How Dipjar Produced 200 Credit Card Tipping Devices


By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—If George Constanza of Seinfeld lived in the 21st century, he would have solved the issue he had with tip jars back in the day. They never made a sound. When a pizza hired hand took his eyes off him for a second, he didn’t see Constanza show his generosity. So what does Constanza being Constanza do? He tried to grab his dollar back only to be caught as if he were stealing the latter’s tips.

It’s one colorful story among many that DipJar founder Ryder Kessler shares with the audience at the Mobile Payments NYC meetup last December 8 at Alley. DipJar enables cashless generosity via tip jars and donation boxes for credit cards—with a loud “clinking” sound this time, so a staff will you know you’ve tipped. You simply dip your credit card to make a donation in the amount illuminated in this gadget.

Kessler said he was inspired to think of a solutions eight years ago when he was at a café and he saw how baristas were not getting enough tips, although he didn’t pin down DipJar then just yet. He said he would try lots of different things, working for a startup for four years, before he eventually got around to conjuring the idea for the DipJar.

Initially, Kessler said he cast a wide net of potential customers, but he eventually found his market – the non-profit sector. There are reportedly 1.5 million non-profit organizations collecting $240 billion per year in donations, 90 percent of which are made offline.


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Released initially in 2012, the patented DipJar now has 2,000 of these devices collecting nationwide for customers, with more than 6 large organizations as customers.

Kessler thinks DipJar is also addressing the overall decline in fundraising in general, because of the diminished use of cash and checks, which makes the device even more relevant now, especially when many low-income workers rely on tips. Tablets solve this somehow as it works as a payment system now–with a prompt for adding tips.

For this reason, targeting non-profit organizations is even more vital for Kessler. However, being in this sector also means getting VC money is not easy. “Some VCs are allergic to hardware,” plus he is in the non-profit space – not a priority for VCs.

What has he learned these years with DipJar? He acknowledges that he “underweighted hardware, payments, VC money and sales and marketing”.

How does one tip with DipJar? Inside the jar is a standard credit card reader. One only needs to insert his card and pull it out to swipe and it will automatically deduct an assigned amount set by the business or DipJar owner.

Derek Webster hosted the meetup.

How These Fintech Startups are Changing the Go-To Platform for Investing

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–Last July 27, NewFinance held a Shark Tank-like Open Mike Night featuring financial companies innovating through technology at Rise in Chelsea.

The entrepreneurs were Melanie Smith, founder/CEO at KaChing, a mobile app designed to foster investing habits and financial mindfulness in teenagers;  Rob Koyfman of, a web-based terminal that provides investors with research and visualization tools to analyze stocks, fx, macro and economic indicators and  Marcus Estes, CEO at Chroma, a securities exchange for the private markets economy.

Smith, who taught 9th Grade Math in public schools, said 41 million teens and tweens will earn over $91 billion annually.

“Over the next 30 years 6 trillion will pass to next generation,” she said, who also told about how crucial it may be to add gamification component to her app.

Koyfman, for his part, said he is looking into the 45 million equity investors.

Others included Gregg Jackowitz, founder & CEO at PaidEasy, a mobile payments application that allows users to seamlessly sync with a merchants’ Point of Sales system and João Menano, founder and head of business development at CrowdProcess or James.

PaidEasy is looking solve to app fatigue by having all mobile payments for so many apps integrated on his system, according to Koyfman.

Consumer credit modeling software for risk officers Shuo Zhang, co-founder & CEO at ModernLend, also presented his platform, an online lender that uses alternative data metrics to lend to creditworthy international citizens.

ModernLend is trying to solve the problem for international visitors or students who are in the United States but have no credit score.

“It’s going to be the first credit card for international visitors. You get approved in under 24 hours,” Zhang said.

Last but not the least, Uday Akkaraju, founder at BOND, talked about his intelligent SMS bot that automatically grows users’ wealth based on their financial goals, in the shortest possible duration.

For Bond, why even bother to do this when there are so many platforms out there?

Akkaraju said, Wealth managers are not (always) accessible. BOND is easily accessible

This is very comfortable for everyone,” he said.

