Cardstack vs SaaS — Part 2

How does Cardstack compare to popular SaaS tools?

Cardstack Team
Jun 22 · 7 min read

Cardstack can be compared to various SaaS tools from the Web2 world. The different parts that make up this well-coordinated Web3 platform, protocol, framework, and ecosystem all work together — not only to enhance the capabilities for the user, but also to make up a full stack that covers countless different use cases.

Card Pay is like Stripe

Stripe is a popular tool for developers and merchants. It facilitates FinTech connections, allowing you to accept credit cards and transfer money between bank accounts.

Card Pay is similar to Stripe, but in a Web3 way:

  • It is a DeFi payment & reward system that bridges layer 1 and layer 2.
  • Prepaid cards give customers a balance they can spend on layer 2.
  • Merchants earn revenue via customer payments on layer 2.
  • Conversion rates & exchange links are provided by Chainlink.
  • The Card Pay SDK is used to settle payments via an EVM-compatible blockchain.

“Payment is core. It’s how everything — the value transfer and the data from spending — helps us understand how to grow and reward people in the network.”

Chris Tse, Cardstack Founder

Card Commerce is like Square

Square allows you to buy and sell products using your smartphone, without needing a terminal. To do that, you need a product catalog.

That is what Card Commerce offers. It gives you an inventory where you can list your products. They could be different kinds of products, like an NFT, an hour of your time, or a physical real-world object. You can sell your products and keep track of your inventory like you could with a regular cash register — only in this case, you are using a combination of a mobile app (Card Wallet) and a Web dashboard.

Card Space is like Shopify

Shopify is a popular e-commerce platform where you can host your online store.

Similarly, Card Space allows you to

  • create your own storefront,
  • customize it to your liking,
  • fill it with all kinds of products, such as e-commerce products and services,
  • share your products with a link,
  • plus add a membership system,
  • and extend the capabilities.

“We are building Card Space like a customizable Shopify, which a developer can extend.

Chris Tse, Cardstack Founder

Card Catalog is like Salesforce

Salesforce, which provides customer relationship management (CRM) software, has a unique way of thinking about apps. When you buy an app on Salesforce as a business, you don’t only get an app that you can download on your phone; you are purchasing a feature from a catalog that you can add to an existing dashboard you’re already using. That feature is integrated with your permission system, your workflows, your email, and your notifications.

That’s what we want Cardstack to be: Our extensible system is not just a little island, but all the different parts are integrated very well into a single cohesive experience. We use a schema-driven approach, extending the schema into a composable model driven by a design system, so that everything is designed to work together and different cards can be embedded within each other. This is similar to the approach Salesforce uses. Therefore, the Card Catalog is the Web3 alternative to Salesforce with its multi-vendor app exchange system.

Card Flow is like Slack

Slack is a messaging app for businesses.

Similarly, the Card Flow system allows you to communicate with other people in a chat room-like environment — but it doesn’t end there. You may be in a chatroom with another person trying to agree on a deal, for example, or negotiating to buy an NFT. Once you have agreed on the price, you both confirm, sign the transaction, and the payment is settled on-chain. All of that is part of the workflow.

So, Card Flow is not just about multi-step processes you complete with the help of a nice bot that guides you through the milestones. A thread could involve several people who are working together in this chat room, using Card Flow as the container to complete all kinds of different workflows.

“This is a very nice Web3 way of connecting value transactions with collaboration.”

Chris Tse, Cardstack Founder

Card Bridge is like SWIFT

SWIFT is the way you do wire transfers internationally. It doesn’t actually move money; it just moves messages between banks.

Similarly, bridging tokens is all about signaling and messaging between blockchains: “I have staked this token in a lockbox on this chain. Please mint something on the other side.”

“Card Bridge is like SWIFT in the Web3 era.”

Chris Tse, Cardstack Founder

Card Advance is like SoFi

Different FinTech companies like SoFi provide a data layer on top of the financial tracks, providing consumer services like mortgages and student loans.

