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The Massive Disruptive Potential of Stripe Connect

  1. About a month ago, Stripe unveiled their Stripe Connect product. The reaction has been somewhat muted because, quite simply, people don't yet understand why it is important but I believe it is going to be looked back upon as one of the Web's big turning points, and Gravity Forms is well-placed to be part of that.

    Essentially, Stripe Connect is an API that allows you, with the press of a button, to give any website permission to accept payments on your behalf - much like the way you can press a button to use your Facebook identity to join a website.

    This means that a website set up to allow thousands of users to list, say, second-hand video games or babysitting services or anything at all, could allow each user to be paid directly into their own Stripe account.

    That would be all but impossible with older-style systems such as PayPal - you would have to accept all the payments into the site owner's account, work out who was owed what and then get hit with a second round of fees as you arduously sent each person what they were owed. It would be a nightmare, and that is before you even think about the headache of dealing with disputes - it would be the site owner's account, so, ultimately, he would be responsible for everything.

    WordPress' historical importance is that it makes the Internet's original promise, of opening up communication, accessible to more people, lowering the technical barriers. The ability of one WordPress site to cater to many authors, or even an entire community, extends that accessibility even further because only one member of that community needs to handle the technical stuff.

    Stripe does something similar to WordPress, essentially offering the advantages of a merchant account without the cost, hassle and technical barriers. Stripe Connect, in turn, mirrors WP's multi-author/community advantage, extending the advantages of Stripe to all users of a site, each using their very own Stripe account, but with only one required to master the technical details.

    With the right plugin, suddenly a WordPress site owner could, for example, run a listings site on which his users can not only list but, also, sell anything (products, services, bookings, downloads etc), without the owner having to take on the legal or financial liabilities and headaches of being an intermediary in the transaction. The money goes directly from buyer to seller via Stripe, with the possible option of Stripe kicking back a percent or so to the site owner, but the risk and relationship remains between Stripe and the sellers, each a Stripe account holder in their own right.

    This has the potential to be hugely disruptive. At a stroke, it blows away that the technical advantage of big sites such as Airbnb (who charge guests an outrageous 15% and owners 3% of the entire booking cost) and opens it up to every WordPress site owner, operating at a base cost of 2.9% + 30c per transaction.

    In the short-term, the potential is not going to be obvious to many people but, in the longterm, it means that most of the $2.5bn valuation of Airbnb, and many other venture-funded websites, evaporates into thin air. That value will, instead, re-emerge spread out across a new generation of smaller websites - in the same way that our content consumption used to mainly depend upon an elite top hundred websites but is now spread out across almost 60m WordPress sites - and that will massively re-invigorate online commerce across the world.

    Gravity Forms already has basic Stripe integration thanks to the third-party Gravity Forms + Stripe plugin by Naomi Bush and Stripe Connect integration would certainly be a major added selling-point for her commercial Gravity Forms + (More) Stripe plugin. Rather than write directly to Naomi, however, I decided that this was an important enough feature to open up the discussion to the entire Gravity Forms community.

    It would be good to see Gravity Forms remain ahead of this wave and I would be very interested to hear what everyone else thinks, please post your thoughts below.

    For the curious, this article does a particularly good job of explaining why the democratization of electronic payments is so important:

    "Building your own Airbnb just became radically easier, thanks to Stripe Connect and WePay"

    http://qz.com/13766/building-your-own-airbnb-just-became-radically-easier-thanks-to-stripe-connect-and-wepay/

    Stripe blog announcement: https://stripe.com/blog/stripe-connect
    Stripe Connect page: https://stripe.com/connect
    Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2012/10/10/stripe-launches-stripe-connect-to-let-users-accept-online-payments/
    Gigaom article: http://gigaom.com/2012/10/10/stripe-accelerates-payment-acceptance-with-stripe-connect/
    TechCrunch article: http://techcrunch.com/2012/10/10/stripe-connect/

    Posted 8 years ago on Sunday November 11, 2012 | Permalink
  2. Naomi
    Member

    Thanks, Donnacha.

    Ever since Stripe Connect was in beta, I've been thinking of how and if to take advantage of this in the Gravity Forms Stripe Add-On.

    I agree that Stripe Connect opens up a ton of possibility -- I've seen and heard some pretty cool use cases, Wufoo and Spacebox being a couple -- and would like to find out if there is any interest for me to add it in to the Gravity Forms Stripe Add-On as well as some specific use cases.

    Posted 8 years ago on Tuesday November 13, 2012 | Permalink
  3. I am about to launch my second membership site using Naomi's plugin. Thanks Naomi! I spent way too much time trying to get subscriptions working with PayPal and S2Memeber (Yuck) Anyways ultimately I would love to have a fiverr type site with Vetted workers, so that would be maybe a good use case. So Naomi, I would be happy to contribute should you decide to integrate this feature. It will be a happy day when we can leave PayPal behind forever.

    Posted 8 years ago on Sunday November 25, 2012 | Permalink
  4. Please. Please. Add this as an actual supported gravity forms add on. You guys provide awesome support that is just not possible for a single developer. I love Naomi but there's just no way that she can keep up (an is not keeping up to date...) sorry Naomi. you're awesome, but we really need better support and regular updates.

    Posted 8 years ago on Wednesday December 19, 2012 | Permalink
  5. Naomi
    Member

    Hi Dan & Jennifer,

    I'm sorry I took a little longer to respond to your last few emails as they caught me while I was traveling, but I'm a little surprised to see the numerous posts here that you're not happy. I'm more than open to your feedback on how you think I can provide better support -- just use our regular support line we've been using to communicate back and forth.

