Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in late October, the company has been quietly working on a plan to introduce payment tools to the platform. The social media giant has passed a key hurdle in three states, securing money transmitter licenses in Michigan, Missouri, and New Hampshire over the past week.
While Musk’s tenure at Twitter has so far proven chaotic, with the billionaire firing thousands of employees and losing billions of dollars of value in the process, his stated goal has been to turn the platform into an “everything app” in the vein of WeChat, where users can do anything from messaging to shopping to sending money to one another.
When Musk announced his hire for Twitter’s new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, he tweeted that he looked forward to working with her to turn the platform into “X, the everything app.” X.com was the name of one of his earliest companies, which later merged with a competitor to become PayPal.
“There is a difference between having ambitions and a vision of the future you would like to see and a solid plan for how to achieve those things,” a former Twitter staffer with knowledge of the payments plan told Fortune. “My guess is Elon has traditionally relied on others to figure out the plan and execution. That’s not unusual for people who are futurists or visionaries.”
“What is unusual is that in this case he doesn’t have many of those people left in the company that know how to do this. Hopefully Linda will help find and hire them,” they added.
I am excited to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter!@LindaYacc will focus primarily on business operations, while I focus on product design & new technology.
Looking forward to working with Linda to transform this platform into X, the everything app. https://t.co/TiSJtTWuky
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2023
Musk first floated the idea in a pitch deck he presented to investors in May, claiming that payments could generate as much as $1.3 billion by 2028. Twitter’s current revenue from payment services is negligible, although it did begin to experiment with Bitcoin tipping under former CEO Jack Dorsey. Twitter created the subsidiary Twitter Payments LLC—which was the recipient of the three state licenses in the past week—before Musk took over the company.
In late January, the Financial Times reported that Twitter had begun to apply for regulatory licenses across the United States, which would allow it to introduce payment services. The plan was being carried out by a key lieutenant, Esther Crawford, although she has since been laid off.
Twitter will reportedly focus on fiat payment tools initially, although crypto could become a later priority. Musk has had a complicated relationship with digital assets. His company Tesla bought $1.5 billion of Bitcoin and floated accepting payments in the cryptocurrency in February 2021, although it has since offloaded 75% of its holdings.
Musk has also been a vocal cheerleader for the popular meme-centric Dogecoin, although detractors have argued that he is intentionally aiming to drive up its price, with some investors filing a lawsuit against him in June 2022 arguing that he is engaged in a “crypto pyramid scheme.” Musk has asked a U.S. judge to throw out the case.
The three money transmitter licenses, which allow companies to receive and transfer funds, represent a crucial first step for Twitter to begin implementing payment tools. To operate across the United States, and between states, Twitter would need to receive an individual license from each state, although there is a system that allows companies to apply across multiple states at once.
According to the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System database, the Twitter subsidiary received its license in New Hampshire on June 29 and in Michigan and Missouri on July 3. On June 23, a Twitter user posted that the company had also received a license in Utah, although it no longer shows up in the database. An employee from Utah’s Department of Financial Institutions confirmed that the inclusion was a clerical issue, and that Twitter’s application for a money transmitter license is still pending in Utah.
It is unclear how many states Twitter has applied for a license in, or when it plans to implement payment services. When Fortune reached out to the company for comment, it auto-responded with a poop emoji.
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