Card Advance has the concept of loans too:

If there is unredeemed revenue in the revenue pool, which belongs to merchants who don’t need the money right away, we can loan it out to other merchants who need it now.

“A person / an entity can purchase the future earning from a merchant in return for a lump-sum payment. So it’s like: ‘You’re making $500 a month. Here’s $5,000. I’ll buy your income for the next several months or years, and then I’ll take 30% of it.’”

Chris Tse, Cardstack Founder

Card Tally is like Snowflake

Snowflake is a data warehousing company. Their analytics in the cloud use the same infrastructure we use for Tally, though we connect it very tightly with our protocol-driven approach.

Tally is analytics, but not analytics for a dashboard. It can actually take information from the on-chain activity of users and synthesize it — sometimes even with data that is not public, but that may exist in the hosting environment and is adequately anonymous. Then, Tally provides feedback to the blockchain, e.g. to distribute rewards or authorize certain types of on-chain activity.

Card Reward is like Star Alliance

Star Alliance is an airline alliance, where rewards are cross-honored between the participating airlines.

That’s the power of the blockchain. A community, like a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), can say, “We’re going to honor your gold membership level with our membership level, as long as you cross-honor ours as well.” That allows people to earn statuses, rewards, and membership levels within the Cardstack ecosystem. Such membership levels are visualized as little glossy cards in your mobile wallet, which give you special access to communities, new products, or discounts, because you’re recognized as a gold member.

Cardstack: A cohesive user experience

Although the different aspects of Cardstack compare to all these well-known SaaS companies, there are not nine different apps you need to learn to use.

“With our approach and with the blockchain and Web3 tailwind and capability behind it, we can build a very integrated user experience.”

Chris Tse, Cardstack Founder

From a user experience point of view, there are only two experiences that users need to learn:

  • The Cardstack App (desktop & mobile app)
  • The Card Wallet (mobile app)

The idea is that all those actions, workflows, spaces, and payments are surrounding these two spheres of user experience.

For example, Card Pay allows you to

  • use the desktop app to connect your wallets,
  • go through a workflow to bridge a token from layer 1 (mainnet) to layer 2 (xDai chain),
  • sign transactions in your mobile wallet,
  • pay a merchant with the money you have on layer 2,
  • while the merchant sees your payment on the dashboard in their space,
  • then clicks a button to conduct a workflow to bridge the money back into their layer-1 wallet.

“This type of orchestration — this type of map — is how we can make these very complicated things that used to be totally different brand names and logos and logins into one cohesive experience around the idea of a dApp, which is the Cardstack app, and the Card Wallet, which is a companion second factor for authentication, for biometrics, for signing statements, for proving things.”

Chris Tse, Cardstack Founder

Learn More

This article is Part 2 of our “Cardstack vs SaaS” series. Part 1 introduces each component of the Cardstack ecosystem, from Card Pay and Card Commerce all the way to Card Tally and Card Reward.

Watch the full video here:

Chris Tse, Founding Director of the Cardstack Project, compares Cardstack to various tools from the Web2 world.

Interested to learn more about Cardstack?

Check out the resources below:

Introducing Card Pay: The payment & reward network for creators
Watch the video | Read the article

Introducing Card Space
Watch the video | Read the article

DeFi Payments with Card Pay
Watch the video | Read the article

2021 Roadmap: Card Pay, Card Space & Card Catalog
Watch the video | Read the article

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The collaborative OS for Web3


The collaborative OS for Web3: Cardstack opens the doors to Web3 for everyday people. Anyone will finally be able to build apps, create content and get paid in decentralized ways — no coding or crypto experience required.

Cardstack Team

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Official account for the team behind the Cardstack project.


The collaborative OS for Web3: Cardstack opens the doors to Web3 for everyday people. Anyone will finally be able to build apps, create content and get paid in decentralized ways — no coding or crypto experience required.