How PayPal is Moving Beyond Payments: An Interview with Tyler Spalding
Many people are acquainted with PayPal as an ever-present commercial transaction platform or click on its ubiquitous buttons enabling online donations to nonprofits, blogs and other websites and causes. But it also has a significant presence in the world of social business – something that represents a growing priority for the payments provider. We discussed this evolving focus with Tyler Spalding, lead manager on PayPal’s Social Innovation team, a group within the company that explores how PayPal can have both positive business performance and social impact. According to Spalding, PayPal aims to make an impact both through charitable giving and by working to broaden affordable financial access. “We certainly believe that we’ve been empowering people and businesses since our founding over 10 years ago, but for our Social Innovation team, financial inclusion and participation is a new area of focus,” he says.
Some of the ways the company is addressing the issue include its working capital program, an alternative lending service that lets small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) access small amounts of working capital based on their PayPal transaction history, as well as its long-standing partnerships with organizations like Kiva and Village Capital, through which it supports fintech entrepreneurs in the U.S. and globally. But as Spalding describes it, financial access alone is not the company’s main objective: “We really believe in democratizing financial services. … Enabling economic empowerment and enabling people to move up the income earning spectrum is our goal.”
He says PayPal’s approach to social innovation has evolved since it was spun off from its former parent company, eBay. “We’ve used the opportunity of the separation to really focus our work on two key areas: empowering charitable giving and enabling people to give to the causes they care about around the world, as well as enabling nonprofits to raise mission-critical funds for the critically important work they’re doing. Last year alone, we enabled $5.7 billion of nonprofit charitable donations, and we’re scaling from there.”
Part of PayPal’s post-eBay evolution, Spalding says, involves approaching its work from a more global perspective. “We are a brand that operates in almost 200 countries around the world, in countless currencies. We have hundreds of millions of active customers. And so thinking about how we bring those products and services to bear in markets all around the world, and enable customers, individuals and merchants to have the tools they need in their geographic contexts, is also an area of focus for us.” He says that global approach extends to emerging countries, where different regulations have allowed PayPal to offer products that U.S. customers might not yet be able to access. “In India and China, for example, we’re currently enabling SMBs to export around the world and conduct cross-border trade, but we don’t yet have the full product mix that is enabling those transactions domestically. So we see a lot of opportunity to continue to innovate as those rules and regulations continue to evolve.”
Spalding discusses these and other issues in the interview below, conducted at the SOCAP15 conference.