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One year of pure-digital payments

What we’ve learned in the 364 days since we launched the Flexa network—and our plans for the road ahead.

Flexa
Flexa
May 11 · 8 min read

When we first started down the path to build Flexa—a new payments network unlocking the power of digital currencies for merchants large and small—we knew that we had our work cut out for us.

At the time, we recognized that if we wanted to see digital currencies realize their full potential to transform the way we use money, we needed them to become ten times better than any payment method already in use. And more importantly, we realized that if we were to proceed with bolting digital currencies on top of the traditional, rent-seeking payment rails, we risked compromising everything that these new assets stood to offer.

Today, just under one year since we launched the Flexa network to thousands of people at the Consensus 2019 conference in New York City, our dream of rebuilding a payments network on top of new, completely digital rails (what we now call “pure-digital payments”) has become a reality. Flexa is accepted in more than 40,000 merchant locations across the US and Canada. The first app on the Flexa network, SPEDN,” has helped merchants substantially lower processing costs versus credit and debit cards. And through all this, we’ve yet to lose a single penny (or satoshi) to fraud!

But those of you who have been following Flexa since the beginning know that it’s always been our goal to make it possible for any app to spend any currency in any store. And today, as the Consensus: Distributed 2020 conference kicks off around the world, we’re excited to share some important updates about what we’re doing with the Flexa ecosystem next.

Support for more apps

We released SPEDN just under a year ago to the day. So it’s fitting that we’re now able to share more details about the additional wallets who will be enabling Flexa payments for their users in the months to come.

We’ve spent much of the last year working with our merchant partners in order to better understand how to enable instant payments in a secure and scalable way. These efforts have culminated in the Spend SDK, a software development kit for iOS and Android that makes digital currencies spendable from nearly any mobile application with a digital asset wallet.

A quick note: Many of you may already be familiar with the Spend SDK. Over the past nine months, we’ve variously called it the Flexa Wallet SDK, the Custodial Wallet SDK, the Non-Custodial Wallet SDK, and sometimes simply “the Flexa SDK.” But we’ve since realized that the future of Flexa isn’t about how digital currency is custodied or stored — it’s about how those assets are unlocked. The Spend SDK represents a big shift in how we’re thinking about digital payments and spending across an even wider variety of interfaces.

Today, the Spend SDK enables digital asset payments for two apps, and over the next few months, we’re excited to bring Flexa payments to even more: BRD, Celo Wallet, Dharma, ShapeShift and others will all soon be enabling Flexa payments for their users.

But that’s not all—also starting today, any developer can sign up for early access to incorporate the Spend SDK into their own apps. At this time, we’re preparing for a broad release this fall and continuing to co-develop the functionality and security of the SDK with our existing partners. We expect to invite the next wave of apps to our beta phase by mid-summer 2020.

Support for more global currencies

At Flexa, we’re dedicated to enabling instant payments for all kinds of people around the world. Naturally, a major part of that mission is in helping people make use of their money wherever they want to spend it. But traditional payments infrastructure has evolved to support and entrench the geographic borders of legacy money — and at Flexa, it’s always been obvious that money is most valuable when those geographic boundaries become irrelevant.

To help explain the concepts of borderless—or “global”—payments to a broader audience, we believe it’s important to start by grounding digital assets in terms and concepts that are already well-understood. From our research, we’ve developed a new framework for how we will think about and communicate the various currencies supported by the Flexa network going forward. This new framework breaks down into three discrete categories:

  1. “Digital dollars.” The first category in our new framework includes any digital assets that are pegged to or backed by a government-issued (“fiat”) currency like USD or CAD. These assets are functionally most similar to traditional banknotes—with the major difference being that only digital dollars are compatible with Flexa and can be spent easily across borders.
  2. “Digital tokens.” The second category in our new framework is represented by the phrase “digital tokens,” which we have selected to convey the concept of currencies that have value to a particular network—for example, branded loyalty tokens and reward points. This is the broadest category of assets we support, and it can be further sorted into sub-categories based on a network’s use case.
  3. “Cryptocurrencies.” Finally, the last category in our new framework reflects the collection of true, consensus-based cryptocurrencies for which each currency is integral to the security and utility of the network itself. Of all the currencies we support, cryptocurrencies are perhaps the most widely used and understood today. Already, they have been fundamental in transforming the utility of money and in helping us realize the possibility of pure-digital payments for the future.

