WePay Discovers Its Hidden Talent: Social Risk Evaluation

8/1/12Follow @wroush

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connected with an adequate number of people who also seem to be legitimate? If they are a service provider, do LinkedIn and Yelp and the Better Business Bureau have reviews about them?

WePay doesn’t use such information to stop merchants at the door, but rather to judge whether to move forward with the transactions they initiate. “We let everyone sign up,” Clerico says. “It’s more about, do we allow them to process, and do we allow them to receive the money the next day, the next week, or the next month? Ninety-nine percent of the time, we underwrite the merchant, they are legitimate, and the payments sail through with no problem.”

In the last year, WePay has put a lot of effort into building application programming interfaces, or APIs, that other Web-based companies can use to tap into its payment infrastructure. (For a fee, of course: WePay earns money by keeping a flat 3.5 percent of each transaction.) Already, the company has 100 API partners doing business on the platform, including Fundable and another fundraising site called GoFundMe.

“Allowing third parties to leverage our API and our onboarding process removes a barrier for them, and allows them to choose us over another payment provider,” Aberman says. When GoFundMe tested WePay’s payment infrastructure against PayPal’s, Clerico says, the startup saw a double-digit lift both in the number of new organizations signing up to accept donations and in the number of donors submitting payments.

Aberman and Clerico say there’s a lot of room for the company to grow, both by adding more API partners and by signing up merchants who don’t yet have an online presence. Over the long term, of course, the startup also hopes to take more and more business away from PayPal. And its social risk evaluation technology will continue to be the foundation for all of its services.

So if you’re a small business owner and you’d like to give your customers the option to pay you through WePay, you’d better start thinking harder about curating your social media profiles. “It’s not like we are making judgments as to your character or your worthiness,” Aberman says. But increasingly, he says, “people are going to use your online identity to verify your offline identity, which is the opposite of how it was 10 years ago.”

In fact, he says, if an applicant doesn’t have a Facebook profile, that’s “a pretty big fraud signal.” So don’t feel bad about all that time you spend on social networks—just be careful about the friends you pick.

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

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