The Venmo Line

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Every once in a while, I come across a concept, a thought, sometimes just a phrase, that captures the essence of the universe. One of those moments occurred this week.

The folks over at published an article which recounted an internal online conversation various staff members had one morning regarding online P2P payments (in particular, Venmo). The article reporting the exchange of messages distinguishes between the over-30 year olds at Quartz, and those under the age of 30.

You can probably guess what the comments from the over-30 group were:

“Seriously, do enough people pay enough other people with enough frequency to support all these person-to-person payment apps? haven’t people ever heard of splitting a bill?”

“Why on earth would anyone care what their friends are paying each other?”

So why would those “crazy kids” use this technology?

“Venmo is great also because it is sort of a social network too, like you have to put in a sort of “memo” field and so you see a news feed of what your friends paid each other for”

“Because people write funny things….with emoji usually”

Not that I have any clue (as a way-over-30 year old) what “emoji” is.

The folks at Quartz called this generational split the Venmo Line.


The Venmo Line. Nothing I’ve heard before quite captures the essence of how Gen Y is different from older generations than that phrase.

I’m tired of hearing Gen Yers describe themselves as “social.” That’s not how they’re different. Once upon a time, I was young, free, and single (or more accurately, childless)–and, as a result, social.

Believe it or not, there once was a time when I went out at 10:30 pm–and not, like now, to bed.

That’s right, believe it or not you smarmy little Gen Yers, but previous generations were just as social as you think you are. What previous genrerations had, that Gen Yers apparently don’t, however, are boundaries.

Older generations didn’t (and don’t) share personal financial information. We don’t share a lot of personal information that Gen Yers seemingly have no problem sharing with everyone else. That doesn’t make the social, or more social. It simply makes them…..different.

That’s the Venmo line: What you have no qualms about sharing and what you do have qualms about.


There is another important aspect to The Venmo Line. It has to do with why they use Venmo in the first place.

One of the “elders” at Quartz (who’s probably no older than 35) commented: “do enough people pay enough other people with enough frequency to support all these person-to-person payment apps?”

The answer is YES! I’ve sized P2P payments (all of them, not just online) in the US, and the answer is that P2P payments total nearly $1 trillion (which is only about a quarter of retail sales or monthly bill pay).

This volume isn’t lost on banks, who for years have been touting their online P2P payment capabilities (through capabilities like CashEdge) without much success.

But along comes Venmo, and adoption among the under-30 crowd is widespread (Sadly, I have no data to prove that. My contention comes from input from my older daughter who says all her friends use Venmo, and from Drew Sievers, who says that all the young people who live in that outlier of a bubble in the universe called Silicon Valley use it).

The question is, why have they adopted Venmo when banks have had this capability for a long time?

The answer is The TechCrunch Effect. I wrote about this last year when Coin was introduced. TechCrunch wrote about this new technology, legitimized it, made it “cool” and drove adoption.

And that’s the clue to the other part of the Venmo Line: Those “below” the line (the under 30 crowd) will adopt a particular vendor’s technology if it’s perceived as cool, even if there are a million other providers of that technology.

Those of us “above” the line may use that technology–and others like Twitter and Facebook, and whatever–but we’re a lot less likely to do so because it’s “cool.”


That’s the Venmo Line–the essence of the generational split–personal boundaries and the coolness factor.

It isn’t being social or simply using a technology that makes us old geezers fit the behavioral profiles of Gen Yers. It’s the content of what’s being shared, and the motivation for the using the technology.

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