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A Note to Our Venmo Community

· by Michael Vaughan, Venmo GM

Recently, there’s been some commentary about the security of Venmo’s service and our responsiveness to our customers. It’s really important to everyone at Venmo that we address this with you directly. Our most important job at Venmo is to protect your money and provide you with a secure and easy way to make and share payments. This involves building an amazing product experience, but it also includes the teams of people behind the scenes who work tirelessly and are dedicated to protecting and supporting you - our fraud prevention, customer support and operations teams. We are all part of the community and we are grateful for those of you who have posed questions and provided feedback.

First things first, I want you to know a lot of what we do to protect you is happening behind the scenes. We focus on your safety and overall experience as a whole. We don’t build for features just for features’ sake. We’re processing billions of dollars of your payments every year and we maintain fraud rates favorable to industry standards and that is why we are comfortable guaranteeing your money if you are the victim of fraud or unauthorized transactions.

So….. here are the things we do to help keep you secure:

• We have fraud protection algorithms and systems that are always on. As much as I’d love to share more here, I don’t want to tip our hand to would-be fraudsters, but we back it up by guaranteeing your money from unauthorized transactions.

• We encrypt your sensitive financial information, including your bank account details. That data is never stored on your device. It’s not even visible to you. Ha. Take that. So, even if your crazy uncle got your password and logged into your account without you knowing, your bank account information is not visible. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about all those checks you’re writing that have your full routing number and account number at the bottom. But that’s a story for another day.

• We are PCI-compliant and your debit/credit card info is encrypted and secure. You’re probably wondering “What is PCI-compliant?” Answer: it’s a credit card industry standard to make sure we’re doing our job to protect you. It’s kind of like putting on suspenders after you have a belt on, and then having your mom check your belt and snap your suspenders to make sure they’re both working.

• We set payment limits to protect against unauthorized transactions and only verified accounts have higher limits.

• We log you out of a web session after a certain period of inactivity.

And if that’s not enough, here are some things you can do for yourself to make you feel more comfortable when using Venmo:

• Set a passcode lock on the Venmo app (in addition to your phone lock) that’s required each time you open it. If you have an iPhone, you can use TouchID instead of a four-digit PIN to use fingerprint authentication for your Venmo lock.

• Disable any device and remotely log out of a session from your web settings if you have any concerns to prevent unauthorized transactions.

• Set options to receive text messages, push notifications or emails for payment transactions and a wide range of app activities so that you can monitor your account.

And, as with any online service: use a password that is strong and unique to your Venmo account. Venmo can’t guarantee the security of your other apps and services and sharing a password across many services can make your account vulnerable - as with any online service.

I want to assure you we are continuously improving product and security measures. We have a bunch of things we’ve been working on and we’ll share more of those with you soon. While we know that we measure up favorably against the industry standards for fraud prevention, we aren’t sitting back.

Another concern we’ve heard is some frustration in delays in getting help from us when you need it. We never want you to be disappointed and we’re sorry if that’s been the case. Our support team is the lifeblood of Venmo and we aim to be the biggest advocates for you. As we grow rapidly, we are working diligently to keep the level of service you should expect, and we’re hiring more people to work in support (if you are interested in joining us). We’re also looking at other areas where we can offer additional help more quickly including chat support and taking a new approach to support that will enable us to better interact with our users.

Venmo doesn’t exist without you, our users, and our job is to do right by you. We work to earn your trust every day. We take that responsibility seriously and we will do our best to be as transparent as possible with you as we continue on this journey. As part of that relationship, we value your feedback and we welcome it continuously to help make Venmo better. We’re all standing by to listen to your comments – please email us at support@venmo.com and we will answer every single question you have as quickly as we can.

Thanks for being a part of the Venmo family.

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Making Venmo easier, more secure, and more fun

· by Jesse Bentert

We’re excited to share with you a few new features we’ve been working on to continue to make Venmo an easy, secure, and fun way to pay people.

Easy: Link your bank without your checkbook

We’ve now made it even simpler to link a bank account to Venmo if you use Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or Citibank. Instead of digging up your bank account and routing information, you can now link your bank using the username and password you use when logging into your bank’s website. As always, we use bank grade security systems to protect your information (learn more about Venmo security).

