A new startup called Pago is launching today, and if you live in Mountain View your life may have just gotten a lot easier. You can now go to more than 50 local merchants– coffee shops, dry cleaners, bars and the like– and order what you want from your smartphone, pay for it, and then skip the regular line to get it. It aims to bring Web-efficient check outs to the real world. Clearly anyone who spends their day chronically late (like me) would love this.
There are two potential problems. The first is that founder and CEO Leo Rocco may have taken that whole adage of building the company you’d like to see in the world a little too literally. He lives in Mountain View and today his routine will get a good deal easier. But what are the odds Pago lasts long enough to sign up my favorite coffee shop, dry cleaner, and ice cream shop? Or yours? Saying you are going to follow people through their day seems an almost impossible claim to deliver on given how different each of our daily routines are.
The other issue is that Pago is positioning itself as a payment platform first and foremost, and that’s one crowded space. Is Pago clever but just too late to the local party?
A place in my neighborhood that could desparately use something like this is trendy ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe. There’s a line halfway down the block most days, usually the result of people trying different flavors at the front of the line and agonizing over which one to get. A system for quickly serving customers who already know what they want seems a win-win for the store and its patrons. But Humphry Slocombe already uses Square as its main payment system. Is it likely to adopt another smartphone-based payment platform? Of course not. Like games that leverage Facebook’s existing social graph, Pago might be a stronger offering along with a payment system already gaining traction in the market than as a new payment competitor.