Company President Mitch Farber, one of Netbilling's three founders, said his team's responsible and realistic outlook on business growth has made it clear to the industry that it works with its merchants' best interests in mind, no matter how tempting the growth opportunity.
"We have never taken any risks that would jeopardize our core business," Farber said. "Our system and all of our services have been designed around that fact and we continue to develop on a daily basis. The chance we took years ago was to stick to being a merchant account processor, which has paid off for us and our merchants tremendously, especially over the past few years."
Farber, along with his wife at the time, Sarah, and David Amsellem, founded Netbilling in 1998, when looking for a less expensive processing service for the handful of adult sites they were running. They ended up purchasing the adult merchant division of the company they processed with, and a year later had completed development of their own custom software that offered clients tools and services that were lacking at the time.
What was at first a basic payment gateway has developed into an intricate system that offers credit card and ACH processing, fraud scrubbing, recurring billing and ‘round-the-clock call center services. The founders wanted to ensure that merchants have complete control and flexibility over their billing needs.
"Our main goal was to build a name for ourselves and be involved in building a system that could provide the same services that other up-and-coming processors such as Epoch, DMN, CCBill, and iBill were providing," Farber said, "but for merchants with their own merchant accounts."
Farber said at the time, merchant accounts were relatively easy to obtain because the credit card associations had not yet begun to heavily enforce chargeback regulations, but once they started, several banks involved in adult backed out of the market. Fortunately for Netbilling, its bank relationships were solid and the company grew stronger as a result.
"We focused on building relationships with merchant account reps and banks, fraud scrubbing and robust reporting," Farber said. "As the industry evolved, the core needs of the merchants stayed the same."
But Netbilling's team are aware of the need to keep up with industry trends and to develop and offer up-to-date software, tools and services to not only compliment the methods of business being utilized by existing and potential clients, but to also remain compliant with changing rules and regulations.
"As the card associations continue to understand as well as scrutinize ecommerce merchants and providers, especially in the high-risk industries such as adult, travel and others, the processing and billing industry will continue to evolve and adapt," Farber said. "PCI compliance is very important for merchants and processors especially as hackers get more sophisticated."
Because of this, Farber said more individual merchants are relying on companies like Netbilling to protect cardholder data and provide the tools necessary to protect their own private information. Security is essential for member retention and attraction.
But Farber notes that even the programs with highest quality, most popular content, and most positive reputations are experiencing setbacks from the recession, and it's just a fact to accept and use as inspiration to investigate new revenue streams.
Farber has noticed a boom in live cam and pay-per-minute providers, and he touts that many of Netbilling's merchants' continue to profit during the recession due to the fact that they've used innovation and forward thinking to stay on top.
"I am not saying anything new," Farber said. "Have a backup plan for everything. Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. The smartest program owners understand that they need to be involved not just in the production and marketing side of their business, but all aspects including billing and hosting to continue to thrive."
Keeping that in mind, Netbilling also co-owns a small — but growing — hosting company called Right Hosting, which Farber said will be expanding its in-house call center services as a result of an influx of new clientele.
Most recently Farber has noticed a migration of merchants moving from exclusively using third-party processors to employing merchant accounts in order to retain more control over the financial side of their businesses.
As a result, Netbilling is ready with new features, including an iPhone VTERM app, offering its application programming interface in new languages with new features, and soon implementing European debit services.
"As we all know, the adult industry — and ecommerce as well — is going through many changes," Farber said. "Along with consolidation of sites and buyouts of companies, hurdles such as tube site adaptation, cross-sale restrictions, increased pressure from the credit card associations and the economy in shambles have led companies to really look closely at who they trust to handle their money, and who they turn to for the best technology to accomplish what they want to do and save money in the process."
And in order to get in front of the eyes of the key decision-makers looking for a processor to trust, Netbilling understands the importance of not only attending industry trade shows, but being involved on a higher branding level.
Farber said the company has a presence at 90 percent of the annual events; and being accessible has been the most successful method of maintaining relationships and attracting new business. He also makes a point to keep an eye out for other providers who might be valuable allies.
"Many of our merchants have my personal cellphone number and know they can personally reach me at any time — I think that goes a long way," Farber said. "We have partnered with many, many merchant account providers and are always looking at bank offerings to see if they are solid and have something our merchants can use."
Farber urges industry members never to take anyone or anything for granted, and to always be conscious of the fact that the "Joe" you meet at the next trade show could one day be your next big business break.
"Success has come after so much hard work over the past 11 years but it was inspiring to be part of an industry where I could make so many personal friends, not just from our clients but others we have met as well," Farber said. "It has been very inspiring to be able to create something that is needed and loved by so many, even with all the competition we face."