Four payment technology companies created a foundation for what’s become the Portland area’s cluster of payment technology companies.

WEX

Founded: 1983, as Wright Express

Services: Provides fuel cards and payment services to companies with vehicle fleets; it has expanded into travel and health-care industries

Current CEO: Melissa Smith

Employees: 1,200 globally, 600 in Maine

Revenue, 2013: $717.5 million

CLAREON CORP.

Founded: 2000

Services: Developed a platform to facilitate digital payments between businesses

Founding CEO: Paul Walsh, who was a former CEO of Wright Express (now WEX)

Clareon, a spinoff of the Bank of Boston, could easily have been headquartered in Boston, but Walsh wanted to base it in Portland, according to Frank Jaffe, who co-founded Clareon and was its chief security officer.

“Paul was of the opinion that he liked Portland and he was damned if he was going to move. The real estate prices in Boston were high compared to the costs in Maine, so the decision was made to relocate the business to Maine,” Jaffe said. “It made the venture capital guys uncomfortable because they were unsure we could attract sufficient talent to Portland to be viable. But Portland is actually a wonderful little city and a great place to live and we were able to do that.”

Clareon developed its own platform, called PayMode, to allow businesses to pay each other electronically rather than mailing checks. The company raised $45 million in venture capital and was making a name for itself. An Associated Press article about PayPal from October 2000 cites Clareon as a competitor. But Clareon burned through that cash without being able to replenish it with revenue and in October 2002 it filed for bankruptcy.

“We raised $45 million, but it was in the go-go Internet spending time, so we spent $52 million and the capital markets collapsed,” said Jaffe, who now runs his own information security firm in Portland. “We were created the day before the Nasdaq hit its peak and started on a downward trend.”

Although Clareon is defunct, its payment platform lives on. Fleet Bank, which was later acquired by Bank of America, bought Clareon out of bankruptcy for its technology. In 2009, Portsmouth, N.H.-based Bottomline Technologies purchased the platform from Bank of America and renamed it PayMode-X. The product-development team is still based in Maine, at offices in South Portland just down the road from WEX’s headquarters. It employs more than 80 people in that office, according to Tom Gaillard, PayMode-X’s general manager.

PayMode-X, a little known member of Portland’s payment cluster, has more than 250,000 businesses enrolled in its network that send $140 billion in electronic payments annually, Gaillard said.

“We believe we’re one of the largest business-to-business payment networks in the world,” Gaillard said.

FIRST MERCHANTS BANCARD SERVICES

Founded: 1989

Services: Credit card payment processing for merchants

Founders: Stephen and James Goodrich

Brothers Stephen and James Goodrich founded First Merchants Bancard Services in 1989 in Portland’s Time and Temperature building. It in was an old-school payment processor that signed up retail clients, supplied them with a point-of-sale credit card terminals and processed their payments.

First Merchants was acquired by an out-of-state company that closed the Portland office in 2002. That stranded work force went on to populate three companies in the payment processing space, the most well-known being PowerPay, which is located in the former Portland Public Market building and employees roughly 170 people. The other two are Nationwide Payment Solutions in Scarborough and Vision Payment Solutions in Portland.

Jamie Nonni was one of those laid off after First Merchants was acquired. Rather than look for another job, he decided to start his own business. He founded Nationwide Payment Solutions in 2002. The company made the Inc. 5,000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country from 2009 to 2012. Today, the company employs 66 people at its Scarborough headquarters and pulls in just shy of $20 million in revenue a year.

“We’re actually a pretty good success story,” Nonni said. “Most people have never heard of us, yet we have 20,000 customers.”

Nonni also has spun off Municipay, which in June received a $287,600 development loan from the Maine Technology Institute. That company has developed a payment platform to allow municipalities and universities to manage the myriad payments they receive – from taxes to vehicle registration to parking tickets, etc. – on one platform.

INOVANT

Founded: 2000 as a subsidiary of Visa

Founding president: John Partridge, a former executive with Unum in Portland

Services: It developed and managed Visa’s payment software applications

Visa closed Inovant in 2007 and outsourced the jobs to India, then transferred them to Visa’s headquarters in California, according to Matt Cordes, a former employee. After Visa shuttered the shop, many former Inovant employees moved to WEX, including George Hogan, now WEX’s senior vice president of its international division.

And in their wake:

CASHSTAR

Founded: 2008

Connection to original four: None, but co-founder David Stone had previously worked with John Partridge, Inovant’s president, at Unum.

Services: Develops digital gift card programs and marketing campaigns for retailers such as Starbucks and Best Buy

Current CEO: Ben Kaplan

Employees: 100 nationwide, 85 in Maine

Revenue, 2013: $16 million

BLUETARP FINANCIAL

Founded: 2000

Connection to original four: None, but founder Brian Rigney eventually left BlueTarp to work for WEX and CashStar

Services: Provides credit and payment services to building supply companies

Current CEO: Scott Simpson

Employees: Roughly 90

Revenue, 2013: Between $10 million and $20 million

POWERPAY

Founded: 2003. In 2012, it was acquired by EVO Payments International

Connection to original four: PowerPay’s founder, Stephen Goodrich, was co-founder of First Merchants Bancard Services

Services: Processes electronic payments for small and medium-sized businesses

Current CEO: Jim Raftice

Employees: 175

Revenue, 2013: Did not disclose

NATIONWIDE PAYMENT SOLUTIONS

Founded: 2002

Connection to original four: Jamie Nonni, Nationwide Payment Solution’s CEO, was an employee of First Merchants Bancard Services

Current CEO: Jamie Nonni

Employees: 66

Revenue, 2013: just shy of $20 million

VISION PAYMENT SOLUTIONS

Founded: 2003

Connection to original four: Many former First Merchants Bancard employees, including Jim Raftice, now PowerPay’s CEO, went to work at Vision Payment Solutions

Services: Payment processing services

Current CEO: Eric Hannelius

Employees: 20

Revenue, 2013: Did not disclose

DAVO TECHNOLOGIES

Founded: 2000, in New Jersey

Connection to original four: None

Services: Developing a payment platform to allow merchants to pay sales tax to states

CEO: Owen Brown. David Joseph, Davo Technologies’ chairman and co-founder, lives in Maine and is contemplating moving the company to the area

Employees: 4

Revenue, 2013: Did not disclose

PAYMODE-X

Founded: 2000

Connection to original four: Paymode-X is all that remains of Clareon Corp., the Portland-based startup that went bankrupt in 2002. Today, it is a division of Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Bottomline Technologies

Services: Provides a digital payment platform for business-to-business transactions

Current general manager: Tom Gaillard

Employees: More than 80

Revenue, 2013: Did not disclose