WEpay founder Bill Clerico talks about how he started his company - and the challenges he faced along the way.
Bill Clerico is the CEO & Co-Founder of WEpay; a web platform aiming to provide an easier and more affordable way for businesses and non-profit organizations to accept online payments. The technology comes with many features, including the ability to send invoices, raise money for donations, and instantly create web pages. As young entrepreneurs, Bill and his team have faced many challenges. But today he will share some of the lessons he learned along the way.
Q: Tell us a little bit about what your company does and how did it start.
Bill: I started WePay with my co-founder Rich in Boston in 2008. We wanted to build a website that made it dead-simple for people to start accepting payments online. Today, we help thousands of small business owners accept credit cards over the internet. We’ve raised $20 million in venture funding, process hundreds of millions of dollars in payments annually, and employ 50 people in Palo Alto, CA.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
Bill: We recently launched “payment buttons” which make accepting payments on your own website as easy as embedding a YouTube video. We’re also working hard to improve the experience of making and accepting payments on a mobile device.
Q: Do you or have you owned any other businesses in the past, if so what happen to them?
Bill: This is the second business that I started with my current co-founder. Our first company sold taxi advertising in Hong Kong. We started that business during college, and ended up shutting it down when we graduated and I went into finance and Rich went to law school.
Q: How do you separate yourself from your competitors?
Bill: We want to be the absolute easiest way for small business owners to accept payments online. Anybody can sign up for WePay and start accepting credit card payments in under two minutes. We also pride ourselves on our excellent customer support. Our customer support staff sits right here in Palo Alto, CA and is available via phone, live chat, and email.
Q: How many people are currently using this platform, and how do you plan to keep growing?
Bill: Thousands of merchants sign up every week, and we process hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Our growth is fueled by word of mouth, inside sales, channel marketing, and strategic partnerships.
Q: What would you say was the tipping point for your business?
Bill: Our business started to accelerate when we started really focusing on making online payments easy for small business owners.
Q: What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew before starting your company?
Bill: When building a startup, there’s never a point when you feel like you’ve made it or that you’re now secure. It’s an ongoing battle.
Q: Starting out what was the worst mistake you made as an entrepreneur, and what did you learn from it?
Bill: We focused on a lot of different things when we first started this company, but all that really matters is building a great product and getting people to use it. Even now, when there are a lot more things competing for my attention, I always go back to those two high-level objectives.
Q: What is one thing that you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
Bill: I try to put myself in the customer’s shoes every day. It is very easy to get caught up in the startup echo-chamber and forget what real customers and real people are dealing with on a daily basis. Even if it is just for a minute I like to peek in on our customer support team and really internalize what the customers are saying they need.
Q: How is running a successful business different than what you thought it would be?
Bill: Running a successful business (especially in payments) is not easy, and there’s no way I can do everything myself. I’ve learned that the most important use of my time is finding great people to join our team.
Q: What was the best entrepreneurial advice you have ever been given?
Bill: The best advice I have ever been given is to surround yourself with smart people.
Q: What’s your definition of success?
Bill: Building a sustainable business that provides real value to people at a fair price. I want this business and our product to materially improve the lives of people that use it. I also want to build the kind of company that people enjoy working for.
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
Bill: “Dare to be great”