Trustap: Payments technology for a new breed of online retail

15 Nov 2021

Conor Lyden. Image: Trustap

This Cork start-up is helping peer-to-peer online traders inspire consumer confidence with an escrow-style payment app.

Shopping online can be a high-risk activity for your wallet. As more merchants go online, so too do the scammers out for quick wins from faceless consumers. While there are advantages to e-commerce technology that gives anyone the power to trade online, there are rising risks for businesses and consumers to contend with.

Helping to secure our online shopping is Cork company Trustap. “Trustap is a secure milestone transaction platform that completely protects you from being scammed when you want to buy or sell with someone you don’t know,” explained CEO and founder Conor Lyden.

“Whether you’re buying a watch from someone on Facebook or you’re selling a car on a buy-and-sell marketplace, Trustap can ensure the transaction happens safely, efficiently and fairly for everyone involved.”

‘We want to become the standard for buying or selling with people who you don’t know and can’t trust’

With consumer consciousness driving a boost in second-hand trading online, the time couldn’t be better for a service like Trustap.

Its platform combines payments (powered by Stripe) with a transaction management system. When a purchase is made with Trustap, the buyer’s money is held in a safe hold account until all transaction milestones are met. This could be, for example, that the seller shipped the item and input the tracking details within a set time limit. Once the shipment is delivered and a complaints period has elapsed, the payment is released to the seller.

The platform is widely compatible across devices and can even be used for in-person transactions, in which case the money is released once a handover is confirmed.

As well as its own apps, Trustap is available as an end-to-end payment tool for marketplaces. It is also capable of processing transactions in multiple currencies and through various payment methods.

“There are a number of payment platforms in recent years that have gained popularity for their slick interfaces and the ease of which they can be used to send money between friends and family,” said Lyden. “At Trustap, we want to become the standard for buying or selling with people who you don’t know and can’t trust.”

Increasing consumer confidence in digital transactions is not the only recent phenomenon buoying Trustap’s success.

“We were very fortunate as a company that the pandemic influenced a huge acceleration in digital adoption,” said Lyden. “As companies adapt their business model to facilitate online transactions, it has created various partnerships for us, including Preloved.”

Preloved is a major second-hand online marketplace in the UK, claiming a userbase of 9m. Trustap is now directly integrated on Preloved, giving these millions of users that bit more confidence when they buy.

‘There were supports available to me when I was starting my business that would not have been around 10 years previous’

A first-time founder, Lyden developed the initial concept of Trustap while studying at University College Cork (UCC). He graduated in 2016 with a degree in civil engineering and a desire to step out as an entrepreneur. This led him to Ignite, a graduate business incubator from UCC.

“From there, the idea grew into a business and the growth began after leaving Ignite and we started working on the product,” said Lyden.

Trustap was officially founded in 2017 and Lyden went on to join an accelerator programme in Austin, Texas, and began creating a stir as a young entrepreneur to watch.

“The biggest challenge for me as CEO of Trustap, especially in the very early stages, was to become as knowledgeable as I could be at every part of the business,” he said. “In a start-up, you must know about sales, marketing, finance, HR and any technical issues just as well as you know your particular product or service.”

Returning to his native Cork and continuing to hone his skills, Lyden participated in CorkBIC’s 2019 Security Accelerator where Trustap was named Most Investable Company.

Investors have taken notice, with more than €2m in seed funding secured for the company. Its early investors include Enterprise Ireland and fellow Cork entrepreneur Liam Casey, who was also an early investor in Stripe.

With this funding in place, Lyden is now growing the team and preparing the company for international markets, but Cork is where the company’s heart and headquarters are.

Having doubled in size in the space of a year, the company opened a new office on St Patrick’s Quay in Cork city. It also operates out of centres in the UK, Croatia and the US.

Lyden said he finds the start-up scene where he is has “improved dramatically” in recent years, revealing yet another way in which he has been blessed by good timing.

“I’m fortunate that there were supports available to me when I was starting my business that would not have been around 10 years previous,” he said.

“I think Cork city and Ireland, despite this progress, can still do a lot more to encourage entrepreneurship at third-level and create an environment where it’s being genuinely considered by bright young people as a career path,” he added.

The immediate plan for Trustap is to secure more partnerships with online classified marketplaces like Preloved. Particularly, those without the resources to build something like Trustap in-house.

Lyden also hopes to close the year with a €10m Series A round, enabling further expansion and delivery on his plans to bring his team to 50 people.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.