Lemon Opens API to Developers, Payment Providers to Build a Smarter Mobile Wallet

Digital wallet Lemon announced today that it’s opening up its API, letting any third-party developer or company add loyalty, payment or other functionality into its mobile app using the new Lemon Application Development Environment, or Lemonade for short. Lemon lets consumers add their payment cards, loyalty cards and identification to a mobile wallet by snapping a photo of the cards, letting users track their cards and easily replace them if they’re ever lost or stolen.

Launched in October 2011, the company added $8 million in June 2012 in a round led by Starbucks founder Howard Schultz’s Maveron fund, and has over two million users across its apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Lemon CEO Wences Casares said on average, Lemon users have five cards in their Lemon wallet, two payment cards along with a variety of loyalty and identification cards.

Casares said in an interview that opening up the API was a direct response to users who were requesting more interactivity in their Lemon wallet, for example being able to check a gift card balance or being able to redeem travel points from within the app. “The number one request is to make the cards that they’re keeping in their Lemon wallet more interactive,” he said, for example showing a gift card balance, or giving the ability to use travel points or other rewards.

The open API lets potential partners, from payments providers to loyalty companies, create their own branded experiences in the app, all of which will be showcased in the company’s Lemonade Stand. Developers will also get access to a dashboard displaying demographics and redemption analytics. While today they’re opening up the API, the company won’t be announcing major vendor partners until next month. But anyone, including individuals, can now use Lemon’s SmartCard wizard to create create coupons, event tickets, and other DIY solutions, and partners that need more robust functionality will be working with the API and debuting solutions next month.

“You don’t need to be a developer to create a card,” Casares said. “If you are doing a party, for example, it’s very easy for you to create a ticket and use Lemon to send it to your friends, and for them to show that as proof of purchase.”

Until today, the only way to add a card to a Lemon wallet was to take a photo of it. Once partners start creating their own SmartCard experiences, users will be able to find a payment card in the Lemonade Stand, sync their card if they already have one, or apply and get approved for a payment card (a credit card would then be mailed to the user, but they would be able to use the number immediately). Vendors and developers can control the experience, for example adding the ability to send messages to users via push notifications, or the ability to check account balances.

Casares said vendors who already have users in Lemon will likely take advantage of the API to offer custom experiences, among them insurance companies, health providers, credit card companies, banks, and loyalty providers. While the API is free for any developers or third-party partners to access, Lemon makes money by offering a pro account to users for $9.99 per month or $99 annually, which gets them an ad-free app and receipt scanning. It also charges free users for scanned receipts, $0.99 per line-by-line scanned receipt.

The ultimate goal for Lemon, as Casares first told BetaKit in June, is to actually replace a user’s physical wallet, handling the storage and tracking of cards and expenses, but also allowing users to pay using the app. Right now users can’t make payments from the app, though Casares said they’re currently working to integrate the ability to pay with Lemon into other mobile apps, so instead of entering a credit card users would enter their Lemon pin and choose the card they want to use to pay.

The mobile payments space in general is fiercely competitive, and the mobile wallet niche includes solutions like Google Wallet and Isis, the yet-to-launch digital wallet launched by three U.S. carriers. Apple’s Passbook feature in now available in iOS 6, but rather than compete, Lemon is working on integrating with it. Lemon is trying to be the one app that users can go to for everything from receipt scanning to keeping track of their identification cards, and where they can ultimately make all their purchases. Until their partner announcements next month and mobile payments capabilities are added down the road, Lemon won’t truly be able to replace a physical wallet.

 

 

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin has covered startups and technology for over three years in publications including Sprouter Weekly, The Globe and Mail, Business Insider, Mashable, and VentureBeat. She also writes a regular startup column for the Financial Post, and is a technology expert on CTV News Channel. Before BetaKit Erin worked as Director of Content & Communications at Sprouter from its launch in 2009 until its acquisition by Postmedia Network Inc. She was recently named one of Marketing Magazine's 30 Under 30 in 2012.

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