Why Square Cash couldn’t kill Venmo

Product vs. Design

Jan 4, 2018 · 4 min read

What is “product”, exactly?

It’s a term that’s thrown around so often we don’t feel the need to define it. Here’s my understanding:

Venmo vs. Square Cash

Venmo is the undisputed king of P2P payments, which is a fancy way to say “sending money to your friends”. Since its release in 2009, Venmo has spread from phone-to-phone into a startup success story, attaining what is perhaps the most coveted status in tech: verb.

Square Cash has great design

Square Cash is one of the most beautiful apps I’ve ever used. From the warm color scheme, crystal-clear UX, subtle-yet-delightful animations, and even the onboarding, it’s an absolute delight to use.

Hint hint

Venmo is a great product

Venmo isn’t as pretty as Square Cash. It doesn’t have a cool modern font — just plain Helvetica — and it hides its screens behind a clunky hamburger menu.

Hint hint
  • You’re not allowed to send money without a caption. You don’t have to make it playful, but it’s definitely encouraged; both through social proof (i.e. other people’s captions) and Venmo itself.
In fact, Venmo makes it hard not to use emoji. Emoji suggestions can’t be dismissed except by adding a space to the end.

Doing your job isn’t enough

Venmo and Square Cash solve the same problem, but they take fundamentally different approaches.

Product vs. Design

Product takes a broader view than design. While design dives into specific problems, product has the murkier task of translating business objectives into product strategy.

Going beyond design

Until recently, my goal was solely to become a great designer. I wanted to be the digital Dieter Rams, and to that me, Square Cash was the greatest thing ever. But as my perspective has broadened to other areas like business and product, I’ve realized design is just one piece of the puzzle.

Bryant Peng
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Other factors

While this analysis focused on the products themselves, we can’t ignore the other factors at play.

  • Venmo’s mobile-first approach came at a time when mobile phones were becoming more common, especially among younger demographics. Teens and young adults (key Venmo early adopters) are typically more open to new technology, even scary things like sending money over the Internet.


¹ I can’t prove anything because Square doesn’t release stats about Square Cash. But Venmo had no problem announcing $9 billion in processed payments in Q3 2017…draw your own conclusions.

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Bryant Peng

Product / Design


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Bryant Peng

Product / Design