Slideshow 7 Big Payment Ideas from Small Businesses

  • March 21 2014, 4:16pm EDT
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Innovation can come from unlikely places. Five years ago, few would have guessed that the most widely available mobile wallets would be developed by companies like Starbucks and Google, which built their names in completely different fields. Several more disruptors are joining the scene, with even weirder origins. (Image: ShutterStock)

ShopKeep POS

ShopKeep POS, a tablet-based payment acceptance company and partner of PayPal, got its start in a wine shop in Brooklyn. The store's owner, Jason Richelson, was frustrated with aging point of sale technology. (Image: ShutterStock)

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Before they designed a Bitcoin ATM to allow people to purchase the digital currency with cash, the Harvey brothers owned a guitar shop. They closed it to sell Lamassu Bitcoin machines full-time.


Twitter's Jack Dorsey may get the spotlight, but as the story goes, it was glassblower James McKelvey whose need to accept credit cards inspired Square. McKelvey's business, which sold faucets and fittings, was cash-only before the pair invented the now-famous mobile card reader. (Image: ShutterStock)

Bad Piggy Bank

Rovio, the company behind the wildly popular Angry Birds smartphone games, got its start at a mobile game design competition at Helsinki University about a decade ago. After launching Angry Birds, the company needed a way to accept payments in its home market of Finland. In 2010 it created Bad Piggy Bank, named for game's villainous hogs, to enable customers to charge purchases to a mobile phone bill. (Image: Bloomberg News)

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Singer Jack Conte, part of the band Pomplamoose, created Patreon with his college roommate Sam Yam. Built on technology from Stripe, the crowdfunding platform lets artists like Conte seek funding from fans before embarking on their next big project. (Image: ShutterStock)


If the LevelUp mobile payments app seems particularly game-like, it's because developer SCVNGR's original plan was to create a mobile game that rewards players for checking in at participating merchants. LevelUp evolved from this idea, but SCVNGR still supports this app, also called SCVNGR, for iPhone and Android users.


The massive Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange, now entering bankruptcy, wasn't always a force in the digital currency world. Its name is a relic of its original business model as a trading platform for fans of the card game Magic: The Gathering. Mt.Gox is actually an acronym for Magic: The Gathering Online Exchange.