Ixaris to move office, eyes new markets
Ixaris, the electronic payment solutions company, is to move to new offices in San Ġwann’s Capital Business Centre in November to “accommodate growth in numbers” as it eyes new opportunities outside Europe.
The six-member start-up established in 2002 has evolved into a company with a staff of 100 – 75 of whom working shifts at a villa in Ta’ Xbiex. The rest of the team is based in London, while one person in Seattle examines market opportunities in the US.
“When we first moved here, we thought it was a little too big for us,” founder and chief executive Alex Mifsud told The Sunday Times.
“We want to retain the start-up spirit of flexibility in our new office. We have tried to reflect that in the design and we have ample meeting space. No one has an office except the chief financial officer and the head of product development.
“When everyone in the organisation knows what you are trying to achieve and knows the part they play, the magic happens. The team is bigger than the sum of the parts.”
With its internet technology and payments expertise, Ixaris has been able to grasp opportunities created by a wave of regulatory changes allowing more organisations such as service providers into the payments industry that was, until recently, exclusively banking territory.
After being directed by regulators to alter charges structures, card schemes too were forced to identify new business models and examine innovative solutions more closely.
Dr Mifsud, who has lectured at the University of Malta’s Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence – he obtained his first degree in Malta – explained that cross-border payments are Ixaris’ forte.
Entropay, its online payment application for consumers and small businesses, was so successful in its early stages it convinced Ixaris’ team that it was destined to be a payments company.
After restructuring the business, bolstering the team with the necessary payments expertise, and raising support through business angels and a seed fund, Ixaris went on to healthy profitability by 2009.
Ixaris had one million accounts in its database and knew it could reach five million but wanted to surpass 100 million. The team returned to its technology roots to build a toolkit, and an open platform saw a modest launch in 2010. The Ixaris Opn platform allows larger enterprises to create and run their own global payments applications with virtual or physical cards under a Master Card or Visa scheme. Several early adopters have come on board and a recently recruited dedicated sales team has spent the past few months meeting customer requirements.
As the world moves away from invoicing and moves transactions online, reconciliation becomes increasingly difficult. Ixaris’ solution involves a singular virtual card number for each transaction. The solution can be tailored so that transactions involving payments to associates or partners can be made in real time, and may even be branded.
Ixaris’ offering of security guaranteed cards is particularly suited for markets like the US where merchant concern over internet card fraud is heightened. Transaction values in the US alone are more than $200 billion (€160bn).
“As more activity moves online, payment systems go with it,” Dr Mifsud said. “Payment systems are not equipped to move quickly and efficiently across borders. That’s our opportunity. We use a mix of technology and support relationships to bring solutions to the market. Most of our customers are European but our Know Your Customer processes indicate we have users in more than 200 countries.”
With end users worldwide, Ixaris is now examining ways to enter new markets in other continents. The US is one of Ixaris’ next major steps and the company has been actively sounding out the complex market for more than 18 months.
The chief executive believes a huge opportunity also awaits in Africa, which is leapfrogging infrastructure, especially where mobile payments are concerned. Already boasting a large user base in Brazil, the country offers itself as another target for Ixaris. The challenge in mass markets is identifying suitable partners with distribution channels and market knowledge.
Now with a team comprising experts in technology, operations, and sales and marketing in equal measure, London-based Dr Mifusd believes Ixaris is well positioned in the market.
“A competitor of ours with similar revenues has just been acquired by Google,” he said. “We are building something we believe a lot of people would like to have. The biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is to manage your ideas.”