Now, while a new currency framework is certainly useful in helping us share the value of Flexa-powered payments with a larger audience, its immediate relevance is in helping us announce the additional support of more than a dozen new currencies on the Flexa network:

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From Dai and USD Coin to ATOM tokens and Lumens, Flexa can now help merchants accept payments in three different kinds of digital dollars, six different digital tokens, and ten different cryptocurrencies. In sum, Flexa now enables spending for a collection of just under twenty borderless currencies — which collectively represent more than US$200 billion of value today.

We’re incredibly excited about the potential for these new, global currencies to make the Flexa network more useful to even more people.

Support for more merchants

And finally, we want to discuss a topic that’s become especially relevant to our merchant partners over the last two months—the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the globe, with an especially outsized impact on restaurants and stores throughout the United States and Canada.

Because of various quarantines and self-isolation strategies in effect throughout North America, many of our merchant partners have seen their in-store revenue drop to nearly zero. Accordingly, we’ve made two important changes that we want to share:

  1. We have aggressively accelerated the development of our online payments plug-in for Shopify merchants, and expanded access to our Connect API for third-party payment providers.
  2. We have subsidized the fees that we would normally charge merchants for payment processing to a rate 0.0% through the end of 2020, making Flexa payments effectively free for all merchants.

Our online payments plug-in has been in the works for nearly 8 months now, but for many merchants, online payments have become far more relevant than any other revenue channel. Because we’ve made important headway on getting the Spend SDK into the hands of app developers, it’s now even easier to enable the kinds of online payments interfaces we have been looking to build. And because we don’t want to stop at just online payments, we’ve also been working quickly to expose our core Connect API, which enables third-party payment providers to easily serve Flexa payments from within their own payment infrastructure for their merchant customers and clients.

From a fees perspective, we know that Flexa-powered payments are far more affordable than interchange, and that we’re already helping merchants save money on processing when compared to traditional payment instruments. There’s also never been a better time to switch to a completely touch-free payment experience. But in these unprecedented times, every basis point counts. Therefore, Flexa is directly subsidizing merchant fees, which would typically cover operational costs on the network, and we project that we can continue doing so through the end of this year, and beyond, if needed.

If you are a merchant and would like to explore enabling Flexa payments for your business—whether in-store or online—please complete our quick onboarding questionnaire and a member of our team will get in touch to help you join the network as soon as they can.

What will the next year look like?

While we are deeply aware of the important role that payments play in an uncertain economic environment like the one we face today, that’s precisely why we believe it’s even more critical to push forward the adoption of fast and fraud-proof transactions like the pure-digital payments that Flexa enables.

As we continue to build out our payments infrastructure in response to the needs of merchants, we’re ensuring that we pay close attention to how this situation and the larger payments picture will evolve into the future.

At the same time, we also appreciate the opportunity to look back at how far we’ve come. Building and growing Flexa into its current state and getting to a place where we can help merchants survive in the way that we are today has been an incredibly rewarding journey. We’re immensely appreciative of all the support we’ve received from our team, our partners, our advisors, and our fellow community members along the way.

In order to help make our work within our own community even more transparent and collaborative, we’ve also created a Flexa Discord server where interested community members and app developers can meet to discuss Flexa-related topics like the new Spend SDK and Connect platform. We hope you’ll join us there or on Twitter to share your feedback on our progress to date and the direction we’re taking.

As always, thank you for your continued support!

Flexa

Making cryptocurrency spendable everywhere

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