Tech start-up of the week: WorldNet

20 May 2012

Will Byrne, CEO, WorldNet, and John Clarke, head of product innovation, demonstrate Payjack on iPhone and iPad

This week our tech start-up to watch is WorldNet. Around since 2008, it has come up with a new tech innovation called Payjack to allow small businesses accept credit card payments via their mobile.

Payjack just launched in the Irish marketplace in the past week and according to WorldNet’s CEO Will Byrne, it’s the first mobile phone app here to allow companies take credit card payments via either iPhone, iPad or Android devices.

In the US, for instance, Square introduced a similar mobile –payment model last year. Incidentally Square’s CEO is Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Irish small businesses and payments

But back to Irish soil, Byrne claims that over 250,000 businesses operating in Ireland today don’t have access to credit card payment facilities.

“It’s a huge missed opportunity for these businesses to sell their goods and services and to get instant payments,” he says.

And he says that Payjack is all about helping small firms keep a healthy cashflow, adds Byrne.

“Traditionally, there hasn’t been a suitable product available for small businesses, hence the reliance on cheques and cash. Our product provides such a product by tapping in to the technology that’s already out there,” explains John Clarke, head of product innovation with WorldNet.

48-hour approval turnaround time

As for the Payjack technology, it will support both credit and debit card payments, and Byrne says there is a fast sign-up process for companies to apply for the service – just five minutes in all.

“After a company applies online, there’s a 48-hour approval turnaround time. Once they’re approved a company can download the app and start taking their first payments.”

He says that WorldNet spent 12 months of in-house development on Payjack. The company itself is based at Media Cube, which is on the campus of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

“Today, we employ about half as many staff as we need!  We currently employ just short of 20 staff, mostly on the IT design, development and support side. By year-end, the number is likely to be closer to 30,” explains Byrne.

And he says that Payjack uses en-to-end encryption technology so that card details will never stored on a phone. “Customers get a receipt by email or a text message. The business downloads our API to their phone. The credit card details are captured on API and fully decrypted instantly after the payment is authorised,” explains Byrne.

WorldNet’s origins

So here’s a little bit more about WorldNet.

It was back in 2008 that Will Byrne set up WorldNet along with John Clarke and Billy Saunderson. The trio, who had a combined experience of over 30 years in the payments industry, had identified a market opportunity in providing multi-channel payment processing solutions.

Their focus was on e-commerce and mobile payments, but the company has since added on a social media payments portfolio, in the Irish marketplace as well as internationally.

Explains Byrne: “As a management team we had a good mix of business and technology skills and felt the time was right to launch our own business.”


Having launched just before the the credit crash in 2008, Byrne says that the challenges at the outset were similar to what most start-ups experience.

“Our main challenge was to secure enough funding to get the business up and running and to sustain it through the initial growth and expansion phases.”

He says that, while the initial funding was provided by the three founders, Enterprise Ireland proved to be a great support.

“It provided some matching funding at a number of critical points in the evolution of the business,” explains Byrne.

Another challenge for WorldNet was expanding and growing the business in other markets, initially in the UK and more recently in European markets such as France, Spain and the Nordic region,” he explains.

“We were fortunate enough to have extensive contacts in the payments market around Europe and as a result we were able to gain new market entry by developing a series of business partnerships and alliances.”  

Here and now

So where is WorldNet at right now? Byrne says that the company now has extensive business in the UK, Sweden, France and Spain.

“We have also expanded to the US through another partner relationship. In 2011, over 80pc of our revenues came from outside Ireland and the figure for 2012 will be higher,” he claims. 

As for Enterprise Ireland, WorldNet is now a member of its Accelerated Growth programme,

In-house software development

According to Byrne, a key element of WorldNet’s success up to now has been down to the fact that all of the company’s software design and development is done in-house.

“That way we benefit from having a close-knit group of highly skilled, IT professionals working with our business strategy and the product sales team.

“The Payjack product was an in-house initiative from concept all the way through to market delivery,” he adds.  

Advice for start-ups

And what about Byrne’s advice for aspiring self-starters out there?

“My advice is to develop a one-year to three-year business plan and to be brutally honest with yourself about your product, the competition and the market(s) to choose to operate in,” he explains.

“Develop your financial plan – then take your revenue projections and halve them, take your cost projections and double them! Most people overestimate the scale and timing of their revenues and underestimate their costs. 

“In most cases, new business owners are investing their savings, their reputation and their future in the new venture. You have got to be a committed optimist to succeed and a cautious realist to avoid failure!”

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic