Investors and payments industry professionals are talking about InspirePay, a free software-as-service payment tool from Boulder, Colo.-based merchant acquirer Inspire Commerce Inc. Launched in December 2011, InspirePay reportedly enables online merchants to invoice and receive payments through any payment system the business chooses.
For instance, an online merchant can invoice a customer and, at the same time, give the customer payment options from a list that may include, but is not limited to, any credit card; the payment services of PayPal Inc. (including PayPal), Dwolla Corp. and Stripe Inc.; or the open source currency Bitcoin.
InspirePay is targeted at an audience similar to the one courted by Square Inc. - the micro-entrepreneur, the small new business, people doing consulting work and similar micro-businesses. According to Inspire Commerce, InspirePay is a free, secure, professional payment system for small online businesses that is also being used for peer-to-peer payments.
Mark Fischer, Inspire Commerce Chief Executive Officer, said Inspire Commerce is a certified B corporation, which means the company's goal is not only to benefit clients and stockholders, but also to benefit the community in which it resides.
He noted that Inspire Commerce developed its business with a "boutique group of loyal merchants" who often share the company's interest in helping the local community and that the company returns 10 percent of its revenue stream to nonprofits chosen by merchants through its For Benefit Merchant Program.
Fischer said InspirePay was developed when he grew tired of having to turn people away because their business was just not ready for merchant acquirer services. He found he was often referring people to PayPal as a solution when he knew the PayPal system probably would not be the best option for that business. Still, Fisher was also aware the PayPal option is an important one for online businesses - a lot of online payments are made with PayPal, and businesses that have PayPal as an online option see an average 19 percent growth.
Fischer also believed entrepreneurs and professional service providers want a professional payment site dedicated to their business. "We saw a need to integrate all these different payment methods into one simple, intuitive user experience," he said.
So three years ago Inspire Commerce started building the software and opening it to selected merchant accounts. The system the company built was designed to be easy to set up; it gives merchants a customized payment page with logo, phone number, address and the ability to connect to the payment options a given merchant selects. And when a merchant wants to add another payment option, he or she can easily add it to the application.
"If I send you a payment request, then you (the one paying) should have options for how you want to pay me," Fischer posted in a blog. "I'm not saying the system should allow you to pay me in every single way. If I - as the person requesting payment - don't like AmEx, then I shouldn't have to offer AmEx. But I should be able to offer it if I want to (and I do)."
Subsequently, Fisher told The Green Sheet, "This gives the micro-merchant a sandbox to play in to develop their business. We can monitor the account through our platform, and when the merchant is ready for a merchant account, we'll feel good about selling those services to them. We're a B corporation; we don't want to sign anyone until we know we can benefit them."
According to Fischer, the trial model made money for the company. However, he said the public product launch "is not about monetization right now; it's about building a kick-ass product." He added that eventually the company will offer premium InspirePay products, which should increase revenue. Fischer also noted that in the short time since InspirePay's public launch, the company has already had acquisition inquiries, and users, merchant accounts and money transfers are rapidly increasing.
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