The investors at the meetup who asked questions and provided constructive feedback to the entrepreneurs included Matt Perlman, principal at Fenway Summer Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on promising early stage financial services companies;  Alex Tarhini, Associate at Point72 Ventures

Eric Gouin, CEO of Pentalabbs, a Strategic Industrial Investor in Services for Equity that gives to startups power of technology and digital marketing for their acceleration

Meghan Cross, managing mirector of Red Bear Angels, the angel group that invests in early-stage ventures founded or led by Cornell University alumni

Adi Levanon, director of Investments at FinTech Collective, investing in early stage Fintech companies with a focus on banking, lending, payments, capital markets, wealth & asset management, insurance and blockchain based technologies

The meetup was hosted by Ashish Singal.

Jo Biang and where virtual card Privacy is headed


NEW YORK — Last July 7, Mobile Payments NYC Meetup in cooperation with Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator hosted a fireside chat with Bo Jiang, CEO of Privacy, a new startup that generates a virtual Visa debit card, so you can control your online purchases at Alley Midtown.

“You don’t have to worry about a merchant overcharging you,” he said.

Privacy does the worrying for you. It has to maintain a large cash flow, so it can handle all the money, technology and marketing.

How does it work? You install a tiny icon from Privacy’s Google Chrome Extension. When you click the icon, the extension automatically generates a new virtual Visa debit card. An iOS app should help you get things going if you’re not in front of a computer.

Launched in March this year, Privacy has 5 staff based in Brooklyn.  ‘We’ve experienced 50% growth in the past 30 days,” he said. “Our no. 1 driver of growth is media and word of mouth,” he said.

“To keep us ahead things, our first hire was a compliance expert,” he said.

As it generates dynamic numbers every time you need a card, it protects you from credit card fraud. Its CVV works like any visa card. There are no charges to customers but they get a share of income from every transaction – as well as the banks they are partners with.

How are people using it? One would think the cards are being used for porn, but Jiang is quick to point out how porn only represents 1 percent of transaction. “Vast majority is subscription volume,” he said.

How did they convince banks and other partners to work with them? “We have been at this for two years ,” he said, adding how it took the company up to 9 months to work on streamlining the process with banks.

Jiang offers some perspective about his startup, admitting how the first 3 years has been rough.  As advice to those just starting their business, he said it’s crucial to “make your initial product as narrow as possible.” You product, he said, may be too broad.

Jiang saw an opportunity in the business as banks usually think customers don’t like virtual cards. What annoys him about the payment system? “There are so many things that can be automated and faster.”

In terms of security, he said Privacy offers a layered firewall.  “We maintain minimal information – we store your account and routing number,” he said.

Jiang pauses when asked a question about bitcoin, as he has dabbled on bitcoin for many years but from the way he talks about Privacy, he has clearly moved on.

Fintech startups on partnering with banks, internal fraud, innovation

NEW YORK–How is disruptive technology changing the world’s oldest business? Last March 2, the MIT Enterprise Forum featured a panel of financial experts to share their thoughts on the topic at the Betterment offices in Chelsea.

The panelists consisted of Jon Stein, CEO and founder of Betterment; Eran Barak, business operations point man at Symphony;  Phil DeGisi, chief marketing officer of CommonBond and Lowell Putnam, CEO and founder of Quovo.

Betterment is an automated investing service that provides optimized investment returns for individual, IRA, Roth IRA & rollover 401(k) accounts. Symphony is a cloud-based communications service that delivers organizational productivity where markets and individuals come together to create vibrant communities in which to share content, insights and opinions.

CommonBond refinances student loans, while Quova empowers sophisticated investors with Big Data tools ranging from portfolio aggregation to sophisticated analytics.

