There’s flying under the radar and then there is ROAM.
ROAM is one of Boston’s most successful and interesting companies; what few people know is that they have been developing mobile payment solutions before Twitter was even an idea on a pad of paper.
ROAM is the original mobile point of sale service, creating mobile credit card reading hardware since 2005. The company created technology in 2007 that used a phone’s audio jack to attach credit card reading hardware (they licensed the patent for the product that ROAM filed in 2009).
You read that right, years prior to Jack Dorsey introducing the Square reader to the world in 2010, ROAM had already mastered a technology that has earned Square media buzz and big name investors over the past couple of years.
Whereas Square may be the hip kid at the party - started by a Twitter co-founder, popping up at kimchi taco trucks and handmade crafts fairs - ROAM has secure encryption that Square has yet to achieve, and the company has had a ubiquitous enterprise presence worldwide (thanks to the role of international parent company Ingenico) for a number of years.
The company was co-founded by Michael Arner, now at Cortex, and John Rodley, who was recently with Sonos. Together, they developed a product that was way ahead of its time. Current CEO, Ken Paull said of ROAM’s products, “We developed a hardware, software, and gateway solution that was able to work with just about any device, any mobile carrier, and connect to any credit card processor in the US.”
Unlike Square, ROAM is, and has been for a while, more attractive and more useful as a solution for enterprises of all sizes. They differentiate themselves in three specific way.
First, they wanted enterprises to feel empowered while using ROAM’s payment solutions. As Paull explained, “We primarily created the system to be developed for resellers.” ROAM’s appeal is in how they give their customers ownership of how they use the product. “You can view us as someone providing technology to people who want to compete with Square,” he said. “We brand the hardware, the software, the platform for our customers, so that in a lot of cases you wouldn’t even know it's a ROAM solution under the hood, it's kind of like an “Intel Inside” idea.”
Second, ROAM has created software, firmware, and application specific solutions that give its enterprise customers flexibility that its competitors can't compete with. “We are building an API and developer support so that people can build a broader mobile application around our payment app,” Paull said. He added, “It is a big trend in the industry, people don’t want to just take a payment, they want to integrate it into their business, website, etc.”
Lastly, ROAM differentiates itself because its mobile reader has had built-in secure encryption since its inception. As Paull pointed out, “We also have a more secure solution; when we first brought our product out it was encrypted in the card reader.” He added, “Square has just recently made upgrades to their system to allow the type of security that we’ve had for a while.”
“When you add those up,” Paull said, “it gives us more of an enterprise solution.”
For Paull and the folks at ROAM, their role in all levels of enterprise has led to their ‘under the radar’ status. “A lot of the activity you’ve seen is Square and some other players battling it out in the lower tiers of the market,” he said. “A lot of micro-merchants who didn’t used to accept cards [are now using Square]. Our solutions are suited more for the movement upmarket which is enabling not only a small business, but midsize and large enterprises to be able to use our technology.”
After investing in ROAM since 2009, Paris-based Ingenico, the global payment services company, purchased a majority stake in the Boston company this year. Ingenico’s large international presence has allowed ROAM to bring its mobile payments solutions to markets that Square isn’t even close to breaking into.
With the success of its product, ROAM recently announced that it is expanding its office in the Innovation District and hiring about fifty new developers.
Although Boston may not seem like the ideal place for an enterprise/mobile payment hardware company to be headquartered, the city is perfect for ROAM. “Boston’s not typically considered one of the hubs for electronic payment technology,” Paull said, “but I think it is becoming an evolving hub for mobility technology.” He added, “Especially on the entrepreneurial side; we are looking for people who want to build a business, and that is what Boston is good at.”
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Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.