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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Schulman believes that consumers only want to use eight to 10 apps, and that the rest are going to be essentially superseded by super apps.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 | Policy

Senate infrastructure bill: Who’s winning and losing in tech?

The $1 trillion bill covers everything from cyber to electric vehicles. But who's best positioned to seize the opportunity?

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes $550 billion in new spending.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There's a little something — and in some cases, a lotta something — for everyone in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that's currently getting hammered out in the Senate.

The $1 trillion bill includes $550 billion in new spending, of which tens of billions of dollars will go toward broadband expansion, low-income internet subsidies, electric vehicle investments, charging stations, cybersecurity and more. The outpouring of federal funding gives anyone from telecom giants to device manufacturers a lot to like.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

When the COVID-19 crisis crippled societies last year, the collective worldwide race for a cure among medical researchers put a spotlight on the immense power of big data analysis and how sharing among disparate agencies can save lives.

The critical need to exchange information among hundreds of international agencies or departments can be tough to pull off, especially if it's medical, financial or cybersecurity information that is highly protected by regulatory guardrails.

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James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Protocol | Workplace

Silicon Valley has a new recruitment strategy: The four-day workweek

Everything you need to know about how tech companies are beta testing the 32-hour week.

Since the onset of COVID-19, more companies have begun to explore shortened workweeks.

Photo: Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

At software company Wildbit, most employees are logged off on Fridays. That's not going to change anytime soon.

To Natalie Nagele, the company's co-founder and CEO, a full five days of work doesn't necessarily mean the company will get more stuff done. She pointed to computer science professor Cal Newport's book, "Deep Work," which explains how a person's ability to complete meaningful work cuts off after just about four hours. That book, Nagele told Protocol, inspired the company to move to a four-day workweek back in 2017.

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Sarah Roach

Sarah Roach is a reporter and producer at Protocol (@sarahroach_) where she contributes to Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. She is a recent graduate of George Washington University, where she studied journalism and mass communication and criminal justice. She previously worked for two years as editor in chief of her school's independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet.

Power

The game industry comes back down to Earth after its pandemic boom

Game company earnings reports this week show a decline from last year's big profits.

The game industry is slowing down as it struggles to maintain last year's record growth.

Photo: Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The video game industry is finally slowing down. After a year of unprecedented and explosive growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic, big game publishers and hardware makers are starting to see profits dip from their 2020 highs and other signs of a return to normalcy.

This week alone, Sony and Nintendo both posted substantial drops in profit compared to this time a year ago, with Sony's operating income down more than 40% and Nintendo's down 17%. Grand Theft Auto maker Take-Two Interactive saw a dip in revenue and said its forecast for the rest of the fiscal year would not match last year's growth, while EA posted a revenue bump but an operating income decline of more than 43% compared to this time a year ago. Ubisoft, which reported earnings last month, saw its sales and bookings this past quarter drop by 14% and 21%, respectively, when compared to a year ago.

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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.

Allocations wants to make it easier to invest in startups as a group

Now valued at $100 million, it's emerging from stealth to challenge Carta and Assure in the SPV market.

Kingsley Advani, CEO of Allocations, wants to make it easier to form SPVs.

Photo: Allocations

Software is eating the world, including the venture industry. Carta and Assure have made it easier than ever for people to band together on deals. AngelList's venture arm debuted new ways to create rolling funds. But the latest startup to challenge the incumbents in the space is Allocations, a Miami-based startup that's making it easy to create and close special purpose vehicles, or SPVs, in hours.

"If you look at Pinduoduo and group shopping, SPVs are group investing," said Kingsley Advani, Allocations' founder and CEO. Instead of one investor having to cough up millions, multiple people can write smaller checks in an SPV and invest as a cohort. It's a trend that's taken off in 2021 as investors compete to get into hot startups.

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Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

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