Below are some of their thoughts on a host of things, including consumer data

  • Why is there no Amazon of financial services? Partly (because of) regulations
  • Services are balancing privacy and comfort use
  • Encryption technology helps keep consumer data (secure)
  • Seeking a more advised world to offload burden from consumes
  • There is need for better access to data
  • Looking for more transparency to consumer data
  • Complexity of the system is rearing its ugly head
  • The industry we’re in is being disrupted. Over time, the hope is to be disrupted (to improve financial services) as the endgame
  • Is there always going to be a need for choice? In a driverless world, we still need to know where to go, which restaurant to go to. So it’s the same with financial services
  • We can partner with a lot of companies. Banks are taking mini-entrepreneurship routes. They’re trying to beat startups at their own game
  • People love the diversity of choices now
  • People will adapt new technologies to protect their valuables—from Apple and FBI
  • 3 things where technology is headed: finance, education, healthcare
  • International courts have not resolved regulation (If an American is in the United Kingdom talking to someone in Hong Kong, which regulation needs to be followed—US, UK or HK?
  • Open innovation in fintech as it comes back as value because people create value
  • On security, internal fraud is more worrisome
  • Security nowadays is like Mission Impossible territory with chemicals used for protection  
  • Banks like partnering because they can buy the asset

SoFi hands out loans without relying on credit score

NEW YORK– Last February 17, SoFI co-founder Dan Macklin held a special talk sponsored by Columbia Startup Labs in Soho West. Only last month, the modern finance company that’s fueling the shift to a bankless world announced that it is handing out loans without relying on a person’s credit score.

SoFi considers other methods to gauge who will repay a loan. It takes a detailed look at your payment history, income versus your expenses, cash flow, and your career stability.  However, it still looks into your credit report to ensure applicant has a good track record of paying bills.

For Macklin, FICO credit scores are no longer a good way of screening loan applicants–with more millennials today having “thin credit files or no credit at all.”

SoFi usually refinances college loans to undergraduates, graduate students and those who’ve finished college but it also provides personal loans and mortgage loans.. So far it has approved $7 billion in loans, most of which happened in 2015.


Looking back, Macklin remembers how SoFi was built in two months (it’s been around since 2011) with no marketing budget but lots of word-of-mouth traction.  


It has come a long way since getting millions to a billion dollars in funding which Macklin thinks is essential, “so we won’t be constrained in our ambitions.”

About 50 percent of SoFi borrowers are referred by a friend, with 300 companies offering SoFi to its employees.

Macklin also discussed how SoFi is transforming personal finance by combining technological efficiencies with strong customer relationships. By leveraging the efficiencies of technology, SoFi provides instant decisions to meet demand.

Macklin advises startups to look into “better technology than incumbents but not to forget customer service. “You need both.”

“It has to be a clean experience. People need to be able to get answers to their questions quickly,” he said.


Ceresnie of Orchard gives must-do advice for startups

NEW YORK–Last February 8, a huge crowd turned up for the fireside chat of Empire Startups’ Fintech meetup with Orchard Platform CFO and co-founder Angela Ceresnie at Rise in Chelsea. Orchard provides analytics to the marketplace lending industry.

Ceresnie shared her thoughts on what it’s like to start and manage a “smaller” company with his three other co-founders. She worked previously worked for big financial institutions like Citibank and American Express.

“There are people who work 70 hours and they can’t get things done then. There are those who work 40 hours (and make things work),” she said, adding how she liked tech startups, because it requires less face time. With fintech, (you) move away from your desk.”

Having grown from 20 to more than 40 employees, she said it was important to instill values with their team, especially when you know some people may not be aligned with your business.

“Once you get to 20 people, it’s important to have common language and guided principles,” she said.

Ceresnie said Orchard Platform now lives up to 3 values: honesty, orienting action to the future and succeeding together.

On success, she said it’s true measure is all in your mind.  

On what to watch out for, she says be wary of overtracking metrics.

On hiring, she said she looks for more diversity in skill sets. Not many may not know this but Ceresnie had an engineering background in R and statistics.

On job interviewing, she’s most interested in finding out the person coming in and knowing how much they are qualified.

Ceresnie gave credit to Better Works for help them manage and set goals with their team. One of the things you must when running a business is “having your books and having products out of the door.”

