“FIGURING out who owes what at the end of a nice meal is like entering the seventh circle of hell,” writes researcher Uri Gneezy in The Inefficiency of Splitting the Bill.
It’s a situation most of us are all too familiar with: going out for dinner with a group of friends, only to be told by the waitron when the bill arrives that you can’t get separate bills. To make things easier, you decide to pay for the whole meal on your card, in the hopes that everyone will pay you back - eventually. But EFT’s and promises of repayments can be time-consuming and involve a lot of admin.
Now, a Cape Town-based fintech start-up wants to change the mental and social costs of IOUs and mobile cash payments - by revolutionising the way people exchange funds digitally.
Enter Slide, a mobile payments app which facilitates easy, fast and free peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers across all local banks and mobile networks.
The real-time payment system was conceptualised and developed by three young Cape Town entrepreneurs, and allows users to send and receive money instantaneously – with just a few taps on their smartphones.
Slide is based on Venmo, a hugely-popular US mobile payments app owned by online payments giant, PayPal.
Co-founder Alon Stern said while the idea behind the app was not a new one, Slide was a gamechanger in the South African market – which currently boasts a penetration of almost 19 million smartphone users.
“Our goal with Slide is to provide ease of access for users - without the delays of EFT payments or additional bank costs.”
Since its launch in early-September, the app has been downloaded over 1000 times, with new users signing up everyday.
Stern and his two co-founders - Irshad Kathrada and Terence Goldberg, were all living and working in New York before returning to the country at the end of 2016.
The idea behind Slide came about after the fintech innovators realised the need and potential for a local P2P payments app.
Registered Slide users can send any amount between 1 cent and R5000 per transaction, by simply using an intended recipient’s cellphone number or email address.
“The app integrates with your contacts on your phone, and is very simple to use. We believe in the philosophy that you should be able to send money in four clicks: o pen the app, select the number/ contact; enter an amount and write a little note; and enter send,” Stern said.
“We envision people being able to pay for things all over the place just by using their phones; from paying for a coffee or a taxi ride, to paying your domestic worker.
“From our research, we discovered that South Africans want similar tech to those used in Europe and the US; so the styling of our app is in that very slick, Silicon Valley look. The trick to good user interface is that someone who’s never used the app before, who’s not tech-savvy at all, should just be able to pick it up and instinctively know what to do.”
Inclusivity and lowering the barriers of participation in the formal economy for all South Africans was also a priority for the team.
“This app opens up opportunities for us to interact with underbanked people in SA. Even though most people using this app live in the city centres, we’re hoping to have a product which can appeal to many different markets and LSM’s across SA,” Stern said.
“One of the big goals and visions of our company is changing the fact that it’s so hard to send money, which also puts a drag on the economy.
"There are many reasons why cash isn’t a very secure form of exchange. And we believe that the difficulties associated with sending money actually puts a friction on the economy, and is an impediment of sorts."
Security was another big concern for the developers when launching Slide.
“It’s been one of our main focus points. We know that people will only use the app if they can trust the app; and that’s only possible if the app is completely secure - which is why we’ve implemented state-of-the-art banking level security measures."
Stern, who holds a PhD in mathematics and worked at Princeton University before returning to South Africa, and Goldberg, who previously worked at start-ups in Toronto, Canada and in San Francisco, are the main developers of the app; whilst Kathrada, who holds various degrees in finance and boasts an international banking background, is the financial brains behind the startup.
Stern believes that the rewards related to launching their startup far outweigh the risks, as the app has already garnered attention from potential investors -despite still being in its infancy.
“Of course there were huge risks with launching this app, including the opportunity costs – we all quit our jobs and just went for it. But the reason we did it is because the potential reward of such a product is really large.
“One thing that I really feel is that South Africa is a country with a lot of possibilities and a lot of opportunities. The business model of being able to go overseas and see any product and come back here and replicate it – is so easy to do here.
"The time is now for startups."
Stern says that Slide is the first of “many great ideas” for the team.
“South Africa is a gateway to Africa – there’s lot of potential for a P2P payment products like ours, which bring with them other great opportunities.
“At the moment we're not making a profit, because our focus is on growing our numbers.
"But our vision is to really increase financial inclusion; to give people access to basic financial services by using this app, and to make it easier for people across the country to send money.
"The banks currently have this monopoly over the payments space; your money is ‘trapped’ in the bank and in order to use it you have to pay them fees.”
He said their roadmap for Slide over the next few months included adding a credit card payment option; a requests feature for people to send or request money; and Facebook integration – lwhich involves linking contacts from the social media site to enable money transfers.
He believes that Slide will not only change the way users regard social transactions, but will make the days of cash payments and IOUs obsolete.
“Before we had Whatsapp, we never knew we needed to send thousands of messages everyday. Once you start using this app, it will fill this space that you never knew needed to be filled.”
Slide is available for download on Google Play and the Apple App Store, under 'Slide Financial'.