Betting on the growth of mobile commerce has become something of a no-brainer, and a Canadian m-commerce firm hopes that making Connecticut and Fairfield County — its launch point — for expansion into the U.S. will prove to be the same.
Headquartered in Toronto, Dream Payments is a financial technology firm that provides a cloud-based mobile payment platform for merchants and financial institutions through the likes of Apple Pay and offers online reports, receipts and the like. With the Dream mPOS app, merchants can use a tablet or mobile device with the Dream Debit and Credit Card Reader to accept debit and credit cards or use the app alone to accept cash.
The company reader lists at $139 in Canadian currency, or about $103 in the U.S., but is sold on its website for $99 Canadian, or $73 to $74 here.
Named the top winner last December of VentureClash, Connecticut Innovations’ global investment challenge focused on early-stage companies, Dream Payments agreed to use its $1.5 million award to establish a presence in the state as the base for its expansion into the U.S.
“Entering the U.S. was always a part of the plan from the very beginning,” said Dream Payments CFO Alex Walker of the company, which was incorporated in 2014. “The Canadian market is a very nice market, but it’s a small market. It’s almost an incubator for the U.S.”
Dream Payments’ search for a home in the Nutmeg State ultimately ended at Comradity, the co-working facility at 845 Canal St. in Stamford. “It’s ideal for growing tech firms,” Walker said of the space. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in this business — you can grow by three or four people, or 300 to 400 within a year. But Comradity has enough space for us now and for at least the near future.”
So far, the company has one U.S. employee: Cloud & Network Architect Clay Keller, whose desk at the rear of the Toronto company’s roughly 400 square feet of space in Stamford is for now surrounded by several unoccupied work stations.
Walker said the company is actively seeking other employees in such departments as business development and sales.
“Everybody here’s been so gracious,” said Keller, who relocated from Dallas to Stamford in February. The Texan had done work as a self-employed consultant for a Toronto-based mobile commerce software developer, where he met Brent Ho-Young, the founding CEO of Dream Payments. “There are lots of different companies already here to interact with, which has been great,” Keller said.
Such is the beauty of co-working spaces, said Jim Kern, who with his wife, Katherine, co-founded Comradity and opened the Stamford facility in 2014. “Everybody here is always asking each other questions, giving advice, brainstorming … that’s part of the whole idea.”
Stamford’s access to Philadelphia, Boston and New York City is also helping to drive the city’s growing reputation as a home to cutting-edge technology, he added.
Dream Payments fully expects to benefit from the growing mobile commerce market. In 2014, m-commerce made up 11.6 percent of the total $303 billion in e-commerce nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and comScore. Last December, BI Intelligence, the research division of Business Insider, used that data as the basis for its prediction that m-commerce will reach $284 billion, or 45 percent of the total U.S. e-commerce market, by 2020.
And global mobile spending is set to rise 32 percent this year to $1.35 trillion, according to a recent report from Juniper Research.
As a promising player in that fast-growing market, Dream Payments recently secured $10 million in Series A financing led by FairVentures Inc., the innovation investing arm of Toronto’s Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. A group of other investors, including Connecticut Innovations, also participated in the financing, which will be used to fund the company’s U.S. expansion as well as its ongoing Canadian growth, among other expenditures.
Walker said Dream Payments expects its platform to be available in the U.S. during the second half of this year. “Stamford will be our focal point,” he said. “We don’t need to be in local areas around the country, so we’ll probably have our tech in a couple of data centers around the U.S. like we do in Canada.”
As for global expansion, “The U.S. will be our number one focus for the next couple of years at least,” Walker said. “The market is so big that for us to get even a fraction of it will represent a significant success.”
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Other VentureClash awardees: where they are now
VentureClash, Connecticut’s $5 million global venture challenge managed by Connecticut Innovations, attracted about 200 applicants in 2016. In addition to first-place winner Dream Payments, five other companies took home prizes.
Hubbub, a United Kingdom company that provides digital fundraising solutions for the education and nonprofit sectors, received a $1 million investment. It now has an office at another Stamford-based co-working space, Serendipity Labs, as well as one in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Four other finalists received $500,000 investments. They are:
• AMP Credit Technologies, a Hong Kong-based company that provides an integrated loan management platform to banks and other financial institutions, also has offices in London and Singapore but has yet to move to Connecticut.
• BondIT, an Israeli company that provides data-driven, personalized, optimal investment recommendations, has a presence in Hong Kong, but is not yet opened in Connecticut.
• LindaCare, a software company based in Leuven, Belgium, that specializes in remote monitoring for patients with chronic disease patients, said in January that it would soon open a customer support facility at an unannounced location in Connecticut. The office will include four sales and customer service professionals, with a rollout across the U.S. planned for later this year.
• Streamdata.io, a systems software and infrastructure company based in Meylan, France, with a Paris office has yet to announce plans for Connecticut.
Applications for this year’s VentureClash are being accepted at ventureclash.com/apply. Finalists will be announced on Sept. 15, with winners chosen on Oct. 20.