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Fintech Makes Its Mark

Almost a decade ago, a Brooklyn wine store owner – frustrated by not having the technology to manage sales and inventory for a business of his size — decided to create a company that could. That solution became ShopKeep, a point-of-sale and financial-technology (fintech) company founded in 2008 that now provides point-of-sale tools – that track and manage sales and inventory -- for 23,000 independent retailers and restaurants.

Though it was web-based initially, today the ShopKeep platform is available via mobile apps on tablets and cloud-based back office capabilities, processing total annual sales of $6-$7 billion for its users.

The company, operating in the U.S. to-date, has potential to expand globally under CEO Michael DeSimone, who joined ShopKeep in November 2015 after leading global ecommerce company, Borderfree. DeSimone says he was drawn to the idea of “bringing technology to part of commerce that really hasn’t had the benefit of a scalable technology platform.” Smaller merchants have long had to rely either on traditional electronic cash registers without digital capabilities that connect to a larger accounting and management system, or on expensive point-of-sale systems that didn’t fit their size or budgets.

ShopKeep “was founded by what I call a frustrated merchant,” DeSimone explains, detailing the company’s roots. The wine store owner was on vacation when his outdated point-of-sale system crashed and wouldn’t allow either remote access or intervention; the store suffered sizeable losses in data and sales as a result. He responded by creating a scalable system for smaller merchants, one that operates with cloud-based technology that allows remote access to their sales and systems when off-site. In wine terms, he came up with an affordable vintage that suited everyone’s tastes.

The company offers a small café owner, for instance, a road into cloud-based technology and accounting — and one that can stay with them as they grow.  “We are the only significant piece of technology running inside of these businesses — we’re almost a business-management platform,” DeSimone says. “It’s really making sure we fit into how they work.”

The platform grows as it customers grow in size and complexity, with resources to manage additional items that need to be tracked, from shipment to sales to inventory restocking. “It solves [complexity] for them,” DeSimone says. ShopKeep’s web-based back office system allows business owners — whether on or off-site — to maintain inventory lists, sales information and any other operational details.

ShopKeep has roughly 250 employees worldwide, with more than 125 of the company’s core executive, product marketing, engineering and marketing team members based in New York City’s Flatiron neighborhood. A sales and customer support team is based in Portland, Oregon, and an additional engineering team operates from a third office in Belfast, Northern Ireland. That employee base includes a strong customer support team that operates through phone, text and live chat, spanning time zones via ShopKeep’s West Coast team. Those assistance options are designed to help the busy entrepreneur who, DeSimone says, is often multitasking - finalizing a sale while calling or texting with a question about the product.

ShopKeep’s New York City headquarters serve it well. The company is located near investors and benefits from the tech talent graduating from New York State schools. New York is a “very entrepreneurial area,” DeSimone adds, explaining the solid support for building good infrastructure for companies, which has helped the nearly decade-old fintech company succeed.

Technology in the State

DeSimone cites several factors that have contributed to the technology boom in New York State, including a convergence of advertising and data, analytics and the digital realm. The longtime prominence of media, advertising and business-to-business marketing in New York has also been a key driver. And he notes that ShopKeep has also benefited from New York’s history of entrepreneurship and innovation, as well the state’s overall business culture.

That climate has enabled ShopKeep to start and grow at a moment when tech has become intertwined with finance. DeSimone says ShopKeep operates in a market sector overdue for the types of tech innovations that have touched and transformed so many other aspects of daily life. Fintech companies can apply technology to help streamline operations for companies — like point-of sale-systems, which are integral to retailers and restaurants.

ShopKeep’s success translates into a business that requires strong talent. DeSimone says that the best and the brightest workforce is available in New York—whether newcomers or individuals who want to stay in the area.

ShopKeep also works with area schools including New York University, Columbia University and Cornell University, recruiting engineers and other talent. Employees work as mentors in the area, including Crystal Caligiuri, ShopKeep’s Senior Vice President of Operations and Customer Care, who serves as a career coach and mentor for the Columbia Business School.

Cultivating a Local Work Culture Nationwide

DeSimone also explains that the company is working to support its merchant community, as well as communities in ShopKeep’s office locations, through philanthropic efforts. ShopKeep supports Goodwill, and employees volunteer at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, which serves 1,000 New Yorkers in need each day. Other employees volunteer with Coalition for Queens, supporting marginalized groups in tech through training bootcamps.

The company’s core values encompass innovation, teamwork and accountability, to provide quality products and customer service – but also work-life balance and community for employees. “Our offices are very techy,” DeSimone says, referring to a casual environment with free snacks, comfortable chairs, weekly meditation sessions, meet-up events and — most importantly — hard work.

“It’s important to take the work seriously, but we don’t need take each other so seriously,” DeSimone adds, explaining that there are a lot of smart, intense people at ShopKeep. He wants the environment to be conducive to both fun and focus as the company supports merchants nationwide.

“We feel like we’re a part of the communities where our merchants are,” DeSimone underlines, referring to ShopKeep’s emphasis on engaging in local communities and independent business. The notion applies to how the company manages its platform, customer support and employee base, aiding a myriad of companies, big and small, as they navigate their growth.