The 'app economy' is getting larger by the year, and a team of entrepreneurs firmly rooted in the payments establishment sees big trouble ahead when it comes to facilitating transactions.
"The existing system to set up payments for this market has friction," said Laura Wagner, founder and CEO of Digitzs, which provides a payments application programing interface (API) for app marketplaces. "We remove that friction by turning the platform into a processor. We take out all of the noise."
Wagner is a 20-year payments technology veteran whose experience includes founding PayRover, a company that processes card and check payments at a deep discount. She also founded OTC Innovations, a quick-service restaurant payments technology company, and was part of the team that developed the first gift card, for Neiman Marcus.
Digitzs' other founders include David Jaques, PayPal's first CEO; Linda Perry, who was head of acquiring for Visa for 17 years before starting her own consultancy; startup technologists Ben Way and Stacey Moore.
Digitzs recently launched its API after about a year of testing, development and crowdfunding. The company is attacking a gap or pain point that resides between the white label platforms that provide payments for tasks like ticketing, rental payments, donations, ride sharing or room sharing—and the merchants that provide the underlying products to consumers.
Digitzs considers its sweet spot to be relatively new companies that do not use e-commerce shopping carts or accept swiped card payments. These are generally the mobile "app" companies whose models resemble those of Airbnb and Uber.
"These apps have to have a way to get the money to the drivers, for example, or the people who are leasing rooms," Wagner said.
"Digitzs is tapping into a huge, underserved market that is seeing explosive growth—mobile apps," said Michael Moeser, director of the payments practice at Javelin Strategy & Research. "Its ability to painlessly facilitate payments in mobile apps is allowing everyday merchants to more easily launch mobile shopping apps."
The use case Wagner gives is beta tester Ticket Socket, whose clients include the New York Marathon. Digitzs works between the ticketing company and the marathon, automating and providing a single navigation source for the marathon to obtain a merchant account and to facilitate the collection of the platform's fees for each transaction. Digitzs charges 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction, and the merchants set up their own fees.
"It's painful for [Ticket Socket] to win a client and then tell that client to go get a merchant account," Wagner said. "We are the embedded in these platforms so they can get a merchant account instantly."
The company raised $2.5 billion from Crowdfunder in 2015, according to the CNBC Crowdfinance 50 Index, placing it in third place among all companies, and has about $1 billion in processing in the pipeline from platform CEOs. Its investors include Kevin Harrington, who has also appeared on the ABC reality show Shark Tank.
Managed payment services is an emerging trend, said Penny Gillespie, a research director at Gartner. "Payments are complex and the seller's back office often finds it challenging when dealing with payments, especially in areas of settlement, fraud and chargebacks," Gillespie said.