Welcome to PYMNTS.com’s 2013 CEO Series: a quick and concise glimpse into the minds of the leaders of the payments industry and how they view innovation, change and growth. We’ll ask each top exec the same six questions about the payments industry to gauge who they view as innovation experts and why they feel their company stands out. What advice do these leaders have to offer to those looking to survive in a complex and dynamic industry? On PYMNTS.com, you can find out.
In our second installment, we spoke with Bill Clerico, CEO of WePay, to learn his thoughts on customer interaction and payments innovation. Clerico also spoke about his company’s recent iOS app release, and how it addresses his company’s goal of making payments accessible from anywhere at any time. Who does Clerico view as one of payments’ best innovators? Find out below.
PYMNTS.com: How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?
Clerico: WePay’s approach to innovation has always been customer-driven. When we first launched WePay in March 2010, our product was designed for group payments. We soon realized that other customers, including small businesses, were using our tools in ways we didn’t expect. Once we started talking to the small businesses about their needs, we realized that there was a huge opportunity to help them get paid fast and without hassle, and that’s where our innovation has been focused ever since.
What is the most innovative thing that you have introduced into the market, and what value did it deliver to the stakeholder group that was its target?
We recently introduced one of our most innovative products to date – an iOS mobile app that allows service providers to get paid anywhere, anytime. We felt that the needs of small business service providers weren’t being met by existing mobile payment apps, and the new app offers these businesses everything they need to get paid. Now whether they’re on the road or in the office they have access to everything people love about WePay – professional invoices, credit card processing, and unparalleled customer support – all without requiring any extra hardware or a dongle. This is a really exciting day for WePay, and I think our customers will agree.
Where do you look for innovative ideas and why?
We look for inspiration and innovative ideas in our customers’ day-to-day working lives. Small business service providers make up over half of all U.S. businesses, numbering 14.2 million strong. This $1.1 trillion market includes independent contractors, designers, accountants, marketing professionals, dog walkers, babysitters, and stylists – to name a few. We visit them and get into deep detail about their needs and business processes so we can develop the best products to help them get paid.
What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?
I think most people underestimate the complexity of innovating within the confines of existing banks and regulations. We try to make getting paid super easy for our users, but the technology and risk underwriting processes we have built on the back end are quite complicated.
What person or company do you think “gets” innovation and why – and, conversely, who or what has missed it and why?
An example of a company that gets innovation is Uber. They took an outdated industry that is bogged down complicated regulations and gave it an overhaul, making it an absolute pleasure to hire a car and driver – I think that is super impressive. We hear every day from our customers that a company that still does not get it is PayPal. They’ve been talking about updating their processes so that customers don’t get funds frozen and held for quite some time now, but we haven’t seen any progress yet.
What advice would you give a young innovator in this space and why would you tell her to heed it?
Listen to your customers. We spend lots of time watching customers use our product and studying their businesses, and yet every hour I spend with a customer I still learn something new.
CEO and co-founder of WePay
Bill is CEO and co-founder of WePay, where he drives the company’s vision, strategy and growth. Before founding WePay, Bill worked in investment banking at Jefferies & Company, where he advised technology companies on M&A and capital market transactions. Previously, he worked for the U.S. Army’s Communications Engineering Research Command and in electronic trading at Goldman Sachs. Bill has been named one of Business Insider’s Silicon Valley 100 and one of BusinessWeek’s Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs. He has a B.S. in Computer Science from Boston College.