You can now add a bank anytime, anywhere, without having to first go home to find a check.

Secure: Keep your account secure with Touch ID

Security has always been a top priority for us, which is why we enable you to password protect your Venmo app with a PIN. We’re also now taking advantage of the Touch ID technology for iOS. If you have an Apple device with Touch ID, you can now use your fingerprint instead of a PIN to access the Venmo app.

Fun: Get more people involved in your payments with Mentions

Venmo payments aren’t just monetary transactions - they’re stories that can be commented on, liked, and shared. And we know your story can involve more than just the person you’re paying. With today’s release, you can now mention other people in your payments to get them involved. Go out to dinner with a group of friends? Send a payment on behalf of more than one person? Make them a part of your story by mentioning them in a payment or comment. To get started, tap the @ sign or start typing in a friend’s name.

We’re very excited to roll out these new features. Follow us on Twitter to get more awesome updates.

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Data Driven Design

· by Annie Corbett

A case study on how Venmo uses Looker to make product and design decisions

Venmo’s engineers and designers are constantly tweaking and upgrading the Venmo app. They are always working on new designs and new features to make paying friends more enjoyable, intuitive, and engaging. As our user base grows, so does the amount and variety of data we have access to, which we can use to inform how we improve the product.

We recently started using Looker at Venmo, and this has made it much easier for PMs, engineers, and designers to leverage this data and make informed product decisions.

The engineering team’s first use of Looker occurred during a recent app release and design change.

Up until recently, the compose screen on the venmo iOS app had the design seen below. A user would enter her friend's name, payment amount, and payment description, and then would select whether she wanted to pay or charge.

Once the user selected pay or charge, they were taken to a confirmation screen to send payment or send charge. This binary option forced a user to choose and confirm their action.

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On June 4, 2014, Venmo released iOS version 6.0. In this release, the design and product team decided to eliminate the binary option, and each Venmo transaction defaulted to pay. Before hitting send, the user could toggle back and forth at the top of the screen to choose between pay or charge.

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Venmo’s support team closely monitors cases from our users to see the types of issues they are having. When the support team notices an influx in a certain category of case, or a new, unique problem that starts to arise, they reach out to the Venmo product team to investigate.

In the case of the updated iOS release, v6.0, the support team saw a sudden influx in users writing in, asking to reverse their payments because they had accidentally paid when they meant to charge.

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In the Venmo feed, we were also seeing that users were paying their friends, then realizing their mistakes and charging their friends for double the initial amount. This person actually made the mistake three times in a row…

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The support team notified the product team to investigate the problem. It was clear some users were accidentally paying instead of charging, but it wasn't clear how widespread the problem was and whether it was worth prioritizing a fix.

The product team then reached out to the data team, to do deeper analysis into the problem and see how many users were actually making the mistake. Initially, the data team did not use Looker; whenever we were asked for data, we would write a custom script, print out a bunch of data to excel, do a bunch of manual calculations, and then repeat this process whenever the product team wanted to extend the timeframe.

The data team decided to build this analysis using Looker, our new business intelligence tool. Looker’s browser-based platform makes it easy for us to discover what’s going on in our business and how people are using our product. So using Looker, we created a table with custom dimensions and measures to identify these payments with just one boolean flag. We tracked these errors in payments by flagging users that make a payment and then charge the same user two times the original amount, within two days of the initial payment (a common behavior we noticed for users who made the pay/charge mistake).

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We first looked at the percentage of charges that are mixups across payment mediums (iOS, android, and web). We found that when version 6.0 was released, the percentage of mistaken charges on iOS increased from less than .5% to over 6%, which suggested that the iOS v6.0 release was somehow to blame.

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x-axis shows the day the charge was made, y-axis shows #of charge mistakes/# of charges made on that day

So, we dug a little deeper and looked at the different app versions used in charge mixups, pre version 6.0 vs. version 6.0. Users that didn’t upgrade to version 6.0 stayed constant; however, users that upgraded saw a surge in charge mixups.

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After reviewing the data with the engineering and design teams, we knew that version 6.0 was causing the problem and that we had to implement a solution. On July 21, 2014, the product team released version 6.2 for iOS, reintroducing the binary payment option, with the pay and request buttons at the bottom of the payment screen.

