T3 Picks Up Speed with $2 Million Investment

The St. Louis Business Journal reports that Advantage Capital Partners invested $2 million in Transaction Transport Technologies (T3) under the Missouri CAPCO program:

The seconds ticked away too slowly for customers at Wild Bird Marketplace in Manchester as they waited for phone connections to process credit card transactions.

That prompted Owner Doyle Banks to switch his credit card processing to a new clearinghouse earlier this year — Transaction Transport Technologies, based in Lafayette Square.

“(Their software) cut credit card processing time by at least 65 percent,” Banks said.

Such processing speed also attracted the attention of Advantage Capital Partners, which recently invested $2 million in Transaction Transport, which goes by the name T3. The money is being used to finance production of equipment at a plant in Lyle, Ill., and to hire sales people, said Robert Varner, T3’s president and chief executive.

Varner said he anticipated the $2 million will carry the company for at least another year. At that point, he said T3 will be looking for another round of venture financing. Varner and T3 Chairman Mike Barnes, who operates a small investment bank, Barnes Associates, were among those who provided early financing for T3.

T3 has developed proprietary software that uses high-speed connections to the Internet to process credit card transactions in as fast as three seconds. That compares to 20 seconds or longer for dial-up modems that use a telephone company’s private network.

“All the small- and medium-size merchants are processing their credit cards over dial-up connections, which seemed antiquated to us,” said Jeremy Degenhart, an associate with Advantage.

Time savings might be less critical for some retailers, but for others — fast-food operators such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s — they want credit card transactions to be as fast as cash transactions. “And broadband is the only way to do that,” Degenhart said.

Advantage, one of the largest venture capital firms in St. Louis, guaranteed the money to T3 last September, but Advantage did not disclose its investment until this month. The money came from an Advantage Missouri Capcofund, a tax-advantaged investment fund for qualified investors. “We have minimal amounts of Capco money available and we’re being very selective about where we go with it,” Degenhart said.

T3 is generating some revenue but needs more than 100 customers to become profitable, he said.

Wild Bird is a T3 test site, said Varner, who was director of software development for another local tech company, PaylinX, which developed software to process electronic payments, before joining T3. Varner left PaylinX several months after it was acquired by CyberSource of Mountain View, Calif., in 2000.

Other key executives at T3 include Jeffrey Kirk, chief operating officer, who also had been with PaylinX, and Lynne Minichiello, senior vice president for sales and marketing, who had been with MasterCard International and later started her own consulting business. T3 has a staff of 10.

The company’s customers include merchant banks, such as Wells Fargo Merchant Services, which process credit transactions for fees ranging from 1 percent to 5 percent of the purchase price. Such banks typically can roll the cost of T3’s services into the merchant charges, Varner said.

T3’s technology can save merchants money, usually by allowing them to reduce the number of existing telephone lines dedicated to processing credit card transactions, Varner said. “We try to go for the mid-level to the mom and pops. But, in the last month the merchant banks have brought us enterprise-level customers, retail stores with 200 or more locations that are still on dial.”

T3 is not alone in the field. Data Wire, a Toronto company, is developing a similar Internet technology, according to information at the company’s Web site. Varner said T3’s advantage is its equipment, which is compatible with devices merchants now use.


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