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Protocol | Fintech

PayPal wants to be an all-in-one super app. It has its work cut out.

CEO Dan Schulman sees payments, shopping, investing and budgeting all being integrated together, but he's not the only one thinking that way.

PayPal wants to be an all-in-one super app. It has its work cut out.

PayPal hopes its app will run your financial life. Some day.

Image: PayPal

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman thinks there are too many financial apps. So he wants to build a "super app" for consumers to manage payments, shopping, savings, investing, budgeting, crypto and identity — all in one place.

It's an ambitious undertaking still years away from actual fruition. It also highlights the multi-dimensional battle that's only just emerging between banks, fintech players like Affirm, PayPal, Square and Stripe, as well as big tech companies like Google and Apple. All these players want to be the go-to provider for consumers' finances.

Schulman believes that consumers only want to use eight to 10 apps, and that the rest are going to be essentially superseded by super apps. In China, Alipay has become known for its wide range of services.

"What a super app wants to do is turn all of those separate apps into a connected ecosystem where you can streamline and control data and information between those apps, between the act of shopping, the act of paying for that," Schulman said. "And then you have this common platform and common data that allows machine learning and artificial intelligence to kick in and give personalized recommendations to those consumers."

Schulman's vision, which he is laying out Thursday at PayPal's investor day, includes three major areas: payments, shopping and financial services.

This mega app needs to include a range of digital payments offerings, both online and offline, Schulman said, which need to be easily connected across merchants. This includes "not just any financial institution, credit card, debit card, ACH, but we'll also include things like rewards points redemption, utilizing cryptocurrency as a funding instrument, utilizing central bank issued digital currencies, when that becomes a reality."

Since payments are PayPal's historical strength, this is one area it could have some advantages against competitors. But Apple Pay and Google Pay have their own locked-in user bases on mobile devices, and Square has its Cash App.

For financial services, PayPal intends to partner, but Schulman said it would still be a "seamless PayPal experience," though some products could be built internally. Expect this offering to include services such as high-yield savings accounts, direct deposit, check-cashing and investing. Here PayPal faces intense competition from banks that natively offer financial services plus their own budgeting tools, not to mention aggregators such as Mint and Personal Capital, and startups offering savings tools.

"Because if somebody is going to be putting their money onto our platform, we want them to be able to grow that money, to invest that money in not just things like crypto, but in individual stocks and other assets that we digitize and allow people to invest in," he said.

While Schulman didn't delineate how PayPal would partner on this, there are a number of banking-as-a-service providers and brokerage-as-a-service companies that offer these types of white-labeled services. In this new fintech world, all sorts of companies can turn on these kinds of financial services, so PayPal's competitors could also make similar moves, giving consumers choice of where to get them.

There will be other facets to the app over time, too. Bill payment, subscription management and tools to help consumers with budgeting are also part of the mix, Schulman said.

With shopping, Schulman wants to provide "contextual commerce" by targeting consumers based on things like their wish lists with personalized offers and deals. This could include price monitoring and rewards. The goal is "so that you don't, as a consumer, need to go from one website to another and figure out different payment instruments, but you can do everything from one."

In this market, PayPal is facing not just Amazon and Shopify, but also "buy now, pay later" companies like Affirm and Klarna, which have honed their offerings over years operating in the sector.

And that raises the big question hanging over these kinds of super apps: Which companies are really capable of delivering all these services in a single product, in a way that consumers trust with their financial data and to manage their financial lives? PayPal hopes it's one of them, but it will be years before we know if that's true.

Protocol | Workplace

In Silicon Valley, it’s February 2020 all over again

"We'll reopen when it's right, but right now the world is changing too much."

Tech companies are handling the delta variant in differing ways.

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

It's still 2021, right? Because frankly, it's starting to feel like March 2020 all over again.

Google, Apple, Uber and Lyft have now all told employees they won't have to come back to the office before October as COVID-19 case counts continue to tick back up. Facebook, Google and Uber are now requiring workers to get vaccinated before coming to the office, and Twitter — also requiring vaccines — went so far as to shut down its reopened offices on Wednesday, and put future office reopenings on hold.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Over half of employees report working longer hours, and a quarter say they're unable to unplug from work.

The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

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Stella Garber
Stella Garber is Trello's Head of Marketing. Stella has led Marketing at Trello for the last seven years from early stage startup all the way through its acquisition by Atlassian in 2017 and beyond. Stella was an early champion of remote work, having led remote teams for the last decade plus.
Protocol | China

Livestreaming ecommerce next battleground for China’s nationalists

Vendors for Nike and even Chinese brands were harassed for not donating enough to Henan.

Nationalists were trolling in the comment sections of livestream sessions selling products by Li-Ning, Adidas and other brands.

Collage: Weibo, Bilibili

The No. 1 rule of sales: Don't praise your competitor's product. Rule No. 2: When you are put to a loyalty test by nationalist trolls, forget the first rule.

While China continues to respond to the catastrophic flooding that has killed 99 and displaced 1.4 million people in the central province of Henan, a large group of trolls was busy doing something else: harassing ordinary sportswear sellers on China's livestream ecommerce platforms. Why? Because they determined that the brands being sold had donated too little, or too late, to the people impacted by floods.

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Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
Power

The video game industry is bracing for its Netflix and Spotify moment

Subscription gaming promises to upend gaming. The jury's out on whether that's a good thing.

It's not clear what might fall through the cracks if most of the biggest game studios transition away from selling individual games and instead embrace a mix of free-to-play and subscription bundling.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Subscription services are coming for the game industry, and the shift could shake up the largest and most lucrative entertainment sector in the world. These services started as small, closed offerings typically available on only a handful of hardware platforms. Now, they're expanding to mobile phones and smart TVs, and promising to radically change the economics of how games are funded, developed and distributed.

Of the biggest companies in gaming today, Amazon, Apple, Electronic Arts, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nvidia, Sony and Ubisoft all operate some form of game subscription. Far and away the most ambitious of them is Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass, featuring more than 100 games for $9.99 a month and including even brand-new titles the day they release. As of January, Game Pass had more than 18 million subscribers, and Microsoft's aggressive investment in a subscription future has become a catalyst for an industrywide reckoning on the likelihood and viability of such a model becoming standard.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Policy

Lina Khan wants to hear from you

The new FTC chair is trying to get herself, and the sometimes timid tech-regulating agency she oversees, up to speed while she still can.

Lina Khan is trying to push the FTC to corral tech companies

Photo: Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty Images

"When you're in D.C., it's very easy to lose connection with the very real issues that people are facing," said Lina Khan, the FTC's new chair.

Khan made her debut as chair before the press on Wednesday, showing up to a media event carrying an old maroon book from the agency's library and calling herself a "huge nerd" on FTC history. She launched into explaining how much she enjoys the open commission meetings she's pioneered since taking over in June. That's especially true of the marathon public comment sessions that have wrapped up each of the two meetings so far.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

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