Payments firm a possibility for area |

Payments firm a possibility for area

NNBW staff

A Bay Area entrepreneur who has set his sights on building a company in Reno thinks he’s struck the ideal way for smartphone users to pay for retail purchases.

The trick now is gaining acceptance for the SmartPay app that Tom Heeter developed with a team of 10 developers during the past three years.

The SmartPay app won first place in the Web/software mobile division in the 2012 Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge, which looked at companies throughout California and northern Nevada.

If Heeter can parlay that recognition into a commercial operation, he hopes to establish back-office operations, and maybe more, in Reno. The company currently is working out of an executive-suite headquarters in Reno, but Heeter continues to live in California.

“I have seen that too often California’s political environment has had a chilling effect on the spirit of entrepreneurship and feel that Reno generally has a very positive and loyal pro-business climate,” he says.

The SmartPay app works like a digital wallet and can replace debit or credit cards, Heeter says. It directly connects the retailer to the consumer rather than electronically passing sensitive financial information through a third party such as a bank or credit union.

Consumers scan a QR code established by retailers and enter an amount they want to pay. Funds are transferred directly to the retailer.

Heeter has been developing the app for three years and expects it to launch at the end of this month.

The technology is patented but faces stiff competition domestically. Foreign markets may holder greater promise, he says.

“Once we get little bit of traction, the market is huge,” says Heeter. “This is one of those things that if we can put out a reasonably good product it could be huge.”

Raising seed money has been challenging, Heeter says, but he’s seen decent financial contributions through crowdsource funding.