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Since releasing version 6.2, we have been monitoring the pay/charge mixups across app versions; pre version 6, version 6.0 - 6.1, and version 6.2. While mistakes are not back to the pre-version 6.0 numbers, updating the pay/charge buttons decreased errors by more than half.

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As of August 8th, 43% of iOS users had upgraded to v6.2, and our support team has continued to see a decrease in payment/charge confusion cases as the new version’s adoption increases.

Looker made this analysis much easier for the data, product, and engineering teams. Once the product and engineering teams sent the original data request, everything they needed was easily accessible in their customized Looker dashboard, giving them all the data they needed right at their fingertips.

We're super excited to continue using Looker to help us make data-driven product decisions at Venmo.

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Introducing Background Nearby with iBeacons

· by Dasmer Singh

Beacons are game-changing. Ever since Apple extended its developer API to support beacons in iOS 7, articles and blog posts have inundated the web to extol their use-cases in retail. Apple has pioneered this initiative by placing beacons throughout its stores, to notify and educate customers about the products they are standing next to as they walk around.

At Venmo, we were eager to learn more about how beacons work and excited to explore their potential. We wrote and open-sourced VENPromotionsManager, an iOS library that schedules in-app promotions that trigger when a user enters specified regions created by beacons. To experiment, we loaded our offices with Estimote beacons which triggered fun little messages on internal builds of Venmo.

When Apple introduced its iOS 7.1 update, we noticed that they had vastly improved beacon scanning by moving this responsibility from the app-level to the core OS-level. To our surprise, our devices were notifying us of entering a beacon’s region even if Venmo was not running in the background. In addition, our iPhones were detecting these beacons much faster than before (in fewer than 2 seconds on average).

In February, we introduced Venmo Nearby, which utilizes Apple’s MultiPeer Connectivity (MPC) framework to discover nearby users over Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and WiFi Bonjour networks. We’ve received more positive feedback and press about Nearby than any other feature we had ever released.

Our users loved Nearby, but one thing prevented the feature from being as useful as we would have liked it to be: both users needed to have the Venmo app open in order to discover one another. This limitation is inherent in Apple’s MPC framework, which only allows devices to broadcast and listen for unique peer identifiers when the app is foregrounded. However, with Apple’s recent enhancements in iOS 7.1, we discovered that we could finally detect nearby Venmo users even when the Venmo app has been terminated and a user's phone is in standby.


How did we do this?

To make this work, if a user opts-in to Nearby, their device not only advertises a unique peer identifier over Apple’s MPC network, but also broadcasts a beacon region with a UUID unique to Venmo whenever the app is open and active. Devices that have Background Nearby enabled are always scanning for this Venmo beacon region, even if they are locked and their screens are off (this scan uses extremely low battery power because it utilizes Bluetooth LE). Whenever a device enters a beacon region, it briefly launches the Venmo app into the foreground in order to broadcast its peer identifier over the MPC framework, thus establishing a Nearby connection. In other words, whenever our users open Venmo to pay or charge the people they are around, they can instantly emit a beacon signal that momentarily wakes up their friends’ devices to connect and populate the user's Nearby drawer. This makes Nearby more powerful and useful than ever before.

We released Background Nearby in our latest update to the Apple App Store and are extremely excited for our users to try it out! At Venmo, we believe that in order to create an extraordinary experience for our users, we need to provide a service that enables them to spend more time cherishing the moments they value with the ones they are with and less time figuring out how to settle the bill. With solutions like Background Nearby, we hope to keep innovating and do just that.

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Meet Our Partner, Waves for Water

· by Shira Brettman

This past New Year's, Venmo resolved to double down on our mission to connect the world and empower people through payments. A half-year later, we might have dropped the ball on our gym memberships and gluten-free paleo diets, but we are still very much committed to this resolution.

This month, our partner, non-profit Waves for Water, in conjunction with our friends at PayPal, launched an international giving contest between nations. Waves for Water helps provide communities around the world with access to clean drinking water. Donations from this particular challenge will be used to purchase clean water filters for communities in Brazilian cities hosting the soccer games. Every $50 donated provides one million gallons of clean water—that means each dollar you donate will provide two people with clean water for up to five years.

Make waves through Venmo: donate here.

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