Bucket Technologies

An Arkansas startup company has developed a technology that proves a penny saved is a penny earned.

The company, Bentonville and Santa Ana, Calif.-based Bucket Technologies, is one of 10 finalists in the third Venture Center Financial Technology Accelerator mentoring program. It is sponsored by Fidelity National Information Services Inc., better known as FIS.

The company has about 20,000 clients, more than $9 billion in annual revenue and is the world’s largest financial technology company. Fidelity National Information Services has about 55,000 employees worldwide and about 1,200 in Little Rock. It does business with more than half of the world’s banks.

Bucket has created a digital piggy bank that takes coins out of retail transactions, Wayne Miller, managing director of the FinTech Accelerator, said Wednesday.

“Imagine you go to Walmart and give the woman behind the counter $5 for a $4.30 transaction,” Miller said. “Instead of putting those coins in your pocket, which winds up in that dish on your dresser, she says, ‘Would you like me to bucket your change?’”

So the clerk gives a receipt to the customer with a QR code embedded in it, Miller said. The customer downloads the code to an app on his phone. When the customer’s change totals $50, the money can be put in the customer’s bank account or on a debit card, Miller said.

“By taking coins out of the transaction, it saves companies like Walmart huge amounts of money from moving coins around or counting coins,” Miller said.

Every year, more than $63 million in coins are lost in landfills, said Nick Woodcock, strategy planning executive with Fidelity National Information Services. That doesn’t count billions of dollars in coins stored away at homes out of circulation, said James Hendren, chairman of the Venture Center.

“For Bucket, this is an opportunity to go into the ecosystem of the mobile application of a bank,” said Jack Novielli, an executive vice president at FIS. “Now I’m going to transfer the $50 I’ve collected into my bank and begin to use it.”

And banks can invest the money in loans. If the coins are sitting in jars at home, they can’t be invested, Hendren said.

The nine startup companies joining Bucket Technologies in the program this year are Arcanum of Athens, Ga.; Billon Group of London and Warsaw, Poland; FinVoice of San Francisco; Gas POS of Birmingham, Ala.; LexAlign of Austin, Texas; Pay Your Tuition Funds of Washington, D.C.; Sonect AG of Zurich; Upper Room Technology of Green Bay, Wis.; and Verikai of San Francisco.

The companies will participate in a rigorous 12-week program designed to accelerate the development of their businesses. Each company will receive in-depth mentoring and training from Fidelity National Information Services and the Venture Center as well as a monetary investment of $75,000.

Executives from each company were in Little Rock on Monday to begin the program. It ends July 18, when they will pitch their businesses at an event at the Robinson Center.

“The FinTech Accelerator is a key part of FIS’ broader innovation strategy to develop and invest in breakthrough technologies for our clients,” Gary Norcross, FIS’ chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to seeing the ideas that flow from this year’s participants.”

The Venture Center received 281 applications from startups in 46 countries and 29 states. That compares with about 150 applications for the first program in 2016 and about 295 last year.

Businesses from six continents applied this year, Woodcock said.

“We talked to people from Europe, India and other parts of Asia,” Woodcock said. “It was an exciting process to boil it down to these 10 companies. There were a lot of good ideas.”

Fidelity National Information Services and the Venture Center took a different perspective to the applications, Novielli said.

“We’re upping our game in terms of our approach,” Novielli said. “This year we really recruited a very interested, excited group of individuals at FIS to help us to discern the quality of our candidates. They really want [the startups] to succeed because they helped to pick them.”

Startups from the first two years have raised a total of about $39 million. Several have entered into formal agreements with FIS. Four of the startups from the first two years have moved their headquarters to Little Rock.

Business on 05/03/2018