Two Growing Cincinnati Startups Partner to Change School Finances

Abre logo and Pay Theory logo set against Cincinnati skyline

How Abre and Pay Theory are teaming up to close gaps and improve efficiency

Two of Cincinnati’s most exciting startups announced this week that the pair are forming a partnership aimed at revolutionizing connected schools and breaking down economic barriers to education. The digital education pioneers at Abre are partnering with payments-oriented FinTech startup Pay Theory to create a payments-oriented app aimed at helping schools and families. The Payments App powered by Pay Theory is a fully-integrated platform with student records and other systems that increase efficiency and level the playing field for schools that are lagging behind technologically.

“Pay Theory’s integration with Abre provides a far better, more connected experience for families and it allows schools to save time and money by consolidating their payments solutions with a platform already being used for other purposes, including parent communications, learning management and community engagement,” said Abre CEO James Stoffer. “Over the short term, we will be ironing out all the different ways Abre can help support the transition of payments throughout the growing complexities of schools. Long-term, we plan to scale nationally and replace current payment systems along the way.”

The new platform will allow families to securely pay for things like field trips, athletics and tests via the easiest method for them. They can input credit card or banking information or even generate a barcode that can be scanned and paid for in cash at 65,000 U.S. retailers like Dollar General and Walgreens. For districts, the platform allows for easier facilitation of transactions and improved management of everything from fundraisers to raffle tickets.

According to the companies, some school systems see as much as 30 percent of their school fees going uncollected. Abre’s Payments App can help close that gap and put funding back where it belongs, closing bookkeeping gaps and improving security. The app will also help schools go cash-free while integrating with current systems. As they show the benefits to organizations that are already within Abre’s network of more than 350 schools, they hope to expand into broader and further reaching solutions.

“Over the short term, we will be learning how we leverage our respective tech to help improve how school and families interact,” said Pay Theory co-founder and CTO Eric Fulkert. “Longer term, given the early signs of success, we intend on engaging with schools nationally. We know that the payments that happen within the educational landscape are fraught with problems like unintuitive customer experiences, information silos and limited data analytics. We want to give our schools the best solutions possible.”

In joining forces, Abre and Pay Theory highlight the strength of the Cincinnati startup scene that produced both companies. The pair received early support from CincyTech, along with Allos Ventures investment in Abre. And in true Cincinnati startup community fashion, Fulkert and Stoffer have known each other for years, helping pave the way for a partnership that they hope will make an impact across the nation.

“This partnership gives a snapshot of the exciting developments happening in the city,” Fulkert said. “Both companies have been heavily involved with the Startup Cincy movement, and we can attribute a lot of our early success to people at Cintrifuse. Cincinnati’s culture is built around supporting the people and teams around town. This is an amazing opportunity for both companies.”

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