Tio payment kiosk | BCBusiness

Tio payment kiosk | BCBusiness
North Vancouver's Tio Networks has successfully "pivoted" its bill payment business several times to take advantage of changing market conditions.

Successful growth depends on maintaining the agility of a startup.

When new businesses change direction to find better markets or other revenue-generating opportunities, it is usually referred to as a “pivot.” However, as business conditions change ever more rapidly, larger and established businesses are also continuously pivoting to take advantage of changing market conditions and business landscapes. Tio Networks Corp., a North Vancouver company that has been operating for almost 15 years, has pivoted several times.

The Problem

By 2008, Tio, formerly known as Info Touch Technologies Corp., which provided computer access in public facilities such as airports, had achieved success in the southern U.S. with its chain of convenience-store kiosks that allowed Americans without bank accounts (the “unbanked” or the “underbanked”) to pay their bills with cash. However, Tio and its kiosks were locked into its target market – largely Spanish-speaking Americans – and couldn’t expand.

The Solution

Tio CEO Hamed Shahbazi and his advisors recognized that the company had painted itself into a corner with its kiosk-based services. So the company launched a soul-searching exercise that would include looking for new markets and outlets.

First came thorough self-examination that included asking what the founder and his team were passionate about, what the company did well and where the company could go. Shahbazi, who likens the exercise to looking at a company as flowing water that is always moving and finding new routes, calls it establishing a new trajectory.

He realized the company was not simply serving the underbanked with kiosks, but was in the bill-payment business. Soon, it started to move in that direction, targeting retail locations of all kinds that drew traffic or required regular bill payments.

To test this theory, the company put kiosks into grocery stores, then began focusing on stores that sell mobile phones, where its software allows people to pay their bills directly. Eventually it moved into mobile bill-payment services for utilities such as California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other companies that regularly bill customers.

Today Tio serves two groups with its expedited payment technology: the traditional unbanked, who enthusiastically adopt mobile wireless technology because it is often cheaper than alternatives; and the vast group of last-minute payers, who frequently take advantage of this mobile online bill-paying technology.

Tio now has three distribution channels for its technology: kiosks, in-store point-of-sale and mobile or web. Recently, it added the Tio Wallet, a “bank agnostic” financial distribution service in which the 60 million underbanked people in the U.S. can load up financial credits and then distribute them to bill and loan payments.

Today, Tio Networks processes about $1 billion a year in financial transactions. In the first quarter of the 2012 fiscal year, it earned revenue of $10.5 million, and is projected to take in over $40 million for the year. Tio is now included among BCBusiness's Top 100 Companies.


• Determine where you can add value.
Understand what you can do, who you can do it for and how you can do more of it.

• Find a worthwhile market.
Look for natural opportunities to expand your scope as needed.

• Learn as you go.
In new markets, apply lessons learned in previous moves. New technology can provide leverage to other services and markets.