WePay turns 6!

Today is a big day for WePay! It was exactly 6 years ago today that our founders, Bill and Rich, left their jobs with nothing but an idea for a group payments service, an idea that became WePay.

And while there have definitely been some twists and turns along the way (You can read a little more about some of the things that happened and the lessons we learned in this blog from Bill) we’re excited to be where we are now: in position as the payments company to power the next wave of innovative e-commerce platforms online. 

So thanks for 6 great years, and here’s to many more! 

Our CEO’s Advice to YC Grads

Today Y Combinator is hosting a demo day for its graduating batch of startups at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Eighty-five companies will present on stage hoping to convince investors to fund their ideas.
Our CEO & Co-founder, Bill Clerico knows exactly what those founders are feeling today, because he and his co-founder Rich Aberman were in the exact same position five years ago, as part of YC’s 2009 class. 
 
Bill shared his perspective today on his personal blog.
 
Good luck to all participating!

WePay takes the Ice Bucket Challenge

If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve probably encountered the Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral awareness and fundraising campaign started by Boston College athlete Pete Frates aimed at fighting Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The rules are simple: once the challenge is received, you have 24 hours to either post a video of yourself dumping a bucket of ice water on your head or to donate to ALS research, and then once that’s done, you challenge someone else to do the same. Everyone from pro athletes to movie stars to prominent political families is taking the challenge.

And now, there’s at least one tech company. Here’s WePay accepting the challenge:

In addition to braving the bucket, we’re making a $500 donation to the Pete Frates fund, and a separate $500 donation to the ALS Association, a national non-profit organization that conducts research, care services, public education, and public policy aimed at putting an end to ALS.

We’ve challenged David Hornik at August Capital, Paul Purcell at Continental Investors, Chris Howard at Ignition Partners and our partners at GoFundMe to take the challenge themselves. ALS research is an eminently worthy cause, and it would be great to see the tech community step up and help put a stop to this terrible disease.

You have 24 hours to respond!



Choosing the payments processor that’s right for your business

Once a company decides that it needs to have payment processing as a part of its product offerings, there are a number of ways to go about doing that. One of the easiest ways is to work with a payments services provider (PSP) like WePay. That lets you harness a payments infrastructure that’s already been built out instead of recreating the wheel by building your own, and depending on which PSP you go with, you might also get help with things like regulatory compliance and customer support.

But PSPs aren’t the only game in town. We’re a fairly recent innovation in an industry that in some regards hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, and as you might well imagine, there’s a lot of different legacy players offering a range of different services.

It goes without saying that we here at WePay have built the best possible payments solution for specific types of businesses —  online platforms like crowdfunding sites, small business software providers and marketplaces that provide value by linking payers with payees without controlling one side of the transaction the way a traditional merchant might. Nobody else in the industry offers the same blend of flexibility, regulatory compliance and 100 percent safety from losses due to fraud.

Yet payments is an area where there really doesn’t exist a one size fits all solution, despite what PayPal might like you to think. Depending on the nature of your business and what your goals are, a different type of payments processor might be right for you. Here’s some of the different types of payments partners along with their pros and cons.

Gateways

Gateway companies are the OGs of the payments world, providing a technology layer that enables a company to interface with an acquiring bank to process transactions. If you are looking to build your own payment solution from scratch, then you will probably need to work with a gateway. Gateways are not interoperable — every acquiring bank has different gateways that they work with. Some, particularly those that are wholly owned subsidiaries of an acquirer like Vantiv, only work with a single bank. Gateways offer flexibility and a lower per-transaction fee at the expense of significant upfront and ongoing costs associated with creating and running a payments system.

Examples: Chase Paymentech, First Data, Cybersource

Pros: 

  • Extremely flexible with regard to the flow of funds, user experience, etc
  • Large, reliable companies that have been around for decades
  • Typically, lower per-transaction fees as middlemen are cut out

Cons:

  • Geared toward larger companies
  • Developer tools are often outdated and hard to work with
  • Contract negotiations take a long time and can be taxing
  • The need to build comprehensive risk, compliance, and security teams and systems in-house at great expense
  • Pricing is complicated — most work on a cost plus model with upfront costs, monthly minimums, exclusive contracts and termination penalties
  • Not interoperable — going international will likely mean using a different gateway to interact with a different acquirer in each market, meaning a huge development load for every new expansion

Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs)

Independent Sales Organizations, or ISOs, are the value added retailers of the payments world. Their primary purpose is to market and sell merchant accounts to businesses on behalf of an acquiring bank. Most ISOs have a single acquirer they work with, but some of the larger ones work with several. It’s hard to generalize too much about ISOs, as it is a diverse industry — on the small end they may be little more than a sales office peddling merchant accounts to local brick-and-mortar businesses, while larger ISOs often offer a greater degree of technology, service, and support to their customers. ISOs are generally unsuited for platform payments, as their primary use case is providing merchant accounts for an end retailer.

Examples: Too many to list. Here’s Visa’s list of registered ISOs.

