When a group of high-ranking coworkers at Knox Payments, an ACH payments company in Richmond, Va., decided to decamp and start their own financial technology company, they decided the place to do it was Manhattan.
That was during the summer of 2015, when the company, Alloy, was accepted into TechStars’ fintech accelerator. The crew, led by CEO Thomas Nicholas and CTO Charles Hearn, packed up and moved to New York City, temporarily.
But when the program was over, the team began to talk to potential customers, regulated financial service companies, and realized their market was exactly where they were beginning to settle down.
Alloy decided to build their roots by getting an office in the heart of Union Square, said Chief Revenue Officer Laura Spiekerman, but it wasn’t the perfect fit.
“Our office in Union Square was very loud,” said Spiekerman, 30, who used to run business development at Knox. “We’d hear sirens during every phone call. We do a lot of demos for people and we constantly had to press pause or mute.”
They also realized that it was a hassle to be located in Manhattan, since all seven Alloy employees lived in Brooklyn.
The logical move to make was relocating the office to East Williamsburg, where the venture-backed startup picked a 1,200-square-foot private office in a recently renovated building at 456 Johnson Ave. that gave them three times as much space as they had before.
Was it hard to leave Manhattan, the Northeast’s pre-eminent fintech hub?
“No — easy to travel to Manhattan when necessary!” Spiekerman wrote in an email. “Just pop on the L and get to our customers. Or more likely, do a call or Google Hangout with them.”
Some of Alloy’s customers are outside of New York, so it makes sense to talk to them remotely, she said.
Plus: “Most of our team are engineers so they get to work in a big beautiful office, rather than having to travel to see customers.” (Spiekerman, for her part, works remotely from Oakland, Calif., and comes to New York when necessary.)
Not to mention, it’s a better quality of life in Brooklyn, said Spiekerman. It’s “quiet and comfortable” and staffers can walk to work and bring their dogs to the office.
— Charles Hearn (@charleshearn) August 29, 2016
“Since most of the people at Alloy are from Richmond and none are New Yorkers at heart, they feel it’s way less hectic working in Brooklyn,” she said.
Alloy has built an API that handles the onboarding and compliance for regulated financial services companies. When I asked Spiekerman to break down what that means and why that’s needed, for the average Joe (or, in my case, “Jen”), she said this:
Major credit card companies in the U.S. try to onboard customers who are signing up online. But roughly 50 percent of people, according to the experience I’ve had in talking to credit card companies, will get denied not because they don’t meet the requirements but because they can’t be found online in databases the credit card companies use. We handle a piece of compliance around identity.
Alloy has raised about $1.5 million dollars from Manhattan firms Primary Ventures, Zelkova and Tribeca Angels, plus New Haven, Conn.-based Launch Capital, San Francisco-based ChinaRock Capital Management, Manhattan angel investor Anil Aggarwal and other undisclosed angels. As part of Alloy’s participation in Techstars, they received $20,000 in exchange for 6 percent equity, and Techstars’ fund, Star Power, also invested an additional $100,000 in the company, Spiekerman said.
The company currently has five customers that range from payment companies to insurance companies to small lenders. Spiekerman said the company is making “small amounts of money,” comparable to “beta-sized revenue.”
Alloy’s 2017 goal is to have a big regulated financial service operation using their product.
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