Like the dozens of people around him, John Thomson’s 2013 wait at the Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles had him aggravated.
It was such a pain — watching the queue slowly subside while working on his phone — that the entrepreneur did what innovators do: he built a company to alleviate the chore.
Fast forward about two years and Thomson’s idea has blossomed into a bold mission. Thomson, along with two other co-founders and a team of now more than 20 employees, hopes to revolutionize how citizens financially interact with government agencies. PayIt has grown from easing the initial pain-point of working with the DMV to streamlining services for other government agencies, including those that manage permitting, taxes, licenses, citations and more.
“The DMV is really the poster child of how dated and frustrating our experiences with (government) can be,” Thomson said, recalling the afternoon he spent waiting to renew his vehicle’s tag. “Everything is really fragmented and disconnected for citizens. Government is really the only enterprise that treats its customers like that. … We’re reimagining the way government serves the people and the way people do business with government.”
Already with the Kansas Turnpike Authority as a client, PayIt on Tuesday announced that it landed a $4.5 million Series A round to accelerate development, marketing and sales of its mobile- and web-based platform. The round was led by New York City-based Advantage Capital Partners, and followed by Weatherford Partners, Royal Street Ventures, the Missouri Technology Corporation and Five Elms Capital. PayIt is co-founded by Thomson, COO Mike Plunkett and CTO Ryan Townsend.
Thomson said that traditionally startups have avoided government technology because of bureaucracy and inefficiencies. Those challenges, however, are what fires up Thomson’s team.
“It’s a huge market that entrepreneurs have stayed away from because it’s ugly and hard,” he said. “But we’re drawn toward it because it’s part of who we are. It’s the mission of our business. It needs to happen and we’re doing it.”
The PayIt service offers city, county, state and federal government agencies a personalized platform on which citizens can create a profile to simplify payments and interaction. The platform, for example, can notify a user when a vehicle’s tag must be renewed and then allows payment via phone or computer, increasing engagement and cutting down on physical wait time. The platform also provides analytics information to government agencies on how citizens tap the platform.
Unlike many software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, PayIt provides its platform to government agencies for free upfront. The company takes a small cut of the agency’s transaction fees, reducing its annual costs.
The Kansas Turnpike Authority already is using the PayIt Kansas mobile app, offering K-TAG account holders the ability to access and manage their accounts anytime from their smartphones. Thomson said that the company is already in discussions with many other government agencies.
“There’s a real hunger and demand for this type of technology within government,” said Thomson, formerly the CEO of Saepio Technologies. “They’re tired of guys coming in to custom build everything for them and charge them millions of dollars for this one-off technology that they have no way to sustain and is already antiquated.”
Thomson said that while in the process of raising funds, PayIt was offered the opportunity to move elsewhere on several occasions. Ultimately, however, the local tech vet and his team decided to stay put in their hometown.
“We believe in not only building a business that solves a problem that needs solving, but also contributing to the tech community here,” he said. “(Raising investment capital) is a lot of work. It’s easier to do it other places. But it was important to us to keep the business here. There’s a lot of talent here and there’s no reason we can’t build a business here. We’re proof of that.”