The B2B Foundation Of A B2C Payments Startup


Yoke Payments is a startup that wants to help sellers take back their storefront popularity as eCommerce continues to disrupt physical retail. The company has developed point-of-sale technology that allows consumers to scan a product barcode and pay for a product with a smartphone — a self-checkout solution that includes inventory management for the business.

It’s a consumer-facing payments solution, but as Yoke Cofounder Michael Johnson explained in a recent interview with PYMNTS, the company is starting with opportunities in the world of B2B.

Johnson and Cofounder Benjamin Thomas also both started Delicious Nutritious Markets, a way to bring nutritious food into the workplace for employees. It was that venture that landed them in the payments and FinTech space, too.

“When we entered the corporate world, we were really fed up with how hard it was to eat healthy,” Johnson explained. “The idea for Yoke really came as a solution for a checkout platform for micromarkets, which is a mini health food shop that goes right into a corporate break room.”

That idea came to fruition when CSI Enterprises came into the picture. The corporate payments company, which launched the CSI globalVCard brand, also launched its CSI Kick Start initiative this month, an incubator program to help other payments startups disrupt the industry. Yoke Payments is its first startup, which can access not only the financial support of CSI but also its payments and corporate expertise as well.

As a player in the B2B payments space, CSI is actually quite complimentary to a consumer-facing payments tool like Yoke, said Jason Kolbenheyer, CSI globalVCard managing director and technology lead behind Yoke Payments.

“Just as Mike mentioned, starting in micromarkets is great, but there are unlimited use cases and applications for this solution,” Kolbenheyer said in a joint interview with Johnson. “A lot of our corporate customers today, worldwide, can absolutely benefit from using it.”

That business-facing viewpoint of payments helped Yoke to round out its solution with an inventory management feature, a function that Johnson said was not only key to meeting the demands of corporate clients but also for the overall quality of the product.

“For the technology to function properly, we needed to have that information and those inventory numbers and levels in order to know what products the customer is purchasing,” Johnson explained. “It’s an important component on the back end of how it all functions together.”

He added that, eventually, Yoke will look to become agnostic and automate the inventory data information aggregated through the POS tool into a company’s existing inventory management platform.

According to Johnson, the same goes for financial data, too.

“Anytime a product is purchased, in real time, we’re checking that inventory and sales data, and simply by exporting that data into another platform or even within our own back end, you’ve got complete access to your entire business, in real time, from anywhere in the world,” he explained.

As the startup matures, Johnson explained that Yoke will look to enter into new types of sales scenarios outside the corporate breakroom, like retail locations, hotels and more.

There is a lot that Yoke Payments wants to do, and both Yoke and CSI envision a potential earthquake of disruption for B2C payments and retail. “We’re reading constantly how retail is taking a hit from eCommerce,” Johnson said. “I think it would be really neat if we could be at the forefront of a product that brings retail back.”

But as the company continues to grow, to develop partnerships with financial institutions and card issuers and to usher in the technology to make that disruption a reality, Yoke has a B2B payments conglomerate at its side that both businesses said can also lead to another path of payments shakeups.

“There are some really neat things CSI is doing that we think Yoke can be applied to,” Johnson said. For instance, the Yoke solution can allow businesses to hand their employees virtual vouchers to make purchases with company money. Of course, the entrepreneur is thinking of how this can help achieve his broader goal: encouraging healthy eating.

“This can encourage not just on-campus healthy eating from these micromarkets but off-campus health eating at other locations,” he said.

But use cases for virtual vouchers can be attractive to businesses in other ways. “If you want to reward employees for a job well-done,” Johnson added, “you can give them this virtual voucher that they can go out and spend in the real world, and employers can track how they’re using it and what they’re spending it on.”

CSI may be a corporate payments company, but with so many potential applications for Yoke, it seems appropriate that the two would join forces. After all, CSI’s Kolbenheyer said, it all comes down to the same goal.

“CSI is really focused on B2B payments, but payments are payments,” he said. “To us, it’s just about removing friction, whether it’s corporate payments or consumer payments.”