Exclusive Interview With Michael Morris, CEO of Slide: E-Gift Card Industry Growing by More Than 40% YoY

Money 20/20 had some great announcements for the FinTech industry. One such announcement came from Slide, a next-generation money management platform for gift cards. Slide is a gift card wallet app that was launched this summer. Though relatively new to the market, Slide has received consistent five-star reviews on the Apple App Store and is already well-differentiated from their competitors, with several capabilities like on-demand gift card balance, ability to discover nearby locations where you can use your cards and real-time customer service support found on no other app. Let’s Talk Payments had an opportunity to interview the Co-founder and CEO of Slide, Michael Morris, to discuss the launch of their new feature called Sharing and the gift cards industry. Here’s the transcript of the email interview:

LTP: How do you describe Slide to those who may not be familiar with your company?

Slide is making money easier to use. We're a startup based in NYC that is reinventing gift cards with a user-experience-focused mobile wallet and a SaaS-delivered brand engagement platform that enables retailers to quickly and seamlessly integrate our solution on top of their existing gift card programs. Slide’s three founders—CEO Mike Morris, COO Tony Winslow and Head of Product Trevor Filter—gained a deep understanding of the payments ecosystem through their experience working at American Express. They teamed up to establish Slide in 2014, and the company’s app launched in the summer of 2015.

LTP: What is the next big thing that Slide is coming up with? How will it change the future of gift cards?

Michael Morris: We're excited to announce new functionality that we've been working on for several months now and it's called, Sharing. It's basically a messaging feature for gift cards that provides consumers with real-time balance updates and allows for media-rich conversations to take place around purchases—people using the Slide app will be able to share their shopping experiences with friends and family at the moment of purchase. Sharing presents a tremendous opportunity for brands to delight and convert their customers by inserting themselves at the right place and time through a new marketing channel that has never existed before.

LTP: "Cash in the cards you don’t want is an upcoming feature on Slide's website. Can you shed some light on that for our audience?

MM: Helping people maximize their personal liquidity is a problem that we've been focused on solving since we first got the company off the ground. We see that consumer preferences may not always match with the brand of gift cards they are given—a big reason for unused and under-used value. To solve these issues, we’re developing functionality to bridge the gaps between consumer desire and the reality of gift card usage; we’re planning to make a big announcement with regard to this in 2016.

LTP: Do you plan to expand to loyalty cards and rewards points in the future? What other segments are you looking at after gift cards?

MM: Many of our users are asking for loyalty card support, and we're figuring out the best way to incorporate that into our app. Rewards points are incredibly interesting, but we'll be tackling that segment over the long term.

LTP: What does Slide’s business model look like? How do you make money? How big is the market?

MM: Right now, in our initial stage of the product, our primary revenue source is e-gift card sales. Last year, the e-gift card market in the US was about $8 billion and is growing by more than 40% year-over-year. Moving into 2016, we will have additional revenue streams as we release new features—stay tuned.

LTP: What is the technology that Slide is using for payments via phone?

MM: We spend a lot of time examining POS systems on a merchant-by-merchant basis, and determining the best ways to present gift cards on mobile devices. It's amazing how nuanced some of these systems are, but we've had a lot of success presenting 1D and 2D barcodes that are specifically formatted based on the merchant. In many cases, paying with Slide can be even easier than Apple Pay or Android Pay as there's nothing to sign and you control your card security.

LTP: How do you think gift cards will really revolutionize the payments and commerce industry? After all, the concept has been around for a while.

MM: The problem is not the lack of need for gift cards, but the lack of viable mechanisms by which the cards can be used as conveniently as cash. Gift cards have the potential to become primary payment products amongst certain segments but have been held back by industry fragmentation and a proliferation of offerings on the consumer side that confuse rather than delight. We have a bottom-up approach and look at the needs of people and brands alike; we see a path to revolutionizing stored-value products by reimagining the mobile experience in conjunction with our merchant and bank partners.

LTP: What is that one thing that keeps you thinking about the future of the company? Any major milestones you are working towards? Note: The last question we ask the company's CEO or Founder is generally about his/her concerns for the industry (could be risks or fear about the industry that keeps the CEO awake at night). How does the company plan to deal with it in the near future?

MM: Despite major advances in mobile payments technology, the problem of making more efficient and usable what we already have sits unsolved: a massive amount of gift card stored value continues to go unredeemed every year. We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can help everyday Americans put that extra disposable income back in their pockets, or back in circulation where it will help retailers and the economy alike. Where we're different (and what keeps me awake at night) is figuring out how to reinvent the consumer experience and create an incredibly delightful and satisfying offering for both our users and our brand partners—one that can realistically be implemented in the near future.