Pros:

  • Makes it much easier to acquire a merchant account from an acquiring bank
  • Generally you have a single point of contact at an ISO which may lead to a higher level of support
  • May offer a way for merchants in riskier industries to get an account, as some ISOs are willing to underwrite some of the risk in exchange for higher fees

Cons:

  • Platform payments are not a core competency, best for traditional e-commerce sites
  • Setup may be technically difficult
  • The need for platforms and larger e-commerce sites to build comprehensive risk, compliance, and security teams and systems in house at great expense
  • Smaller ISOs may offer little in the way of additional services beyond a basic merchant account

Payment Service Providers (PSP)

Payment Service Providers, also called PSPs and payment facilitators are a newer class of payments companies that bundle an acquirer, processor, gateway and support for alternate payment methods into a complete payments solution. PSPs are very developer-focused, providing modern tools like APIs and SDKs as well as a complete technology stack for payments processing. The downside is that the most regulatory compliant of them will impose their own checkout flow on a transaction, which can hurt brand building and the user experience, while some that are more flexible offer less in the way of fraud mitigation and regulatory compliance.

Examples: WePay, Braintree, Stripe, Balanced, PayPal

Pros:

  • Modern developer tools and pre-built technology stacks that make it much easier to onboard new users and start accepting payments fast
  • Lower upfront costs and better implementation support.
  • Better adapted to the needs of platform companies
  • (WePay specific) Handles 100 percent of regulatory compliance and risk management issues, as well as mitigating losses due to chargebacks

Cons:

  • Higher transaction fees
  • Often co-branded, diluting the platform’s brand
  • Often impose their own checkout flow, which can hurt conversions

To Sum Up

There are a lot of players in the payments space, all of them with slightly different product offerings geared to different types of businesses. A large multinational company is going to want to work with different partners than a mom-and-pop retailer, and a platform company is going to have different needs than a company that’s an end merchant. The key is finding the right kind of payments provider that meet your specific needs. If you’re a platform looking for an easy and simple payment API, WePay can help. Contact our API team at API@WePay.com to hear about how we make processing payments simple, safe, and profitable.

 

WePay’s Bill Clerico talks DevOps at Rackspace Solve

Monday, we at WePay had the pleasure of attending Rackspace Solve in San Francisco, the first of several major conferences by Rackspace aimed at showing how various companies are using the cloud to solve tough business problems.

Our CEO Bill Clerico gave one of the first talks of the morning on a problem that every startup eventually runs into: scaling up to meet massive user demand without falling flat on your face.

Anybody who’s not gone through it would probably put that in the “good problems to have” category, but make no mistake: scaling is one of the toughest challenges in the technology business, something that takes a robust DevOps strategy to tackle. We would know, since WePay has faced some unique scaling challenges. Put it this way — the payment volume we process is set to more than double this year, and it will double again next year if we have anything to say about it. To keep up with demand, we’ve hired about 20 people in the last month, mostly in engineering, at a company that’s only about 60 people strong.

In other words, getting to scale is a major initiative here at WePay, one on which we’ve worked closely with Rackspace. We were one of the first customers for Rackspace’s DevOps Automation Services, which helped us to keep our service running at a time when we were facing unprecedented demand, and has continued to help us as we look to take on even more volume.

You can watch Bill’s full talk at the video above, but here’s some takeaways in the meantime:

The time to think about DevOps is now: Bill said that if he had one do-over at WePay, it would be to have started thinking about building great infrastructure earlier in the process, because it’s something that sets a company up for success at every stage. In the early days, the understandable temptation is to focus technical talent exclusively on product, but if you don’t also spend time building out great infrastructure, it’s easy to get stuck with early mistakes that will hurt you down the road, Bill said.

“As a technical founder, you think you can just go on Stack Overflow and find what you need solve any problem, but that’s really not the case,” he said. “You can’t have great DevOps just by reading some blog.”

DevOps isn’t just a technical problem: Because DevOps is a problem with a technical solution, it’s tempting to think of it as just a problem for the technical side of the business. But a poor or non-existent DevOps strategy hurts every part of a company. It’s a customer service problem, because especially in the enterprise  zero downtime is the one of the No. 1 demands that your customers make of you. It’s a product problem, because bad infrastructure limits how fast product teams can work and how well they can innovate. (With due respect to Mark Zuckerberg, you need to move fast, but if you break things every time you do, that’s a problem.) DevOps even affects recruiting, Bill said.

“I’ve certainly found it to be the case that the best engineers, the ones you really want to hire, won’t want to work on crappy infrastructure,” he said.

Just because DevOps is important doesn’t mean it needs to be entirely in-house: At the same time, DevOps is often a problem with peaks and valleys — sometimes your servers are getting hammered and you need a full team working around the clock, and sometimes nothing is happening and you’ll struggle to find work for just one person. That being the case, don’t be afraid of working with an outside team, Bill said. In WePay’s case, working with Rackspace enabled the company to be very agile, scaling up to meet demands and get support when it was needed and then scaling down when things were more stable. Outsourcing can be an important tool in the arsenal.