Dwolla is a “cash based payment network” launched in 2009 by co-founders Ben Milne and Shane Neuerburg. Initially starting small, the company connected just a few banks and retailers in Des Moines, Iowa. It has since grown to a company used by over 80,000 users, 7,500 merchants, and banks across the U.S. Dwolla believes that rather than rely on existing land based credit card networks – which take an average of 2-5% per transaction – consumers should instead use internet as a means to transfer money quickly, cheaply and more securely than cash.

Though the company hopes to become an eventual replacement for credit cards, some of its current uses – fueled by the young and tech-savvy generation it rose from – might position Dwolla to become much more. For instance, its aptitude for transferring small amounts of  money to peers and large amounts of money to landlords represent a domain that credit card companies have yet been able to touch. Additionally, one of Dwolla’s new services allows users to pay up to 2,000 others at once. This opens the door for small and medium companies to potentially redesign the way they do payroll. Today, the company has approximately 40 employees.

CEME Presents: Dwolla, part of the ABCs of Payments Series. CC-BY-NC

CEME Presents: Dwolla, part of the ABCs of Payments Series. CC-BY-NC


Dwolla allows users to make payments using mobile phone or computer. After signing up for Dwolla and linking an active back account, users must deposit money into their Dwolla accounts, which takes 3-4 business days, unless the bank is FiSync enabled (see below). After the Dwolla account is funded, payments can be sent through smartphone using the Dwolla app simply by sending a particular amount to another person’s mobile phone number or Dwolla ID. Alternatively, a user can send payments via e-mail or a social networking site like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn using a computer. If the recipient does not have Dwolla, they are informed through e-mail or their networking site that a Dwolla payment is ready for them as soon as they sign up. Finally, merchants using a Dwolla enabled point-of-sale can initiate payments. Their point of sale terminal reports nearby customers that have the Dwolla app; the merchant selects the customer currently standing at the counter and the customer pays by confirming the transaction on his device.

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