In a crowded sea of financial technology entrepreneurs, investors, and executives, Sean Lam made a key connection while having coffee last year. And life hasn’t been the same since, says the CEO of Jewel Paymentech, a Singapore-based startup firm.
Sean met Bipin Sahni of Wells Fargo during a trade show coffee break, and Bipin encouraged the CEO to apply for the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator — a competitive six-month program for emerging entrepreneurial companies.
Today Sean’s firm, which specializes in merchant transaction security and fraud prevention, is in the global spotlight with Alpha Payments Cloud, also of Singapore, as the inaugural international players selected to participate in the program.
Sean says, “It changed our whole perspective to be selected for a program like this.”
The accelerator, started in 2014, has gained industrywide recognition. Earlier in 2016, it was named one of the best incubators and accelerators in the U.S. fintech industry by eFinancialCareers, a global financial news and information site.
“The Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator has allowed us to collaborate closely with some of the brightest startups from around the world,” says Bipin, head of research and development for Wells Fargo’s Innovation Group. “We’re interested in any technology that can be used by Wells Fargo to better serve our customers and operate our business.”
Jewel Paymentech and Alpha Payments Cloud, developer of a high-speed transaction platform, made ideal participants for the program, he adds. The two are part of a select group to date: 11 firms have been selected out of nearly 1,000 applicants since the program’s inception in August 2014. Each company selected also receives an investment stake of up to $500,000 from Wells Fargo.
By all accounts, the entrepreneurs appreciate the opportunity to participate. Alpha Payments Cloud had been approached in the past by incubator-type groups and venture capitalists, but none offered the global brand, expertise, user involvement, and potential capital of Wells Fargo, says CEO Oliver Rajic. “Wells Fargo’s approach is to be vested and invested in our technology,” he says, “to become users in development and potential users on an ongoing basis. That’s exactly the approach we wanted to see from an investor.”
He adds that Alpha Payments Cloud hopes the relationship will help it gain insights into the U.S. market. The four-year-old company has already assembled a roster of clients, including banks in Japan, Australia, and Mexico.
“Having gone through the startup phase, we are now selling our enterprise solution to markets throughout the world, including the U.S.,” Oliver says. “But knowing exactly how to pitch your product and navigate that landscape can be tough. Having someone like Wells Fargo walk you through that process is invaluable.”
Braden More, head of Wells Fargo’s payment strategy team, agrees. “Wells Fargo connects business and technology leaders with accelerator startups to test concepts, validate technologies, identify market opportunities, and guide them through the process of bringing their ideas to market.”
Sean of Jewel Paymentech says participation will help raise his company’s profile in the industry, establish its credibility, and jumpstart its fundraising efforts. “Wells Fargo’s accelerator program helps us gain entry into the largest market in the world, which would be real proof that our solution works and is globally scalable,” he says.