Epoch: IPSP Still Going Strong After Almost 20 Years
Two-thousand-sixteen will mark a milestone for Epoch Payment Solutions. Next year, Epoch.com will have been in business for 20 years — and considering how much competition there is in the online high-risk billing space, that is saying a lot.
Founded in 1996 and based in Santa Monica, Calif., Epoch has long since established itself as a leading Internet payment service provider (IPSP), or third-party processor. And along the way, Epoch has represented numerous companies in the adult entertainment industry.
Many things have changed in adult e-commerce since 1996. Internet speeds are much faster, adult webcam sites have exploded in popularity, mobile/wireless devices are ubiquitous, and the adult Internet is no longer the Wild Wild West.
Rand Pate, Epoch’s communications director and an employee of the company for 17 years, cites Epoch’s desire to change with the times as one of the main reasons for its longevity.
“Epoch was one the first Internet payment processors to serve the adult entertainment industry and is today, the longest established company still doing this,” Pate told XBIZ. “In 1996, e-commerce was an emerging industry, and the associated rules, regulations and laws that governed the industry were not keeping pace with the growth of technology.
“Further still, there were no hard and fast rules or reference books available, and the world of card-not-present transactions was still uncharted waters. There were many learning curves early on, and these came with the benefit of innovation and progression in the industry.”
Pate noted that the online adult industry — and e-commerce in general — is much more mature than it was in the late 1990s. “When I joined Epoch in 1998, it was a small company on the verge of exploding into something amazing,” Pate recalled. “We had more client applications each day than we could keep up with. While launching the industry’s first affiliate tracking and payment system, we were so successful that we nearly caused our servers to crash.
“The growth was staggering and some of the growing pains quite demanding. But we got through it. And it wasn’t just getting through it — it was learning from it, conquering the mind-bending hurdles, creating solutions and thriving through insistent innovation. Those were the growth years, some of the hardest yet some of the most rewarding.”
Pate continues: “Today, is a very different story. Some 19 years later, the industry has changed and the business of online commerce has matured.”
According to Pate, many of Epoch’s current employees “have been with the company for over 15 years.” Frank Gannon, a senior account manager, has been with Epoch since the early 2000s — and Gannon works closely with Harmik Gharapetian, Epoch’s vice-president of sales and marketing.
Pate explained: “The most public faces of our company are our sales executives. They are the vital link between our clients and risk management and technical support. Two of the most public faces are industry veterans Harmik Gharapetian and Frank Gannon, who attend the majority of industry shows along with other members of our sales team, including Henry Rosa, Anthony Wheatle, Andy Davis and Sinisha Golemac.”
Chief technology officer Manish Poddar heads Epoch’s development team, and according to Pate, Poddar plays a crucial role in making Epoch as mobile-minded as possible. “We are always working to optimize our internal systems, and more recent outward advancements have included additional international integration and a renewed focus on optimizing mobile transactions,” Pate observed. “We’ve had mobile-friendly payment forms for about ten years, but new technologies and innovations have since presented new opportunities.”
Pate added: “The biggest change, not only for the high-risk sector but across the board, has been the vast migration from the desktop to mobile devices. Epoch has been tracking this transition for several years, and we now find that most sites derive over 50 percent of their traffic from mobile devices. Epoch integrated responsive payment forms to address the growing number of devices and the various screen sizes on the market.”
Another way in which Epoch has evolved along the way, according to Pate, is helping live webcam sites with their billing needs. During Epoch’s early years, membership sites with monthly billing dominated adult e-commerce. But the days when cam sites took a back seat to membership sites are long gone.
Pate noted: “We’re obviously a long way from the days in the late 1990s when a garden-variety, half-baked site with a few pics could turn a profit …. The biggest difference in today’s market is that a lot of the money is being made on sites that offer what the tubes cannot: personal interaction.
“So we have seen explosive growth from sites where live people interact with consumers in front of cameras, and growth has slowed for sites with static pics and videos on a server. To be sure, some niche sites and catered fetish sites are still thriving due to the quality of their content. But overall, the times have changed. Free content is readily available, and the industry had to adapt. Even Playboy magazine is giving up their iconic nude pictorials.”
Pate continued: “As a processor, we have nothing to do with the content side of things other than ensuring that it is allowed, but we can provide the tools necessary for sites to maximize their potential earnings and in some cases, provide specific billing models that cater to new methodologies. Our system has a lot of flexibility, and we can respond quickly to new requests. That being said, we offer a lot of billing features designed to help upgrade members, improve retention, reward loyalty, and offer additional products with ease and with minimal to no integration effort.”
Many adult webmasters and models have made a fortune catering to customers all over the world. But meeting the billing needs of customers in a variety of different countries is challenging, and Pate asserted that one of Epoch’s strong points has been its ability to help adult companies meet those needs.
“As access to the Internet continues to expand and bandwidth speeds improve, more customers can be reached,” Pate stressed. “Epoch has gone to great lengths to address regional processing solutions around the world by accepting 39 payment types and converting 59 different currencies in various languages. If your site can convert foreign traffic, Epoch can address more parts of the world than any close competitor.”
Many of the companies that were involved with the online adult entertainment industry in the late 1990s or early 2000s have long since gone out of business. That includes companies owned by webmasters or models as well as payment processors. But Epoch has not only endured — it has continued to grow and expand.
“Now recognized by the card associations as a payment facilitator which passes the payment card industry compliance audit each year, Epoch is a well established, professionally recognized technology company focused on online commerce,” Pate asserted.
“We have great relationships with the card associations and a respected reputation with the banking industry. Yes, much has changed since the recognition of the third-party model by the card associations. But one thing that has never changed is our commitment to our clients’ longevity.”