Tuesday Oct 1, 2013 by Dennis Keohane - Staff Writer, VentureFizz
Leaf, the mobile payment platform company, announced today that it has closed a $20 million round of funding from Heartland Payment Systems, a large national payments processor and provider of merchant business solutions.
Much of the buzz surrounding Leaf and its recent success has been centered on their groundbreaking payment processing tablet, the LeafPresenter. However, the company has a bolder vision that incorporates a wide range of other tools and services for the payment industry, including the cloud-based business analytics and management product, LeafBusiness, and the Leaf App Store, which is still in beta.
While the partnership with Heartland allows a wider distribution of Leaf's various services, the funding will help the company take another step closer to achieving the grand vision that co-founders Aron Schwarzkopf and Sebastián Castro Gainares have for Leaf.
Most importantly, the latest round of funding will help Leaf grow and scale. As CEO Schwarzkopf told me when we spoke earlier this month, Leaf is already too big for its current space in Intrepid Labs, where they were one of the original companies in the Cambridge shared workspace.
"We’ve been at this for two and half years," Schwarzkopf said, "and we did the whole Boston entrepreneur trail. We started at the CIC and then we came here with Intrepid Pursuits." He added, "Then, we became even larger, and we are actually bigger than the rules we set for the space. We are looking for new office space and hope to move within the year."
With their sights set on a larger space, Leaf is actively and aggressively seeking new talent to "assemble an incredible team," something Schwarzkopf sees as the touchstone for success in the next few months. As he explained, "We’ve done a good job of hiring and retaining really good people on our team and we need to grow that family. If we can do that, that will directly influence our success."
"What I think we have in our favor," he continued, "is that most of what we are doing is challenging. So I'm not only offering a job with perks and good pay, but it is also something that will help in your career to be better at what you do." He added, "We are ambitious and doing very complicated stuff and that may be interesting for an engineer."
As far as the challenges that Leaf has faced thus far, Schwarzkopf said that increasing customers' and clients' knowledge of Leaf's products and goals has been difficult to overcome at times. As he explained, "No one knows what payments is," referring to the fact that the mobile/POS payments business is so vast and has so many moving parts, that the sheer volume of opportunities within the sector often get over-shadowed by the focus on mobile readers, like Square, or debates on the viability of digital wallets.
"I remember when I first started pitching Leaf," Schwarzkopf said, "there was a ton of confusion from companies that today are my partners who thought they were my competitors."
What it all boils down to is that Leaf is positioning itself to provide "benefits for consumers and merchants as mobile payments evolves," as the company's CEO said.
"What we are trying to do," Schwarzkopf told me, "is to become the best friend of the small business. Some of that is human and some of that is the technology." With a wide array of products, from the payments tablet to the business analytics software, Leaf is ambitiously trying to become the de facto source for small businesses to upgrade their payment technologies.
When I asked Schwarzkopf whether they thought of themselves as a hardware or a software company, his answer told me that what lies at the heart of Leaf and its continuing success is not its products or services, but people, whether that be the team it is building or the relationships it is developing with customers and partners alike.
As Schwarzkopf said in reference to the hardware/software question, "I consider myself the friend of the merchant."
The deeper partnership with Heartland and the $20 million in funding will go a long way to completing the ultimate vision for Leaf; however, I get the feeling, that in the short term, the company is not done making waves in Boston and in the payment industry at-large.
And yes... Leaf is hiring. Check out their BizzPage on VentureFizz by clicking here.