the experiment will be a success. Only two months after launch, they are attracting tens of millions of dollars in investment.

August Capital partner David Hornik is leading the round. And the valuation is “totally absurd” says one source. Another puts it at $50 million, although that may be a little on the high side. Regardless, that’s not bad for a site which only launched publicly two months ago. Update: Yet another source says “high 30s” on valuation, and we think that’s about right.

[From August Capital Bets Big On Blippy]

At SXSW, Ashvin said "your credit card statement is a really interesting story". Indeed it is.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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Comments

Very interesting your article. Thanks for the information.

Real nice.. Much appreciated. I tried Blippy a few months ago without true result.. But then again, a few months ago I was just starting and had no idea of what I was doing.. I'll give it anorher shot! Already looking forward to more of the same in the future.

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