Marla Johnson’s LeapXL one of 10 selected for FIS accelerator program

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 950 views 

A Little Rock-based application development company was one of 10 worldwide that will participate in the 2020 FIS Fintech Accelerator program, a partnership between financial technology leader FIS and The Venture Center in Little Rock.

LeapXL, formerly Cobbler Tech, along with the other nine selectees will be mentored by leaders from FIS and other financial institutions and will receive a monetary investment of $75,000 from FIS. This year’s program kicked off Wednesday (Aug. 5) with a virtual event featuring the award winners.

LeapXL is a drag-and-drop application development program. The company’s CEO and cofounder is Marla Johnson, who co-founded the internet services company Aristotle.

Johnson said during the kickoff event that users can upload any spreadsheet and can drag and drop to create custom reports, rapid application prototypes, and mobile apps. Changes are automatically recorded, and the system can create auditable reports.

“In the end, you have a complete picture of all your bank business and a controlled process for adding new, real-time data, and best of all, you can trust and certify your bank products’ profitability without worrying about hidden issues in your data,” she said.

This is the fifth year for the program, whose purpose is to identify and foster startup technology firms with high-potential financial technologies. This year, the cohort attracted more than 200 applicants from 30 countries.

LeapXL is one of three Arkansas-based companies that have participated during the past five years. The others are Little Rock-based FI Works and Springdale-based Teslar.

The program exists through a partnership between The Venture Center and Jacksonville, Florida-based Fidelity National Informational Services, or FIS.

The Venture Center is a nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs start, grow and scale their businesses. The state of Arkansas provides a $250,000 grant for the FIS Fintech Accelerator program.

FIS provides $1 million annually to the program. Of that, $75,000 is invested in each of the 10 recipients while $250,000 goes to The Venture Center for management expenses.

FIS is the world’s largest provider of banking payment technologies with 55,000 employees and more than 20,000 financial clients in over 110 countries. It was founded in Arkansas as Systematics Inc. in 1968 and was acquired by Alltel Information Services in 1990. It was bought by Jacksonville, Fla.-based Fidelity National in 2003. It still has a major presence in west Little Rock.

Wayne Miller, executive director of The Venture Center, said in an interview that the partnership was created as a result of relationships between FIS CEO Gary Norcross, a Tyronza, Arkansas native; Chris Cline, an FIS senior vice president and Venture Center board member; and Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce President Jay Chessir.

In a normal year, recipients spend 12 weeks in Arkansas, where they meet with bankers and subject matter experts and visit Walmart’s operations center and other parts of the state. The program closes with a Demo Day in October where recipients have seven minutes to pitch their business to an audience of financial services professionals and investors. Past graduates have secured additional funding, won industry awards and in some cases formed partnerships with FIS.

“Through our investments, we want to protect our leadership position in the existing markets that we serve,” Asif Ramji, FIS chief growth officer, said during the kickoff. “We want to expand into adjacencies and grow into new markets, so the FIS Fintech Accelerator in partnership with The Venture Center allows us to do just that. It really is a key part of our overall investment strategy at FIS to develop and bring to market the most innovative, leading edge technology innovations that advance the way the world pays, banks and invests.”

Miller said the program touts the state’s business-friendly advantages, including its low cost of living and cheap square footage costs. Seven of the past participants have opened a presence in Arkansas, though two are now defunct.

“We really do try to sell the very, very best that Arkansas has to offer, and let them understand the value of this state and that it is a heck of a lot easier to start a company in Arkansas in Little Rock than it is in San Francisco and New York, particularly these days,” he said.

The nine other participants in this year’s program are:

– Cirrus Secure, a company out of Evergreen, Colorado, that lets commercial banks offer complex commercial loans online.
– Dallas-based Dasceq, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize strategies for collections on delinquent accounts.
– Atlanta-based TrustStamp, which transforms biometric and other identifying data into an anonymous token that provides secure, private authentication.
– XpenseOne, out of Spokane, Washington, which lets banks provide an automated expense management solution to small and medium-sized businesses to manage credit card transactions.
– New York City-based Stratyfy, which helps financial institutions build credit risk assessment models that reduce unintended bias.
– Mall IQ, a company with offices in San Francisco and Istanbul, which created a location intelligence platform that helps financial institutions deliver real-time mobile messages to shoppers as they are about to make a purchase to encourage them to use a particular bank card.
– Sequretek, a company out of Mumbai, India, and Woodbridge, New Jersey, that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance cybersecurity.
– Singapore-based Silot, which helps financial institutions serve small businesses using artificial intelligence.
– Amsterdam-based Surfly, which offers co-browsing and video chat technology services along with document sharing and privacy features.