By Tanaya Macheel
PayPal is giving its employees a course in crypto token economics.
The company has launched an internal blockchain-based incentive platform for employees, Cheddar has learned. The initiative was built over a period of six months by about 25 people in PayPal’s ($PYPL) San Jose-based innovation lab and launched in mid-November, according to Michael Todasco, the director of innovation.
Employees can access their tokens through the company’s internal website and continue earning more by participating in innovation-related programs and contributing ideas. The tokens, which hold no value outside of PayPal’s walls, are also tradable among employees with each transaction being posted to, effectively, a “public ledger.”
PayPal historically has kept a firm stance against using Bitcoin for payments – particularly because of its large merchant customer base. If a small business accepts a payment in Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency’s volatile price drops 30 percent, so does that merchant’s profit.
In August 2016, PayPal filed a patent for an expedited virtual currency transaction system that became public this March. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the filing, maintaining that patent filings don’t necessarily indicate its product plans.
PayPal’s tokens are redeemable for more than 100 “experiences” offered on the platform, including poker tournaments with a couple of their vice presidents, a trail run and coffee with CFO John Rainey, and morning martial arts with CEO Dan Schulman. Gabrielle Scheibe Rabinovitch, the company’s head of investor relations, has offered to let employees borrow her dog for a day, Todasco said.
Todasco described it as a “Venmo-like feed people can like and comment on and see all the activity going on within PayPal related to innovation.”
The experiment is similar to one conducted by the Spanish bank BBVA, whose 4,000 employees in Spain and Argentina have access to a “BBVA Campus Wallet.” The bank provides tokens to employees who can redeem them for an hour of training; they can also earn tokens if they train another employee. As a regulated financial institution, BBVA is restricted from holding crypto assets, despite their demonstrated interest.
PayPal’s San Jose innovation lab is three years old; it also has innovation labs in Singapore, Bangalore, Chennai, and Scottsdale, Ariz. Though prototyping is the primary focus, Todasco said employees strive to learn how to work with new platforms so eventually they can bring it into the businessー provided there’s a business case for it.
For example, one of the first things the lab studied was voice technology. Now PayPal has teams that are dedicated to voice and works with the learnings, code base, and some of the people that came out of the innovation lab’s exploration. The lab itself no longer works on those projects, Todasco said.
(Disclosure: PayPal is one of Cheddar’s sponsors but had no editorial influence over this story.)