APE Payments is a Finland based startup working with online payments. The company was founded in 2009 and has already some 50 clients using their payment mechanism. On top of this they have some 100 agreements signed from companies who will become clients. Companies providing online payment solutions is nothing new, but there are a few things that set APE payments apart from the competition out there. I interviewed Juhani Kivikangas, the CEO of the company to discuss what they’re up to and how it all got started.

The original idea behind APE Payment came from Lauri Hulkko, who was wondering why online payments had to be so difficult and time consuming. From that he began wondering if users could tie their online identity to a PC and thus speed up the process of online payments dramatically. Why this speeds up payments is because unnecessary user ids and passwords can be passed.

Some might wonder if this a legit way to go since previous progress has been to increase security online with numerous different activities. There is however one distinctive difference between APE Payments and other online payment systems out there. At the moment, APE Payments is targeting itself towards the smaller payments and in some cases the nano payments.

According to Juhani Kivikangas, the basic philosophy of the APE Wallet is that the end user does not have to leave to another payment site to pay, and the payment can take place instantly whenever there is a need for a small transaction. He emphasizes that payments are extremely fast and does not slow down surfing or browsing.

Why nano payments? According to Kivikangas the market has two challenges that remain to keep it an interesting business prospective. The first challenge is to do with small payments and complexity. Paying small 20 cent transactions is such a hassle with current tools that it’s not about the price anymore, but the hassle associated with the transaction itself. The second, according to Kivikangas, is the business models. The business models payment solutions today use don’t make small payments lucrative for sellers due to high margins and baseline costs.

Above you can see APE Payment’s window at the top left hand corner of a site I visited (v2.fi). They’re asking me to pay 0,05€ to view a comic strip. To sign up with the service, all I had to do was to enter my e-mail address. It all seems even too easy to be true.

The way APE Payments work, is through cookies. Once the user is identified through e-mail (a confirmation is sent to the user’s e-mail and the user has to click the link to gain control of her account again), she can go and use the APE wallet until the account has been logged out again.

Above is the screen (in Finnish) that greets me once I have been logged out of the account. The user is only expected to enter their e-mail address and approve the right of usage of the APE wallet through a link sent to their e-mail address.

From a usability point of view, this is great. However, from the user’s point of view, this gives me goose bumps. There’s something to the fact that when I don’t have to enter a password at all and the service is trusted with my money, it just feels scary. The reason I’m worried about this is that if people have enabled, or accidentally given access to their e-mail, it potentially leaves the door open for someone to use their APE Wallet as well.

Up to September 1st it has been free for all merchants to get on board the service, but since then APE Payments is invoicing a 500€ sign-on fee. Currently, they do not charge monthly subscription costs from the merchant, but they do have the right to do so, according to their merchant page. For consumers, there are no extra or hidden costs involved with using the service.

I believe there is a lot of demand for services such as APE Payment and it could be that they’re onto something big here. It didn’t quite convince me with the amount of security just yet, but then again – 50 merchants and a couple of thousand users are currently proving me wrong.