CardFlight, a mobile point-of-sale provider based in New York City, has announced plans to build out a software engineering team in Lincoln, Nebraska. The choice of Lincoln as the location for expansion came about as a result of a pitch for employment from Jesse Angell.
“Jesse reached out and had a compelling pitch,” said Founder & CEO Derek Webster. “He had an interest in CardFlight and what he felt he could contribute.”
Angell was flown to New York to meet the team.
“We felt he would make a great team member and decided to take the risk of starting him in a remote role,” Webster said. “In hindsight, I’m glad we did.”
Now Webster, who made his first visit to Lincoln in late April, wants to build a team in Nebraska to support CardFlight’s rapid growth trajectory.
“Our growth has been fast and steady at the same time,” Webster said. “We’re growing more and more each month, and it’s been exciting.”
The company, which provides mobile app credit card payment solutions, was founded in 2013 and raised $1.6 million in seed capital that same year. The initial focus was mobile app developers but new markets have emerged.
“Along the way we kinda stumbled into a new customer segment that we’ve done a pretty good job of scaling,” Webster said. “We provide software for merchant providers that want to offer something as good as Square to their customers.”
The CardFlight market has grown across the United States.
“We have tens of thousands of merchants in all 50 states,” Webster said. “Mobile apps used by merchants, web reporting portals, reselling arrangements, first level support and maintenance, and card hardware as well.”
So what does Webster think of Lincoln after his first visit?
“We’ve learned what’s magical about Lincoln,” he said. “It started with people and then we learned about the community.”
The diversity in Lincoln’s startup and overall business makeup is attractive.
“For an ecosystem to work well, you need companies of all sizes, scale and maturity level,” Webster said. “Having established companies like Hudl creates a cohort of people with experience and maturity that have done the dance before.”
The presence of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and various support organizations is also key.
“The constant supply of talent like what’s coming out of UNL is critical,” Webster said. “And the community-based organizations dedicated to sharing best practices is great to see.”
What about capital availability in the central United States?
“In general, the first million dollars comes locally,” Webster said. “These are seed stage companies, and the Nebraska Angels will be critical for fostering that ecosystem. Investors don’t get on a plane for $100,000 deals.”
That was the case for CardFlight in the beginning, leading to a $4.2 million Series A raise in 2015.
“Our earliest rounds were New York-centric,” Webster said. “After we became viable, we were exposed to national investors. Our largest Series A investor is in Kansas City, second in Chicago. A New York company whose biggest checks were from the Midwest.”
The culture and values of the Silicon Prairie make it likely that CardFlight will recruit talent regionally.
“There are a lot of great things about New York and we’re proud to be headquartered there,” Webster said. “But the concrete jungle and density of people is not for everyone. There are very, very high-quality, hard-working, intelligent people in the Midwest and some people incorrectly overlook that.”
Webster was asked what attributes he is seeking as he builds out the Lincoln team.
“We’re willing to compromise on experience but not attitude,” he said. “Payment-specific expertise can be acquired, but work ethic, drive and ambition don’t get better over time.
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.