“Going Directly At The Beast”—WePay Takes on PayPal with New Tools for Online Merchants

7/21/11Follow @wroush

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selling tickets, accepting donations, sending bills, and now creating stores. By handling both the payments piece and providing the tools that people need, we make it really easy for anybody to get up-and-running in under a minute, with no merchant account, technical ability, or even an existing website.

X: What happened to the emphasis on group payments?

RA: We don’t call ourselves a “group payment platform” anymore. We still serve the same customers—generally non-techies that want to get up-and-running quickly without all the complex bells and whistles—but now we just say that “WePay will helps you collect payments online without the hassle,” because that’s really the pain point that we’re solving.

X: Does the introduction of WePay Stores represent a major “pivot” for WePay, or just an evolution?

RA: Definitely an evolution. From day 1, the direction of our product has been determined by our users. We originally built a way to bill your friends or members for group activities, like bachelor parties and group vacations. What we found was that people came to our site looking for an easy way to collect money for various different things, but “collect money” meant different things to different people.

We found, very early on, that a lot of people really needed to sell tickets to their events, not send bills, even though the profile of the user was the same. Or that they wanted to collect donations in any amount rather than sell tickets. So our strategy evolved from: “Here is one tool for one use-case” to “We help you collect payments without the hassle by providing easy-to-use tools for any use-case.”

We found that some of our users were beginning to look for more “merchant-like” tools (i.e. they also wanted to sell things online). We thought it was a perfect opportunity to better service a subset of our existing customers, while at the same time busting into the merchant space, which we think is a green field opportunity.

X: Did the group payment idea prove to be too small?

RA: I don’t think so. You can build a billion dollar business servicing just groups that want to collect money online (organizations, clubs, teams, group travel, fantasy sports, etcetera). But I don’t think the best way to acquire these groups is to call yourself a “group payment platform” because that’s not how they self-define— they’re just looking for the easiest way to collect money online.

X: How and when did you discover that users were more interested in the underlying platform and its simplicity?

RA: We just asked our users why they chose WePay over other services. It always boiled down to the same things: it takes almost no time to start collecting money online, you don’t need technical ability, or an existing website or merchant account, and you don’t need to go anywhere else to get the tools that you need. Those points became our marketing messaging and they have since driven the development of the product.

Now we know how to answer the question: “How are you different from PayPal?” The answer: “We both help you accept payments online, but WePay holds your hand through the process of going from never accepting online payments to getting up and running with whatever tool you want.” If you want to sell tickets with PayPal, you have to plug it into Eventbrite. If you want to sell items, you have to plug it into Shopify or Etsy. If you want to accept donations, you have to put a button on your own website. With WePay, you can do any of those things in under a minute, and it just works. That message, in particular, really resonated with users.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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