The Orchard Manager Database is the first comprehensive resource for institutional investors to identify and evaluate a wide spectrum of marketplace lending managers. Listing their information in the database enables managers to securely and directly reach institutional investors interested in allocating capital to marketplace lending.

Online insurance, waiter app, design app at NY Tech Breakfast

NEW YORK–When every tech meetup seems to be covered at night, count NY Tech Breakfast counts on the early risers to come to its monthly event, now held at Microsoft for the second month. Last September 8, NY Tech Breakfast featured PolicyGenius, Proscape, TableSwipes and LawGo.

How about getting most of your insurance needs online? PolicyGenius’ CTO, Ian Yamey, talked about how the startup guides people to apply for insurance every step of the way, with a coverage calculator to help anyone make informed decisions.

He gave a walk-through of the application online, showing us how it’s easy to just fill in information to get different types of insurance online. “It’s an insurance checkup that takes 10 minutes to do,” he said, adding how it’s important for them to educate consumers about insurance as well.

If you’re shopping for the right company, Yamey guarantees unbiased quote comparisons as it hopes to cater directly to consumers, skipping agents altogether. Other insurance it offers includes pet and renters.

What makes them different? Insurance companies capture your information and sell to multiple insurance brokers/agents, while PolicyGenius claims it’ll work with you personally.

Also, it claims it’s easier to comparison and understand insurance the way it has focused on delivering a great experience.

Proscape helps ad agencies use the marketing app cloud to build and deliver apps–without coding. It makes sense for ad agencies that have to meet insane deadlines from clients everyday.

It’s supposed to reduce your app production times to hours, not months; eliminate the complexity and pain associated with custom app development; build powerful apps that integrate with CRM systems that generate insightful reporting; and give you the creative freedom you need to design in your tool of choice.

Proscape has a different pricing model, even for stores and sales and device, but there is a pricing model for the rest of us at $25 a month.

Since this is clearly targeted for ad agencies, its audience should at least know how to use Adobe Photoshop

Next presenter Prem Babu of TableSwipes said nobody has bridged the gap between owner and waiter with customers. What he means is the wait customers have to endure to be served their food–the wait to get seated, the wait to place orders, the wait for food and finally, the wait again to pay.

His app may just help waiters manage their time more efficiently in between tables and the kitchen. His solution, TableSwipes, will allow Waiters to use their iPhones to take orders at the table. Its app is customer designed and equipped with powerful features to help streamline order-taking. Its payment gateway is Stripe.

Orders can be instantly related to the kitchen on top of giving customers the necessary friendly alerts to help waiters better improve their dining experience.

Another presenter was LawGo. You choose a legal service, purchase the service you need in 5 minutes and get started with your lawyer. What many will like about the service is how you can choose a fixed-price legal service.

How to build strategic partnerships with financial institutions

By Dennis Clemente

How can financial innovators build strategic partnerships with financial institutions?

PayPerks is one who has made headways in the financial space. CEO Arlyn Davich spoke about it at the Financial Services Innovation meetup last September 8 at WeWorks in Wall St.

Davich’s PayPerks lets you earn points for just learning about and using your prepaid card. It has tutorials and surveys that claim to help you understand the ins and outs of your prepaid card, so you can avoid fees, save time and keep your money safe and secure.

What’s the pull? Each point earned is a chance to win a cash prize in its free monthly sweepstakes. It has reportedly given away over $60,000 in prizes in its monthly sweepstakes.
Based on what Davich has done, it’s all about complementing your business with the big financial institutions, and certainly not about disrupting them.

Aside from Davich, guests from JP Morgan Chase, Ideas42 and Bee’s Max Gasner were also in attendance to discuss the challenges, opportunities and future of financial services:

• The biggest barrier in financial services is regulation and bringing people (together) to understand regulation
• How do you integrate product into a person’s life? It should serve a purpose seamlessly
• Build trust among users by engaging with them
• Changing old banking mindsets and programs is important
• It’s fundamental not to patronize people, not to talk down on people
• It is much more about talking to people. You have to understand (what you’re talking about). You have to integrate with a big bank
• There has to a be a change in how funding is done
• Credibility is very important
• Going to meetups helps