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St. Pete startup inks deal with Visa, continues scaling

Mark Parker

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St. Petersburg-based SKUx recently partnered with Visa, the latest in a series of high-profile collaborations. Photos provided.

Bobby Tinsley said his St. Petersburg-based financial technology startup has been in “total growth mode” since closing an $11 million Series A funding round in March 2023.

Tinsley, co-founder and president of SKUx, recently announced the latest step toward establishing a global presence – a partnership with Visa. The conglomerate will leverage the local startup’s multi-patented digital payments platform to enable virtual transactions in real-time.

SKUx also offers digital solutions that support customer acquisition, loyalty programs, rebate services and virtual gift cards. According to its website, the products have reduced reliance on paper checks by 85%, significantly reducing costs, effort and fraud.

“Visa is very, very focused on digital innovation,” Tinsley said. “So, they really looked at what we were doing from a digital offer engagement and digital item payment basis, and it just fits very strategically into Visa’s goals.

“That’s the agreement – it’s taking what SKUx does best and putting it together with a global payments leader.”

Bobby Tinsley (foreground), co-founder and president of SKUx, with members of his expanding team at Thrive DTSP.

Tinsley said last year’s funding round was an “inflection point” for the fintech startup. The capital influx allowed SKUx to increase its investment in new technologies.

The company has also attracted what Tinsley called unbelievable talent. Trisha Asgeirsson, chief revenue officer, spent over two decades as an executive with Mastercard before joining the startup.

Tinsley said the team now also includes a former U.S. Federal Reserve employee. He believes the added “horsepower” will propel SKUx through its next growth phase.

SKUx relocated from the Tampa Bay Innovation Center to a larger space at Thrive DTSP to accommodate the recent hires. Company officials announced Wednesday morning that Karen Webster, founder of PYMNTS.com, is now a company advisor.

Tinsley said the business-to-business marketing platform is “arguably the number one payment source of information in the country.” That announcement, the latest in a series dubbed “Rolling Thunder,” follows multiple other high-profile partnerships.

In February, SKUx began working with Mondelez International. The global snack food firm oversees renowned brands like Oreo, Cadbury and Ritz.

Tinsley said Mondelez issued physical checks, coupons and vouchers before the partnership. He noted that could take weeks, and company officials lost “all visibility into the process of tracking those funds.”

“With SKUx, they can instantly give that consumer a digital payment that can be fully tracked and traced and can remove fraud,” Tinsley added. “The consumer can have access to those funds in less than 30 seconds.”

The SKUx Digital Payments platform leverages the Hedera Governing Council’s distributed ledger (blockchain) technology to ensure security and increase financial reporting transparency. Google, IBM and now Mondelez – following the SKUx partnership – are members of the multinational, open-source and decentralized network.

“With Hedera, we’re actually taking those transactions and posting the issuance and redemption elements on a public ledger,” Tinsley explained. “So, it’s full third-party immutable proof that those payments have been generated and ultimately disbursed to the consumer.”

He stressed the importance of evolving in the nascent world of fintech. Tinsley also noted that every industry worldwide revolves around the ability to process payments.

SKUx’s overarching goal is to lower those associated costs for retailers, brands and healthcare providers. Tinsley said the internal focus is on increasing reoccurring revenue.

“That is the mantra that we preach every day … continuing to get wins on all sides of the business,” he added. “And then addressing funding as needed.”

Tinsley credited St. Petersburg’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for supporting the company’s growth. He said corporate partners visit the city before inking deals, “and the comment is always, ‘Wow, this is a really cool area. It’s got a great vibe, and people are super nice.’”

Fostering a positive workplace culture is also a priority at SKUx. Tinsley plans to continue hiring “amazing people that want to come work every day,” and he has floated the idea of a multi-city expansion.

While he noted the benefits of operating from prominent financial hubs like New York and Atlanta, Tinsley said, “Oh my goodness, yes,” when asked if St. Petersburg would remain the company’s headquarters. “At the end of the day, going to be here; I’m not moving anywhere,” he said. “We will definitely have our St. Pete footprint – and love it.”

 

 

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