When the co-founders of a new digital payment company began looking for a home base to build their business, the startup had a lot of options to consider.
PayAll Payment Systems executives were based in Florida, Philadelphia and here in Wilmington, including Archmere Academy graduate Chris Quinlan, a fintech and credit payment industry veteran who grew up in Delaware and started other companies here. So the company was considering various locations that would provide access to talent, connections and capital.
Quinlan had started other successful companies in Delaware, and he presented the case to his colleagues that Delaware’s heritage as a banking and credit card capital along with a budding fintech scene made it the right place for their new business to establish some roots. Wilmington Friends School grad and PayAll partner Mark Gregory also advocated for the Wilmington presence.
“The ease of connections with some of the biggest players in consumer lending and financial technologies is a huge advantage for companies here, particularly startups,” said Quinlan. “And the growing track record of fintech startup success will only generate momentum and value for more entrepreneurs.”
PayAll recently took out space in The Mill, joining an increasingly thriving startup environment in the co-working space that includes Irvine, California-based Acorns – a mobile investment app focused on millennials – who just announced they would be increasing their presence at The Mill, “adding up to 50 technology and operations jobs downtown,” according to the Delaware Business Times.
Wilmington and the nearby suburbs also host Marlette Funding (its consumer lending platform is Best Egg), who plan to add another 200 jobs to its Brandywine Hundred campus, Fair Square Financial, which graduated from The Mill last month to open a new downtown headquarters and has raised over $100 million in funding, and SoFi in Claymont.
Kurt Foreman, president and CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the public-private entity created in 2017 with the mission of supporting and recruiting new businesses in the state, said the longtime presence of major global banks has spawned an intimate, highly-networked financial services ecosystem that differentiates Delaware by facilitating critical relationships that can lead to partnerships, business deals and funding opportunities.
“Delaware’s enviable location along the Northeast corridor and its expertise in the financial services sector make it an ideal and welcoming hub for fintech start-ups,” said Foreman. “The market opportunity in this sector is massive. Delaware has been a magnet for out-of-state direct investment by financial services firms in recent years, with $725 million invested since 2010. Wilmington is the leading destination in our region for this investment. Home to marquee banking and financial services institutions such as JPMorgan Chase, CapitolOne and Citi; it’s no surprise we are now welcoming a host of fintech start-ups,” he said.
Quinlan and his PayAll colleagues met with Foreman and his team on a Friday and the following week were meeting with several connections including Rebecca Parsons at The Mill. They signed a lease days later.
The First State Fintech Lab has also been established to nurture companies like PayAll and create the strongest fintech hub in the country.
Wills Elliman, a commercial real estate broker with Newmark Knight Frank, said the Delaware fintech community is accelerating to the point of significant differentiation for the local market.
“Out of the ashes of the Great Recession’s layoffs and downsizings across the financial services sector, an amazing fintech scene has emerged in Wilmington,” said Elliman. “Wilmington is laden with talent and that talent has coalesced into some striking fintech triumphs that are fueling a thriving local hub.”
For his part, Quinlan said in the last few weeks his company has made valuable connections that have already led to collaborations. He says Payall is looking to expand quickly, with more local tech and marketing employees to come.
“We’ve had about five coffee meetings in the last two weeks that have all surfaced promising opportunities and important new relationships,” said Quinlan. “I would tell anyone looking to build a fintech company that this is a place where they will get strong support and be surrounded by smartest people in the industry.”