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Homegrown fintech success stories

Ireland has a number of fintech companies that have reached the billion dollar unicorn status within a relatively short space of time

Ireland’s homegrown fintech sector has been outstandingly successful by any standards.

Not only does it boast a number of companies which have reached billion dollar valuations within a few years of starting up, but it can also lay claim to global leaders in areas such as payments and regulation.

Indeed, while technically not an Irish firm, Stripe, the payments infrastructure company founded by Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison, can certainly lay claim to top dog status in its area of operations. It has long since exceeded that vaunted $1 billion valuation which confers unicorn status and is heading towards the even more rarefied hectacorn – $100 billion – level with a $95 billion valuation according to the latest tallies.

The most recent Irish fintech unicorn is international payments firm TransferMate. Founded in 2010 by Terry Clune, who can almost be described as a serial fintech entrepreneur at this stage, along with Barry Dowling and Sinead Fitzmaurice, the company facilitates payments in 134 currencies in 162 countries.


And companies are growing into unicorns faster all the time. Wayflyer, which provides revenue-based finance and marketing analytics to online businesses, took less than three years to make the grade having been founded in September 2019.

It’s not only mega-valuations that make Irish fintechs interesting, of course. It’s what they do, rather than what they’re worth that really counts.

Loylap, for example, puts the power of digital commerce in the hands of bricks and mortar retailers and other clients with a physical trading presence.

“We bring digital services together like loyalty cards, gift cards, and online ordering to all retailers to see all their customers in one place,” explains co-founder Patrick Garry. “Having access to the data from those transactions gives them the means to better engage with and target their customers.”

The software allows physical presence retailers to understand their customers in the same way that digital retailers do.

The company started out with a loyalty application.

“We didn’t know the full scope of what it would go on to become back then in 2012,” says Garry. “All we knew was that some large retailers had started to work on loyalty apps, most notably Starbucks. Over time, we developed and evolved the software horizontally with added functionality such as digital gift cards, online ordering, and self-service checkouts. The other thing customers wanted us to do was integrate with their point of sale systems.”

Integration with the popular Clover point of sale system quickly followed.

“That gave us an immediate route to market and our sales strategy is to work in partnership with companies which sell point of sale systems.”

Loylap started selling into the US market five years ago and the Irish market now accounts for just 15 per cent of sales.

“Our customers range from microbusinesses all the way up to major chains,” says Garry. “Our biggest market is North America and we have quite a few customers in the UK as well. Our biggest customer there is Ballantine Gyms. We started with a gift card product, then loyalty, and add other elements over time.

“Four years ago, the gyms went cashless and members can use a wristband with an RFID chip connected to the Loylap app to gain entry to the gyms, open lockers, and pay for treatments, snacks and other products.”

Another interesting Irish fintech is AID:Tech which was recently recognised by the World Economic Forum for its role in driving the global social economy. The 2019 Irish Times Innovation Award winner’s blockchain system gives a digital identity to people with a mobile phone but no other form of proof, allowing them to open bank accounts, get loans and access social services.

And then there is the Colm Lyon-founded Fire Financial Services which help businesses to manage payments with digital accounts and debit cards and supports a wide range of payment services all accessible using an API.

This is Lyon’s second foray into the fintech arena having founded the hugely successful Realex Payments which was sold to US giant Global Payments for €115 million in 2015.

Leading the way in currency hedging is Assure Tech. The company provide automated digital foreign exchange hedging solutions built especially for the broker, fintech and money service community to help them protect their own or their customers’ future foreign currency income.

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times