Fintech

Crypto payments haven't been fast or cheap. Solana Pay could change that.

Circle, FTX and others are supporting an alternative for payments that works with a variety of crypto tokens, including the USDC stablecoin.

Solana Pay

Solana Pay is an open protocol for developers with standardized payment specifications to build on and customize.

Image: Solana

A new way for people to pay with crypto, Solana Pay, is launching Tuesday.

It’s one of many efforts to solve the crypto payments puzzle, from bitcoin’s Lightning Network to stablecoins. But Solana believes it has solved some of the problems that have held crypto payments back.

Companies that helped develop and support the protocol include Solana Labs, which initiated the project; Checkout.com; Circle; Citcon; and digital wallets from crypto exchange FTX and Solana wallets Phantom and Slope. Solana Pay’s backers are also working on an integration with Shopify that is expected to be released soon.

Solana Pay is an open protocol for developers with standardized payment specifications to build on and customize, meaning merchants can connect directly or use software built by ecommerce providers, point-of-sale software-makers or payments companies.

Bitcoin and Ethereum suffer from slow speeds and high transaction costs. While the Solana network is not as big as the bitcoin blockchain or Ethereum’s network, Solana has fast transactions (65,000 per second) and low cost (fractions of a cent per transaction). Solana Pay also has consumer-friendly features: Users can pay in person using a QR code or online using a browser plug-in. The technology works with any Solana-compatible token: Currently that includes its own SOL token as well as others like the USDC stablecoin.

It’s not quite equivalent to a credit-card payment, by design. Solana Pay is meant to be a digital version of a cash payment. That’s attractive for merchants, who can avoid the costs of intermediaries such as Visa or Mastercard or the costs of chargebacks.

“At its core, this is similar to a cash transaction. And the same way you can’t reverse a cash transaction,” you can’t reverse these payments, said Sheraz Shere, head of Payments at Solana Labs.

Still, some merchants and consumers may want protections. Shere said there’s the potential for holding funds in escrow, particularly for big-ticket items like a cruise ticket — a feature which could be built in an upcoming hackathon: “The beauty of this is that this is programmable with smart contracts.”

Solana Pay includes rich data specifications that aren’t available when just sending a token on the network. This includes a standardized destination, currency, amount, transaction identifiers and descriptive text fields so the merchant can confirm that a transaction was completed. The actual details of the transactions, such as who paid and what was purchased, are not public on chain.

Shere, who has worked for AmEx and Google, sees Solana Pay as different from other crypto offerings because of its strong stablecoin integration. He argues that Ethereum is too slow to settle and too costly and Lightning is focused more on paying with cryptocurrency versus exploiting blockchain technology. “We believe the lion's share of opportunity is thinking about this not as crypto payments, but as a new set of payment rails ... but paying in U.S. dollars, U.S. digital dollars.” Shere said.

Currently there is $4 billion of USDC on the Solana blockchain. That’s a distant second to the $44 billion on Ethereum, but it’s still substantial. Circle, the primary developer of USDC, worked on developing the Solana Pay standards, and has integrated Solana Pay with payments software it offers merchants as well as its treasury management product. Joao Reginatto, Circle’s vice president of Product, said it’s the first payment protocol that he’s seen operating on the chain level, versus privately within a company.

Meanwhile, this direct wallet connection with customers opens up new possibilities, Shere said. One example is someone buying shoes with Solana Pay and receiving a matching NFT in the same transaction. Smart contracts could also create offers or rewards that sit in a crypto wallet. That means merchants and consumers will have more incentives to take the plunge in crypto payments.

LA is a growing tech hub. But not everyone may fit.

LA has a housing crisis similar to Silicon Valley’s. And single-family-zoning laws are mostly to blame.

As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers, whose high salaries put them at an advantage in both LA's renting and buying markets.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

LA’s tech scene is on the rise. The number of unicorn companies in Los Angeles is growing, and the city has become the third-largest startup ecosystem nationally behind the Bay Area and New York with more than 4,000 VC-backed startups in industries ranging from aerospace to creators. As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers. The city is quickly becoming more and more like Silicon Valley — a new startup and a dozen tech workers on every corner and companies like Google, Netflix, and Twitter setting up offices there.

But with growth comes growing pains. Los Angeles, especially the burgeoning Silicon Beach area — which includes Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina del Rey — shares something in common with its namesake Silicon Valley: a severe lack of housing.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

While there remains debate among economists about whether we are officially in a full-blown recession, the signs are certainly there. Like most executives right now, the outlook concerns me.

In any case, businesses aren’t waiting for the official pronouncement. They’re already bracing for impact as U.S. inflation and interest rates soar. Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June 2022 — the highest increase since November 1981 — and the Federal Reserve is targeting an interest rate of 3% by the end of this year.

Keep Reading Show less
Nancy Sansom

Nancy Sansom is the Chief Marketing Officer for Versapay, the leader in Collaborative AR. In this role, she leads marketing, demand generation, product marketing, partner marketing, events, brand, content marketing and communications. She has more than 20 years of experience running successful product and marketing organizations in high-growth software companies focused on HCM and financial technology. Prior to joining Versapay, Nancy served on the senior leadership teams at PlanSource, Benefitfocus and PeopleMatter.

Policy

SFPD can now surveil a private camera network funded by Ripple chair

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a policy that the ACLU and EFF argue will further criminalize marginalized groups.

SFPD will be able to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks in certain circumstances.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ripple chairman and co-founder Chris Larsen has been funding a network of security cameras throughout San Francisco for a decade. Now, the city has given its police department the green light to monitor the feeds from those cameras — and any other private surveillance devices in the city — in real time, whether or not a crime has been committed.

This week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a controversial plan to allow SFPD to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks during life-threatening emergencies, large events, and in the course of criminal investigations, including investigations of misdemeanors. The decision came despite fervent opposition from groups, including the ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which say the police department’s new authority will be misused against protesters and marginalized groups in a city that has been a bastion for both.

Keep Reading Show less
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.

Enterprise

These two AWS vets think they can finally solve enterprise blockchain

Vendia, founded by Tim Wagner and Shruthi Rao, wants to help companies build real-time, decentralized data applications. Its product allows enterprises to more easily share code and data across clouds, regions, companies, accounts, and technology stacks.

“We have this thesis here: Cloud was always the missing ingredient in blockchain, and Vendia added it in,” Wagner (right) told Protocol of his and Shruthi Rao's company.

Photo: Vendia

The promise of an enterprise blockchain was not lost on CIOs — the idea that a database or an API could keep corporate data consistent with their business partners, be it their upstream supply chains, downstream logistics, or financial partners.

But while it was one of the most anticipated and hyped technologies in recent memory, blockchain also has been one of the most failed technologies in terms of enterprise pilots and implementations, according to Vendia CEO Tim Wagner.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Fintech

Kraken's CEO got tired of being in finance

Jesse Powell tells Protocol the bureaucratic obligations of running a financial services business contributed to his decision to step back from his role as CEO of one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kraken is going through a major leadership change after what has been a tough year for the crypto powerhouse, and for departing CEO Jesse Powell.

The crypto market is still struggling to recover from a major crash, although Kraken appears to have navigated the crisis better than other rivals. Despite his exchange’s apparent success, Powell found himself in the hot seat over allegations published in The New York Times that he made insensitive comments on gender and race that sparked heated conversations within the company.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Latest Stories
Bulletins