    Posted 8 years ago on Thursday December 20, 2012 | Permalink
  6. Hi Naomi. Just beating the bushes to get someone to respond. I just sent you a very long email... Hopefully we can work through this. :-)
    Perhaps these forums are a better way to communicate than email?

    Posted 8 years ago on Thursday December 20, 2012 | Permalink
  7. wordpressuser
    Member

    +1 for an official (and supported) Dev GF Stripe plugin!

    Posted 8 years ago on Monday December 31, 2012 | Permalink
  8. Naomi
    Member

    Hi wordpressuser, the current Stripe Add-On is fully supported -- even on Christmas and New Year's Eve :-)

    Contact me if you have questions: https://gravityplus.pro/

    Posted 8 years ago on Monday December 31, 2012 | Permalink
  9. Is anyone else interested in Stripe Connect integration?

    It means being able to create a marketplace (for transactions of ANY kind - goods, services, bookings etc) where the sellers use THEIR OWN Stripe accounts to accept payments via YOUR website, zero legal or financial liability to you, no transactional headaches to deal with, but you get to skim off 1 or 2 or 3% as an "application fee" ... and you KEEP your application fee regardless of whether the transaction is later disputed for any reason.

    This is a huge opportunity, a dream come true for WordPress developers with good ideas but no team of accountants and lawyers behind them to deal with all that crap. Instead of bitching about an independent developer not being on-call 24/7 to deal with trivial support issues, you should all be offering Naomi your kidneys and first-born children in exchange for a feature that will take your business to an entirely new level.

    Also, and no offense intended to anyone, but those of you expecting the Gravity Forms team to swoop into action and save the day with an official add-on, well, I think you have very poor powers of observation: those guys move in mysterious ways, what they find interesting to work on is not necessarily aligned with the needs of their users and you certainly shouldn't be dissing a third-party Stripe plugin that actually exists - and a developer who understands the importance of Stripe - in favor of "official" integration that may or may not ever arrive.

    Posted 8 years ago on Wednesday January 2, 2013 | Permalink
  10. GZA
    Member

    @donnacha, well said, as always. This is probably one of the most interesting and important posts on this forum and already I can see some opportunities going forward but Stripe is currently only available to North Americans.

    I like your comments about Gravity moving in mysterious ways, are you making a cheeky little dig about their Quiz add-on?

    We only use Gravity for simple forms and would never contemplate using it for more complex stuff such as ecommerce.

    Posted 8 years ago on Friday February 8, 2013 | Permalink
  11. There's nothing mysterious about the Quiz Add-On. Polls, Quizes and (soon) Surveys are logical extensions of forms. They fit perfectly with how people use Gravity Forms.

    As for Stripe, if we make an official Add-On for it that will completely render what Naomi has done moot. We don't operate that way. If a 3rd party add-on is filling a need we don't want to alienate 3rd party developers by stepping on their toes and smacking them aside. We WANT 3rd party developer to develop Add-Ons for Gravity Forms.

    Does that mean we won't create an official Add-On when a 3rd party one exists? No. But we'll be more inclined to see how we could work with the 3rd party Add-On and possibly awhile it if it makes sense.

    As for Gravity Forms and ecommerce, there's no reason why it can't be used for that purpose. Is it a shopping cart? No. But it's great for payment integrates order forms.

    You underestimate what it can do and how it can be customized if you wouldn't use it for more complex implementations and ecommerce. That's how a large number of users are using it on a daily basis. It's extremely customizable and flexible.

    Posted 8 years ago on Friday February 8, 2013 | Permalink
  12. @Carl

    Good point with regard to logical extensions, and Surveys sounds very interesting. There would probably also be a lot of potential around creating courses within GF.

    My "mysterious ways" comment was not meant as a criticism, just an observation that you guys don't always target the most obvious things and, of course, that has worked out well for you - who would have guessed that there was so much potential in forms?

    Good point, too, about wanting to encourage 3rd party developers and, therefore, avoiding stepping on their toes. I am sure that, if Stripe Connect turns out to be as important as I think it will, you will find a way to work with Naomi.

    In my own way, I was encouraging people to embrace what Naomi is doing rather than sniping at her because her add-on is not "official". As you know, there are things that I would dearly wish you guys would create but if, for instance, a third party developer were to release a decent, well-designed booking add-on tomorrow, I would be beyond thrilled.

    Posted 8 years ago on Tuesday February 12, 2013 | Permalink
  13. GZA
    Member

    @Carl, I think the opposite is true, i.e. I am actually guilty of overestimating what Gravity can do!

    Posted 8 years ago on Wednesday February 13, 2013 | Permalink
  14. Was looking at the Stripe addon, however there is no demo, screenshots, anything that I can find for Stripe Pro ($49) addon from Naomi. I can see the free plugin on the WP page, but being able to see it in action, with advanced options, etc,

    Also, Can we post forum threads here about this add on? While email support is nice, not being able to search what other customers issues are and maybe finding users with the same issue is a bit of a red flag to me (just my opinion).

    Any one have additional info or urls where I can find more about the Stripe Pro addon I would appreciate it.

    Posted 8 years ago on Wednesday February 27, 2013 | Permalink
  15. Please contact Naomi directly or use her support forum for issues with the Stripe add-on, as it is not a Gravity Forms plugin. Naomi stops in here frequently, but she prefers to handle her own support.

    Posted 8 years ago on Wednesday February 27, 2013 | Permalink
  16. Naomi
    Member

    @etinteractive please do -- I'm happy to send you any screenshots. The base plugin on the repo is actually a great place to see how the plugin works, though, as (More) Stripe only adds another checkbox to the Stripe feed setup page. Pretty simple :-)

    Posted 8 years ago on Wednesday February 27, 2013 | Permalink