The story behind Clear2Pay is not your typical fairy tale success story. It's a success story that was close to 15 years of hard work in the making, starting with Belgian businessman Jurgen Ingels drafting a very basic fintech business plan on a beer card.
The story ended (but not really) very recently with Ingels signing the paperwork for the acquisition of Clear2Pay by FIS, an American company that has become the world’s largest provider of banking and payments technology solutions.
The acquisition, for €375 million or roughly half a billion US dollars, was closed earlier this month, which led to me meeting up with Ingels in Brussels to hear the story from the horse's mouth.
Clear2Pay essentially sells globally applicable solutions for secure payments processing to financial institutions from all over the world. It's tech innovation, but firmly at the back-end of banking.
It's admittedly not the sexiest of businesses, and Ingels, in a previous life Senior Investment Manager at the venture capital division of Belgium's largest commercial bank, repeatedly said his plan "wasn't exactly rocket science". There was definitely demand for the company's solutions, though: 'C2P' was on track to hit a turnover of about 110 million euros this year.
Those were good numbers but not nearly good enough for an IPO, Ingels told me in a video interview, which ultimately led to Clear2Pay looking for a buyer that would help it scale globally faster and more efficiently than it ever could on its own.
We also discussed some recent and upcoming technology-driven trends in the financial services space, and some details about and the reasoning behind the recent deal with FIS.
Clear2Pay had come close (but no cigar) to an exit by acquisition in the past two years, but in the meantime the company kept on growing and was ultimately picked up by fintech juggernaut FIS, which employs more than 39,000 people worldwide - or about 33 times as many as the Belgian company it just bought.
A serial entrepreneur and startup advisor at heart, Ingels has negotiated that he needn't stay with FIS until after a relatively short transition period. In his words: "When you sell your toys, you have the let the buyer play with them".
That means Ingels will have most of 2015 to figure out what he wants to do next. One thing's for sure: with his wealth of expertise in the banking and fintech world, and his love for startups, it will be something entrepreneurial or in the investment space. Or both.