The Start-Up Secret Sauce

For all the wonderful things to be said for entrepreneurship, there remains this fact: It is extremely hard work that carries with it no guarantee of reward past a useful education in failure.

Great American inventor Thomas Edison famously responded to claims of his light bulb invention failures, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

And, as frustrating as that was, Edison eventually succeeded. Startup founders need to have a similar mindset.

Sometimes startup founders find that “right idea,” but still can’t quite make it work in-market. Maybe the product or service is ahead of its time, or easily copied and a bigger player out-competes them with scale. Maybe the product is great but the packaging is ugly. Perhaps the firm grew too fast and over-extended itself before really figuring out how to monetize. Or, conversely, maybe it grew too slowly, and couldn’t secure late-stage investor funding.

As it turns out, there are many more ways for things to go wrong for startup businesses than there are ways for things to go perfectly, or even mostly right. The most pessimistic estimates state nine out of 10 startups will fail before their fifth birthday. So, why do it at all? And is there any way to do it right?

All startups are different, of course, but exist to solve various problems for myriad types of audiences. As such, there really is no one answer to either of those questions. There is neither a one-size-fits-all reason for getting into the game, nor a solution set that guarantees success.

But PYMNTS has been checking in with startups as part of our Startup Check-In Series, and the ones that are pushing forward despite the difficulties are pushing to solve a problem — and continuing to find ever-better ways of solving that problem — while also getting a new business off the ground.

It’s not easy work, but some firms are both finding very creative ways to attack the issue and offering actionable advice on how to start a business.

Jewel Paymentech: Helping Banks “Disrupt Themselves”

While many innovators enter a space looking to disrupt the old out of existence, the team at Jewel Paymentech has a different goal: to help banks keep up with the Alipays and WeChat Pays of the world by helping them de-risk their payments transactions and open themselves up to greater levels of innovation.

Payments are the connective tissue between businesses today, noted Jewel CEO Sean Lam told PYMNTS in an interview. And, as digital avenues are expanding, so too are the risks involved in managing and processing those transactions between banks, merchants and consumers. Jewel Paymentech exists to de-risk those transactions, help its partners in banking work more effectively in the digital economy and transition to an era of commerce where automation and artificial intelligence will become increasingly normal tools.

“With all these new technologies in place, there will be more business they’ll be able to pick up, and there will be repurposing of jobs to help that new business grow,” Lam said. “Banks and merchants might have the same cost structure, but with technology, there will be new businesses they can explore. It’s just about helping FIs and merchants see those opportunities.”

Tipalti: Easing The Cash Flow Pain

In a digital commerce-based world, where commerce can literally happen between any two places in an instant, managing cash flow can turn into a very significant headache for some firms. To ease that pain, payments company Tipalti launched the AP Hub, a platform on which every aspect of payments is brought into one, centra,l cloud-based location, including supplier management, invoice processing and regulatory compliance.

“Tipalti’s vision is to free the finance and payments team from the minutiae and complexity and risk involved in today’s accounts payable and supplier payments workflow,” said Rob Israch, Tipalti’s CMO. “Whether it’s cross-border payments, tax compliance, supplier onboarding [or] invoice processing, we look at the entire end-to-end accounts payable workflow and we automate it all, including execution of payments in the U.S. and overseas.”

Simplicity is the goal, and Israch noted that one holistic system on which all parties manage the payment lifecycle, as well as helping to manage fraud and audit risks, provides for that goal. It also provides for a fairly impressive list of existing clients, including Twitter, Vimeo, GoDaddy, GoPro, Roku and Amazon, among others.

Vouchr: Picking Up Where Venmo Leaves Off

There is no shortage of firms attempting to take a bite out of the peer-to-peer (P2P) payments apple, but Vouchr co-founders Robert Balahura and Suresh Bhat have built a software development kit (SDK) to make those payments a bit more engaging.

The Toronto-based FinTech firm’s SDK makes it possible to add features like social engagement and gamification into the act of sending money to others. Users can send notes, stickers, selfies or videos along with funds, invite a friend out to drinks again while paying him back for last night’s round or geo-lock a transfer so the recipient has to go somewhere specific in order to receive her cash.

The advantage, the founders noted, is to make the social interactions through Vouchr more personal, focused more on the people involved in the transfer of funds than the entire network of friends they share.

Free e-card mobile app Surpriise! is the first consumer app using Vouchr’s SDK to power a social, fun and engaging gift card and money transfer experience, and additional partner announcements from banks and financial institutions in North America are expected later this year.

Emailage:  Protecting Email To Unlock Its Power

Email, old school though it is to those reared in the age of texting, is a common tool for leading financial institutions, merchants, businesses and organizations around the world. This fact also makes it a commonly-favored target of cyber crooks.

Arizona-based agnostic fraud mitigation products and solutions company Emailage is obsessed with keeping email a “safe space” for data. CEO Rei Carvalho notes email often serves as the backbone of many transactions, as well as a font of information about consumer behavioral patterns. The company maintains a solid consumer profile by keeping current on information across a variety of data streams in the enterprise arena.

“We do have the deep linkages to ensure we’re establishing use patterns,” said Manoel Coelho, chief revenue officer at Emailage. “Because of our access to multiple industries, the information does not exist in silos.”

FitPay : Filling In The Contactless Gaps

In a world going contactless, FitPay, now partnered with security technology firm NXT-ID, is determined to make it easier for any device to make contactless payments.

“We’re focused on the rest of that marketplace that’s not operating on everything outside of Apple Pay and Samsung Pay,” noted Michael Orlando, president of FitPay and COO of NXT-ID. “There are many different devices across telephone manufacturers that are looking to avail themselves with not only payment capabilities, but other types of secure credential management.”

FitPay is currently providing connectivity to Visa, Mastercard and Discover’s tokenization systems as well as working with NXT-ID to build a tokenization system for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Security throughout the IoT arena is a focus, Orlando noted in his conversation with PYMNTS. He also said the blending of biometric and behavioral metric authentication is the key to working toward more enhanced IoT security for most use cases. Throughout the remainder of the year, FitPay and NXT-ID will be working in sync to join forces for new tech offerings.

“The focal point of what we’re trying to do is to combine our technologies to help accelerate the value of IoT devices beyond what it’s being used for today,” Orlando said.


There are no easy answers for startups, but lots of questions that need answering in financial services and commerce. For example: how to make cash flow work, how to keep emails secure but still useful as a commerce tool, how to make contactless payments work in a world where all devices are connected, how to make paying back a debt more fun or even how to help entrenched industries disrupt themselves.

The startups that succeed are finding answers to those questions. We’ll keep keeping you posted on their progress.