Pay-By-Keyword Startup Seconds Refocuses As A Way To Make Anyone A Merchant

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Seattle-based mobile payments startup Seconds today unveiled a new direction for its product, looking to fill some of the space left behind by the acquisition of competitor Venmo and Square’s growing focus on expanding beyond independent, small business merchants. Seconds now wants to make it possible for anyone with a mobile device to make or receive a payment, as Seconds CEO and founder puts it, addressing the “increasingly thin line between merchant and consumer.”

Seconds originally debuted as a means through which small businesses and merchants could accept payments and conduct other business via text message – for instance, a pizza delivery guy could get paid via text and also work out delivery details, like finding a buzzer code or getting specific directions through the Seconds platform. Now, however, the startup is trying to democratize its offering, making it easier for anyone to pay or accept payments via mobile web, online through a desktop browser, or again via text message.

On the web, making payments easy means that Seconds offers the ability to search for a payment recipient by Twitter name, email, phone number or even location. If they’re not already on Seconds, you can send them an invite to join, and if they are, you simply enter an amount and hit pay to complete the transaction.

Text-based payments is still a big part of what Seconds offers, however. For a $5 monthly add-on fee, merchants can upgrade to a text-enabled account, which provides them with a dedicated Seconds phone number and also makes it possible to set up payments by keyword. That means users can attach specific dollar amounts to different keywords, so that when a Seconds user texts their merchant number that word, a pre-set amount is automatically charged to the buyer’s card on file.

Seconds is working with Stripe and Dwolla to enable payments, and merchants can connect both. Seconds charges $0.50 per transaction on top of the fee structures Stripe or Dwolla already have in place, but Hughes believes the convenience it offers makes up for the additional cost. Hughes also admits that it seems like there’s a race on to eliminate fees altogether associated with mobile payments, sparked by LevelUp’s elimination of any fees on transactions, and says that’ll be something the startup has to take into account down the road.