First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
C. Eric Smith: Well, Covid-19 has been difficult for everyone, but we are making it through. We have a lot more time together because of Covid and working from home. So, my wife and I decided to bring in a new addition to our family, our new puppy Zelle, named after AppBrilliance’s favorite direct payment rail. She’s amazing and the best dog ever. We’re very lucky!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded AppBrilliance.
C. Eric Smith: My startup career began early when I dropped out of college and founded a gaming company in 1994 at the age of 21. That company grew to over 20 employees with a game development and publishing deal with Interplay.
Since 2010, I have been deeply involved in the FinTech and banking software space. I started a venture-backed startup, Unwired Nation, that ultimately raised over $12 million. We rebranded the company to Unwired Banking, focusing on mobile banking applications for community banks and credit unions.
I founded AppBrilliance in 2015. We originally focused on contract mobile and SaaS development, but Fintech is in my blood, and I couldn’t stay away! When our core patents were awarded in the summer of 2018, we focused full-time on bringing our Money API™ to market to solve some of the biggest payments problems.
How does AppBrilliance innovate?
C. Eric Smith: AppBrilliance is committed to reinventing payments and enabling next-generation FinTech applications that are built to empower consumers to control their money and financial data.
Our vision is simple: Payment processing shouldn’t be a cost-center for businesses. We’re licensing our Money API to partners that share that vision.
With COVID, businesses are struggling to meet consumer demand for secure and contactless payments while balancing the need to lower their payment processing costs. We believe that direct real-time payments powered by our Money API are a game-changer for these businesses. Our patented non-custodial technology enables direct push payments from users by linking their bank and paying through a seamless on-device checkout experience. Unlike other bank payment technologies, our Money API is non-custodial — meaning that user credentials, banking data, and funds are never sent to AppBrilliance or shared with 3rd parties, and funds are pushed securely from their bank directly to the business. Money API bypasses debit and credit rails, reduces fraud, and eliminates chargeback risks while radically reducing the cost of taking payments.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
C. Eric Smith: It’s a difficult time. Next-generation payments aren’t going to fix COVID, but we’re doing everything we can to bring some relief to struggling businesses by giving them a powerful new tool to reduce their costs. For many businesses that operate on razor-thin margins, this will be the difference between keeping the doors open or going out of business.
It feels good working on technology that can make a difference in people’s lives.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
C. Eric Smith: We were right in the midst of closing our Seed round of funding at the end of March when COVID really started to impact the US. That uncertainty led one of our larger potential investors to pull out at the last minute. So we were at a real inflection point where we had to think about a change in fundraising strategy, cutting staff, or even closing the doors. As a team, we came together with a plan to keep the company afloat until we secured more funding. The experience brought our team together, like a family. We’re in it together, and we’re in it to make a difference. Ultimately, we oversubscribed and closed the round, working with some amazing investors that share our vision.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and AppBrilliance in the future?
C. Eric Smith: I’ve been dealing with the stress and anxiety of startups my entire adult life; it’s become a part of my DNA. Part of my job is to shoulder that burden so that the stress doesn’t get in the way of the team’s innovation.
In the future, we see AppBrilliance as the catalyst for a major paradigm shift in the payments environment. We believe that with smart, secure, and developer-friendly technology, we can empower businesses, innovators, and consumers to control their payments and financial data. We will continue to break down barriers with non-custodial solutions for open payments and banking, and the stress and anxiety of startup life is part of the process.
As the saying goes, ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it!’
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
C. Eric Smith: In 2019, over 4 Trillion dollars was spent by consumers using debit and credit cards in the US, costing businesses over $120 Billion that year. Our technology is the only solution that enables real-time direct payments. We are going to move quickly to maintain that competitive edge with major partnerships and platform announcements coming soon in 2021.
Any final thoughts?
C. Eric Smith: When we work together, we can do amazing things. We’re excited to see what the new year brings!