While bitcoin’s headlines are often dominated by large merchants like Dell, DISH and Overstock, broader business adoption of the technology as a payments solution may be more arguably influenced by the various platform providers serving the space.
Companies like e-commerce enabler Shopify and more recently financial software specialist Intuit, for example, now allow thousands of small merchants to begin accepting bitcoin simply by enabling the option.
Now, in a new interview with CoinDesk, Intuit engineer Clinton Nielsen has confirmed that PayByCoin is already gaining traction with the company’s small business customers, and that despite bitcoin’s sometimes negative press, the response to the program has been largely positive to date.
Nielson told CoinDesk:
“The only thing I heard was one customer said they’d rather having us focus on things that are right now rather than things that are far-reaching, but the overwhelmingly positive attitude from the media in general and our customers has drowned that out.”
He added that the data further supports this conclusion, saying: “We’ve seen more sign-ups than we expected”.
The California-based company earned $4.2bn in revenue during fiscal year 2013, and has a team of roughly 8,000 employees around the globe, according to its fiscal year 2013 investor filing.
Bringing PayByCoin to market
The product of both Nielsen and Intuit’s Group Product Manager Manish Shah, PayByCoin was a project the two developers developed on during their allotted ‘whitespace time’ – the 10% of working time all Intuit employees get to spend on initiatives of their choosing.
Shah said that the pair used this time to form a small team for the project, adding:
“Once we identitied invoice payments as a good starting point to do this integration, we coded out the necessary pieces with Coinbase. We have an established program at Intuit called Intuit Labs, which allows small teams like us to take ideas to market quickly, and that’s how it was done.”
In response to questions about the reaction of Intuit management to the product, Nielson said that, on an ideological level, he saw bitcoin as aligning with the goals of the company:
“Intuit is aiming to change how people manage their finances, and bitcoin is looking to change how people look at money at a more fundamental level. I don’t there’s been any question that the Intuit family of products and bitcoin could be complementary to each other.”
Small business outlook
Although Intuit is optimistic about the applications of bitcoin in its own products, Shah said that he still feels as though the small business market is only just warming to digital currency.
Shah indicated that he believes the positive response has been due to the volume of early adopters that are using PayByCoin, as these individuals are generally enthusiastic about new technologies.
The broader small business market, he said, will likely be harder to win:
“The majority of businesses that have heard about bitcoin are sitting on the sidelines because they are worried about currency fluctuation, who will pay them in bitcoin. [...] A lot of small businesses are skeptical about adoption, just like any new technology.”
Bitcoin development continues
Shah further confirmed that more Intuit employees are seeking to develop bitcoin products during their whitespace time, and that these initiatives aim to leverage some of the less mainstream applications of the technology.
There is a particular interest in how smart contracts and other such technologies could be used for businesses. he said, adding:
“Financial transactions are just one of the use cases [for bitcoin], but you think about small businesses that have interactions with customers, vendors and employees, and you think about all these other products that focus on establishing the ownership of [for example] a document or any other kind of resources. There are lots of places in the products at Intuit where we could integrate some of those solutions.”
Nielson went on to say that should any of these whitespace products be given the green light, they would still be molded to fit Intuit’s overall business objectives.
“The goal is always to make it as invisible for small businesses as possible, so they can go about running their business”, he said.
Image via Intuit
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