Gas Pos made the move to Arkansas a short eight months ago, and the future has never been brighter for the technology startup with offices in North Little Rock.
Started in Alabama, Gas Pos provides both a technological and equipment solution to a looming problem for gas station owners. Stations must convert their gas pumps and point-of-sale systems to EMV-chip readers for credit card transactions by October 2020.
The move is being mandated by MasterCard, Visa and American Express to combat what they say is $400 million in fraud from magnetic strip gas pumps and credit card machines.
Gas Pos has a two-pronged solution. On the equipment side, instead of stations having to break up the concrete and replace gas pumps at the cost of $25,000, Gas Pos would provide a plug and play module that could be installed on the pumps.
Inside the store, Gas Pos would provide software and some equipment that would allow for chip readers at the cash register for customers to use.
For gas station owners, there’s another piece, “there’s no upfront cost to the merchant — we only charge a small monthly fee,” says Josh Smith, the company’s founder and chief executive office, in a press release and added it could mean as much as $100,000 in savings for the some 70,000 independently owned gas stations and convenience owners across the country.
On a snowy November day in North Little Rock, Nannette Smith, Gas Pos’s president and chief technology officer, explained why the startup moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Arkansas and what she thought the future held for the company founded by her son.
“Little Rock is special,” she says. “From the governor to the [North Little Rock] Chamber of Commerce, everyone has been so welcoming and happy to have us here.”
The Smiths first considered Arkansas when they looked at the 2018 Venture Center FinTech Accelerator powered by FIS. The program drew 281 applicants and accepted only 10, with Gas Pos among them.
The younger Smith made the move to Arkansas in April, and his company graduated from the FinTech Accelerator program in July.
“The Venture Center and the Governor’s economic development program led by Mr. Mike Preston is what drew our attention to here,” he said by email.
Since then, Gas Pos received more good news with the announcement of a $1 million investment from Merus Capital, a Silicon Valley-based early-stage venture capital firm.
And Silicon Valley is clearly on Smith’s mind as he said the state’s efforts to mimic that environment is what made Arkansas so attractive.
“The attempt [by Arkansas] is to be the Silicon Valley of the South,” Smith says, “Or as Nannette likes to say, ‘Technology with Sweet Tea’.”
Nannette Smith also says, “The governor’s plan is that they’re trying to make Little Rock a technology hub.”
It seems to be working.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the state’s economy, and we cannot be successful without them,” says Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston. “Arkansas is emerging as a tech hub because of the startup companies that we’ve been able to build here, bring here, grow here.”
Gas Pos is the third startup company, along with Altimize and BankLabs, to move to Arkansas this year. And across the street from Gas Pos’s offices in North Little Rock’s Argenta neighborhood, a five-story, 60,000 square foot space under construction will serve as headquarters for First Orion Company, Acxiom founder Charles Morgan’s new venture that will bring some 200 employees to Main Street.
They will join the nearly 30 employees Gas Pos has now, though the company expects that number will be growing sooner rather than later, given the quality of technology students they have seen so far.
“The schools here are doing a very good job educating,” Nannette Smith says of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. “I was on campus just the other day, meeting with the dean and the students there and I was very impressed. So impressed I hired two of them and put them to work immediately.”
Josh Smith says that he sees Gas Pos having “120 engineers” working in Arkansas, along with support people who range from sales to accounting and human resources.
He agreed with his mother on what Arkansas has to offer.
“We’ve been impressed with the talent in Little Rock,” he says. “There are some extremely bright students at University of Arkansas Little Rock we just hired, so that is very exciting.”
Both Smiths, Alabama natives, said they were learning their way around Arkansas.
“We have a new guy who taught us how to call the Hogs,” Nannette says with a laugh, and Josh has already picked a favorite local restaurant.
“Larry’s Pizza. Easy choice.”