For many startups, landing a round of venture capital has become somewhat of a right of passage. After all, convincing an investor (in all of his or her acumen) of a product or service’s viability is no easy task. Once they’ve got a VC in their corner, an entrepreneur's road to success often gains pavement and loses a curve or two or ten.
But one Chicago startup has turned its back on the traditional VC journey so many of its neighbors chase after, opting instead to pull themselves up by their bootstraps — on their own terms.
, a Chicago-based payment processor, has raised $2 million, not through VC funding but through existing bank and partner relationships, scott-free from trading any ownership of the company.
“Our focus is to build world-class solutions for merchants, and to invest and create opportunities for the team,” said Founder and CEO Jeff Shea. “Payline has remained bootstrapped in order to further this mission of putting our employees and merchants first.”
Payline’s mission is an admirable one and philanthropic enough to justify Shea’s reluctance to pursue formal investors: for every transaction processed, a portion of Payline’s fees are donated to a charity of the merchant’s choice.
Part of the $2 million Payline has secured will additionally be used to improve the company’s efforts to give back. The fear is that these core values of altruism and community would likely be challenged by an incoming investor, so they’ve eschewed that route altogether (for the time being).
The funds will primarily be used to grow their in-house team, including a crew of developers to work on their payment platform, said Payline’s Director of Technology Justin Louie. Louie said the company mostly operates as a sales organization, but the new funding provides the opportunity to accelerate development.
“Looking at 2016, it was the right time and size and in the right trajectory to invest in ourselves a bit more,” Louie said.
And Payline is no stranger to growth. In the past year, the company ballooned from six staff members to 25 and reported 300 percent year-over-year growth.
In addition to the employees working out of their Loop home base, Payline also employs about 100 sales agents across the country, Louie said.
Payline offers a number of in-store, online, and mobile solutions to help small and medium sized organizations grow and manage their business.
Photo via Payline Data.
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