Meet the startups changing the way we pay

5 minute read
Tech companies are working hard to make brain-computer interfaces a reality. They have the potential to upend our world including how we pay—but will BCIs really happen?

Startup Showcase

When Stephany Kirkpatrick was growing up in Portland, Oregon, her family wasn’t well off. “My father was an immigrant from Yugoslavia, and we didn’t always have a lot,” says the 41-year-old, who is now based in New York. “We were constantly thinking about how to do more with less. It very much shaped who I am today.” It’s perhaps why she became a Certified Financial Planner—and also why that experience struck such a chord. It brought home the fact that financial infrastructure and services could often be exclusionary. And it made her want to do something about it.

In 2019, Kirkpatrick founded Orum. “The idea was: how can I help those who have less, have more?” She concluded that focusing on payments—solving people’s money-movement problems—would make a notable difference. “For people in underserved communities, the inability to access money quickly is crippling. Oftentimes, the fastest payment rails are not offered by the smaller, community banks that serve these populations, so communities are left stranded on nights, weekends or holidays. For people that live paycheck to paycheck, faster access to their money could be the difference between avoiding overdraft fees or paying rent on time.”

On some occasions, it can take days for money to move from one financial institution to another. Orum’s fix is to analyze the available payment rails that a company or consumer might have access to, and select the optimal route for each payment—similar to how a cell phone might select the best carrier network to ensure the fastest connectivity. As a result, Orum is able to cut payment transfer times from days to minutes—or even seconds in the best-case scenarios. What’s more, the platform runs all day, every day, so it is not restricted to bank operating hours or delayed by public holidays.

It was quite an undertaking. There are more than 11,500 financial institutions in the US, so figuring out how to connect them, determine which payments they accept, and then come up with a methodology to plan the smartest route was a challenge. Orum spent two years developing its proprietary software stack.

“For people in underserved communities, the inability to access money quickly is crippling.”

But the opportunity, says Kirkpatrick, is enormous. At present there are 250 million households in the US that could use faster payments, yet only 61 percent of US instant-access deposit accounts offer them, according to The Clearing House, a banking association which operates payments infrastructure in the US. “Personally, I’m very motivated by the constant need to leave the world better than I found it,” says Kirkpatrick. “There are hundreds of millions of Americans that can have access to a better financial system if we keep working on this problem.” orum.io


Sanket Karuri
Chief Product Officer, Beam
Beam: Access to critical funds for all

What it does:

In today’s challenging economic environment, vulnerable communities are struggling to access critical public benefits to make ends meet. These funds can be the difference between a family paying rent or being evicted, or a student continuing with their higher education. The problem is that administering social welfare programs isn’t an especially straightforward task. Beam aims to simplify the process, partnering with public institutions for fast delivery of funds to those who need them most. Its software is able to help administer a wide range of programs, from rental relief and public utility benefits to cash assistance. Beam also supports partners in conducting outreach and prioritization to vulnerable communities, so they can understand which government programs are suitable and available.

Killer app:

It’s an “end-to-end” solution. Beam also provides identity verification and security measures to ensure funds go to the right people, as well as access to real-time payments (RTP) rails—or digital payments systems such as Zelle—to ensure funds are received as quickly as possible.

What’s next?

In the coming months, Beam is looking to expand into disaster relief. In the aftermath of a hurricane or flood, it will be possible to send relief payments directly to people’s mobile phones, providing vital aid in a time of crisis.

Brent David Ho-Young
Founder and CEO, Dream Payments
Dream Payments: A seamless pay-in and pay-out experience

What it does:

When Dream Payments was founded in 2015, its original goal was to help merchants sell their products or services, whether that was in store, on the road or in the homes of their customers. The first offering was a mobile payments tool, which had a smartphone application and a connected payments terminal. From there, Dream Payments pivoted. It began working with financial institutions to embed its technology in their core payments processes, allowing them to offer sellers the same type of frictionless, mobile-first payments solutions that typically only come from smaller fintechs.

Killer app:

Dream Payment’s technology is cloud-based, which means merchants can simply log in to their portal via a smartphone, or other device, and see every aspect of the payments they have processed, from anywhere.

What’s next?

Billions of dollars of business-to-business (B2B) payments are still done manually by check each year—it’s slow, insecure, and inefficient. That’s why, this year, Dream Payments can give merchants the same seamless functionality for pay out as well as pay in. Merchants will be able to easily set up vendors to pay suppliers, staff or contractors from their mobile application.

Dimitri Dadiomov
CEO, Modern Treasury
Modern Treasury: Building payments infrastructure gets easy

What it does:

Movements of money are effectively the central nervous system of many companies. For some, this is mainly a backend function, but for others it is a core part of their product or service. Take an online marketplace, a payroll company, or a mortgage lender. How efficiently that business can receive or transfer funds is vital to being competitive. Launched in 2018, Modern Treasury aims to provide a seamless integration between a company and its banking partners.

Killer app:

Via a single easy-to-use API, Modern Treasury allows businesses to send and receive payments quickly and accurately via any method, including Automated Clearing House (ACH), RTP, wire transfer and more. Payments can also be centralized into a single dashboard with accurate tracking, reporting and reconciliation.

What’s next?

Consumers are increasingly using digital platforms to purchase high-value assets and make large transactions. This has created a need for those businesses to adopt fast, secure, transparent payment systems—often for the first time. This presents a new group of customers to Modern Treasury, which can take the pain out of building modern payments infrastructure.