“Conor, why is Dublin such a great place for payments tech?” she asked.
“Ehhhhhh…” I countered ingeniously.
I was at one of the Commissioner’s famous breakfast gatherings and had just been telling Niamh about the launch of our payments development platform, TestingPays.com. Her question caught me off guard. It wasn’t that I didn’t agree – I know Dublin is a great place for payments. It was just that, after ten years of various roles in the payments world, I’d never stopped to wonder why. It was like being asked to explain how your voice works after speaking all your life.
“Can I get back to you on that Niamh?” I asked.
“Sure. Even better, write it down”, she shot back sharp to opportunity as ever.
So off I walked, wondering to myself, why is Dublin such a great place for payments?
— ThePaymentWorks (@ThePaymentWorks) February 14, 2017
The first answer that occurred to me: Well, you need a particular type of a problem-solver to work in payments, and Dublin has them in abundance.
Some years ago, I heard an Irish physicist remark that Irish people make good engineers, not theoretical physicists. It stuck with me. The engineers and computer scientists who seem to thrive in Dublin are those who are pragmatic, love to solve problems, think laterally, react creatively, and can tell the big picture from the brushstrokes.
In Ireland, we call this ‘cop on’.
And it just so happens, it’s a trait that’s perfect for working with payments. You need lots of cop on to work around the heavy legacy systems and flaky infrastructure that are a hallmark of the industry, while at the same time staying on the right side of regulation and big institutions.
Dublin is full of payment engineers, operations staff and analysts with this vital ingredient. The city has a critical mass of payments folks! Setting up a payments tech company in that environment is a no-brainer.
But there’s more to Dublin than that, right? I asked myself as I walked from the brekkie to our office.
— ThePaymentWorks (@ThePaymentWorks) April 3, 2017
“Where in Kentucky are you from?” someone asked earshot away from me. Immediately it gave me another theory.
“Where are you from?” is the question you get asked first and foremost here in Ireland. Sure we’re nosy, but the question also says a lot about our world view. We’re obsessed with what’s going on around us. Bigger countries tend not to pay much attention to what happens outside their borders; our small country sensibility makes it natural for us to be very aware of other nations. I think this gives us an inbuilt advantage when it comes to online payments.
Our location at the crossroads of the Atlantic means dealing with the three big currencies (EUR, GBP, USD) has always been second nature. We’re equally adept at talking card payments with a New Yorker as we are Payment Services Directives with a Berliner and Financial Conduct Authority regulation with a Londoner. It’s an invaluable mindset when it comes to dealing with the intra-national nature of global payments. It certainly has made it easy for me to launch a payments platform that, straight out the gate, can be used in multiple countries.
— ThePaymentWorks (@ThePaymentWorks) September 20, 2016
Wondering if there is more, I found myself crossing the street between the traffic and realised the final piece of my answer: In Dublin, we are all jaywalkers!
People who come to Dublin quickly realise that pedestrians don’t wait for a green light before crossing a busy street. My international friends are mildly terrified of walking through town with me. It’s the same attitude we have in the payments space around here. Even though the volume of e-commerce rocketed in the last 10-20 years, the landscape itself has changed very little. It’s full of legacy technology, creaking infrastructure and dated regulation. Yet, Dublin-based payment entrepreneurs seem to enjoy plotting ways through the jam. Just look at some of our homegrown innovators like CurrencyFair, Ding, Fire and WorldNet.
It’s the same pattern that led us to build our payments platform. It was born out of our many years of seeing the same problems again and again in payments: engineers frustrated with bad payment APIs; useless sandboxes causing low-quality payments implementation; project delays; software bugs triggering payments downtime; merchant sites leaking customer money on the floor. Simply put, the phenomenal growth in global e-commerce had not been matched by improved customer checkout experience.
I finally reach my office in Blackrock. This is where we created a solution for all that: the TestingPays.com platform, which gives engineers an entire toolkit to develop and test their payments software. It’s our way to help them overcome the difficulties with unwieldy and challenging payment APIs. By giving merchants analytics into their own customer payments, we’re empowering them to tackle lost transactions and lost customers.
Frankly, I can think of no better town to be based in as we take this across the world.