SixThirty, a technology accelerator launched last year by Square co-founder Jim McKelvey, is searching for its second class of financial services technology startups.
SixThirty makes eight $100,000 investments per year, four in the spring and four in the fall. More than two dozen entrepreneurs and developers work on their business and technology ideas, with guidance from McKelvey and his staff.
"I try to help give them the resources they need, I mentor some of them and [yell at] some of them and encourage some of them," McKelvey says.
Once SixThirty selects companies for funding, the startups take part in a four-month accelerator program that involves networking with financial services companies and other businesses in the St. Louis area, including Edward Jones, Scottrade, Stifel Financial, Wells Fargo Advisors and US Bancorp CDC.
St. Louis, where SixThirty is based, is sometimes seen as a ripe testing ground for new payments technology, since it has the dynamics of a big city but a much smaller population than a place like New York.
At SixThirty, "we have two companies in the ID space. That's a rapidly developing area that's vital to payments," McKelvey says.
SixThirty's first class of funded startups includes investing portfolio service Hedgeable, young peoples' wealth advisory company Upside, identity management company miiCard and authentication company XYVerify.
"As a startup guy himself, we learned a lot of lessons from him," says James Varga, CEO of miiCard, which is based in the U.K.
McKelvey has been "hands on" during miiCard's development, Varga says. "He's challenged us and we've benefited from his experience in payments and financial services technology. Most of my working career has been in the U.K. and working with [McKelvey] over the past six months has been helpful on a fundamental level, providing a North American reflection on what you are able to do and how to describe what you're doing to [potential clients and partners]."
Earlier in his career, McKelvey worked for Square, another company that brought more people "into" financial technology, particularly smaller merchants. "I love Square, it's a great company. I'm not surprised that a lot of people are happy with it," McKelvey says.
Square has become a major brand in the mobile point of sale market, where dozens of companies now offer similar card acceptance products that attach to smartphones and tablets. Competitors, particularly in markets outside the U.S., are often called "The Square" of their country.
"Square's had a tremendous impact on the small business and micro merchant marketplace," says Richard Crone, a payments consultant. "Square has made card acceptance mainstream and has opened up a new sales channel for merchants that heretofore had only accepted cash and checks."
That experience helps technology entrepreneurs such as McKelvey spot potential success stories at an early stage, Crone says. "What Jim has done is take the [investment process] down to the 'angel' level," Crone says.