How the Cincinnati payment processing startup is attracting major attention while maintaining its founder’s roots
In a world where more and more transactions are performed online and through the cloud, the process of setting up a payment procedure can be challenging and expensive. But Cincinnati’s Finix wants to change that. The startup helps software companies establish their own payment processing structures, enabling them to control costs and compete with larger organizations.
“Finix is a payments infrastructure provider for software companies that want to transform their business model by embedding payments into their product,” said co-founder Sean Donovan. “We create a better user experience while adding an entirely new revenue stream. Our infrastructure gives software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies better payment experiences. We enable them to deploy financial products faster and cheaper than ever and our real-time payments program is a cloud-based solution allowing companies to efficiently and safely offer credit and debit payments.”
Finix is headquartered in San Francisco, but much of their staff operates out of Cincinnati, including Donovan himself. Keeping connected to the area where he grew up and went to school was an important part of that decision-making process, as was the potential of and connections within the Cincinnati economy.
“I care very deeply about Cincinnati; I grew up here, went to school in northern Kentucky and now I’m raising my family here,” he said. “My wife grew up in southern California and she and I were living in Denver for a while. But when we wanted to start a family, we specifically chose Cincinnati. I was happy to come home and I wanted to find a way to give back. I believe technology startups are the best way to grow the thriving Cincinnati economy for my kids and everyone else that calls the Cincinnati region home, so establishing a Finix office here was a no-brainer.”
Within the last few months, Finix has quadrupled its transactions, raised $75 million in investment and was named in a prestigious list of emerging private companies working on groundbreaking financial technology. Now, the company is working on bolstering its growing list of partners — which includes mobility management platform Passport Labs and retail point-of-sale company Lightspeed POS — and looking toward the future.
“Companies are building unique payment experiences on top of Finix and we’re excited to see what we can create together,” he said. “To that end, we recently announced partnerships with MetaBank and with Dwolla. We’re also seeing exciting international growth and have a couple of announcements planned for next year. There will be at least a dozen ten-billion dollar payments companies created in the next five to 10 years. We believe Finix will be one and that many of the others will be built on top of Finix.”
Donovan’s Cincinnati-area roots are what helped pave the way for Finix’s creation. His experience in the world of payment processing began in southwest Ohio, when he worked for a company installing point-of-sale devices around Cincinnati. That experience, though it seemed trivial at the time, helped start his education on what the industry needed.
“I went to Northern Kentucky University and, to pay for tuition, I would go around the Cincinnati area installing these terminals,” he said. “I couldn’t have imagined at that time that payments were such a vast and meaningful part of the world economy. But today, we at Finix believe that we can increase financial accessibility by providing well-made and robust infrastructure. Our technology allows smaller organizations to access the latest payment technologies that were previously reserved for only large players.”
Donovan said Finix has seen “an overwhelming amount of support” from Cincinnati, including council members, startup leaders and others in the community. He said they’ve been asked for feedback on how to continue Cincinnati’s exciting growth, and are looking forward to being part of the next generation of great southwest Ohio companies. The goal, he said, isn’t to replicate other cities on the coasts, but to continue to build the vibrant and thriving business environment Cincinnati is already cultivating.
“A lot of startup ecosystem builders want to build the next ‘Silicon Something,’ but asking a city or a region to become Silicon Valley with more affordable housing is misguided,” he said. “You need to look at what each city uniquely has to offer. One of Cincinnati’s best assets is the incredible number of major companies with headquarters here — Macy’s, Kroger, P&G, 5/3 Bank, American Financial Group and Western & Southern. There is a theme of collaboration between the big companies and the local startup scene. If you’re looking to take advantage of the business climate and talent that’s sprung up around these huge companies, there’s a real advantage to starting your company in Cincinnati.”