Scaling the heights: Irish success stories – Trustev

Chief executive and co-founder of Irish tech start-up Trustev Pat Phelan describes the past year or so since he moved to the New York to oversee the company’s US expansion as a “whirlwind” and it’s hardly surprising.

Trustev is a software platform with new technology that can analyse accurately in real time which buyers are fraudulent.

The impact for companies that deploy it is dramatically reduced fraud and increased sales.

Phelan started the company in Cork in 2012 where it currently employs 20 people.

Since launching Trustev has set up an office in New York, grown to multi-million dollar annual revenues and secured large customers such as global information solutions company TransUnion, telecoms player Telefonica and more recently electronic retailer RadioShack.

Trustev’s integrated sales solution has been deployed at 4,000 RadioShack locations since October 2014. The ‘data fingerprinting’ technology involved ensures these transactions are convenient for customers while at the same time validated and protected for RadioShack.

“We sought a partner who could enhance our ability to serve customers quickly, and screen qualified buyers for different types of mobility plans,” said Paul Rutenis, chief merchandising officer at RadioShack when the deal was signed in September 2014.

“We are excited to deploy proven technology that provides a sophisticated, leading-edge solution for RadioShack.”

Origins of the Trustev idea

The idea for Trustev came about as Phelan’s previous company, Cubic Telecom, was hit with a lot of fraud, he explains.

“When we looked for software that could stop it, we found systems that were absolutely archaic – ancient interfaces, limited capability and a huge amount of manual work to review all the transactions and check they weren’t fraud. So I thought: ‘There has to be a better way to do this’. And that’s what we built with Trustev.”

According to Phelan, Trustev was the first company in this area to take a ‘holistic’ view of fraud and look at all data – thousands of data points – simultaneously, in context, for each transaction.

“With older systems, they have a list of ‘rules’ that block transactions – often from whole countries or internet protocol addresses. With Trustev’s new approach we don’t need companies to create rules – we just look at all the data at once and make a smart decision. So even if a customer is travelling or on a new device, they won’t be blocked as fraud by mistake; our system will factor that in.”

Trustev’s compelling proposition has helped it to raise a total of US$7.5m in investments to date, including from Enterprise Ireland (EI).

“We have had a great experience with EI as both an investor and partner in helping to grow the business. We are currently working on some joint marketing programmes with the agency in the US. Its business development teams have put us in touch with a number of sales prospects and have attended meetings with us at some large companies to help make the pitch,” notes Phelan.

“We talk to Jonathan McMillan, manager of EI’s New York office, and his team regularly and we’ve also spoken a number of times with EI staff in Boston, Silicon Valley, France, Brazil and more. It’s been very valuable.”

Significant potential in the US and elsewhere

In terms of Trustev’s immediate development strategy, Phelan reckons there is huge room for growth in the US.

“In New York, we have gone from just me to ten people in ten months and from a borrowed desk at another start-up to our own offices on Broadway, which we’re about to double in terms of space,” he says.

“We have built a sales and marketing team in New York and have a pipeline of opportunities and sales with some of the world’s largest retailers.

“There are hundreds of large e-commerce companies [defined as selling over US$100m online each year] and all of them could benefit majorly from our service. So we’re approaching all of these companies to set up discussions and pilot tests,” he says.

“In Europe we also have a sales team which has made some big strides. As well as our two ‘home’ countries where we have offices [Cork, Ireland and New York City, the US], we also have partnerships to sell Trustev in other regions and we’re seeing a lot of interest in South America. I was in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in mid-March meeting with some big retailers and banks who want to move forward with using Trustev.”