From inception, Vendo has focused on overcoming five main roadblocks that can prevent an interested shopper from turning into a paying customer: language, pricing and currency, customer service, payment methods, and fraud and risk management. CEO and President Mitch Platt knew early on that failing to mitigate even one of these factors could mean losing a potential sale, so he made sure Vendo developed a strategy to reduce friction around each.
This strategy entailed several stages. First, the company worked to localize the user experience as much as possible by translating the entire checkout process into 21 languages, and delivering “fanatical customer service” by offering toll-free numbers in the largest markets. Platt says Vendo pioneered optimized pricing based on the consumer’s local currency and geography.
We remove business complexity, decrease risk and promote revenue growth through cutting-edge AI tools to help merchants fulfill their potential and create raving fans.
When it came to fraud and risk management, his vision was to address the issue equally from both the merchant and consumer perspectives, to foster trust among consumers in the checkout process while simultaneously protecting merchants and getting the maximum number of “good transactions” through the door.
To that end, Vendo sought to develop its Artificial Intelligence Fraud Identification System (AIFIS) to outperform off-the-shelf top-tier third-party competitors, most of which, Platt explains, are designed for retail and mainstream sectors. Now, after millions of transactions, AIFIS has seen continuous enhancements.
Among other milestones, Vendo offered dynamic pricing to help vendors find the right price and maximize conversion and lifetime value early on. In parallel, the company set out to develop a robust and advanced statistical back end, providing clients with critical business insights to help them boost their performance.
On an organizational level, Platt highlights Vendo's early remote-first strategy, implemented 13 years ago. Starting off with a hybrid model that gave employees the choice to work remotely or in the office, Vendo was already 100% remote by the time the pandemic rolled around. This also afforded the advantage of being more readily able to recruit talent from anywhere in the world, rather than being constrained geographically.
Reflecting on the company’s most recent accomplishments and plans for the years to come, Platt opens up about Vendo’s story and approach, in this exclusive interview.
XBIZ: What were a few of your most significant achievements as a company this past year?
PLATT: 2022 was the best year in Vendo’s history by a wide margin, which is a source of pride for the entire team. We were the first to widely introduce the Brazilian payment method, PIX, leading to an average 30% increase in new Brazil sales for our merchants.
In Europe, we added SEPA, the European direct debit payment systems, and recorded significant growth in the CBD market after being selected as the exclusive partner for European CBD processing by one of our acquiring banking partners. This was a great honor since acquiring banks generally avoid signing exclusive relationships.
We also continued to host our quarterly Vendo Merchant Conferences, which serve as an ideal forum to strengthen ties with vendors and provide them with critical market updates. As part of these community-building efforts, we’re offering free crypto payment processing for Vendo merchants throughout 2023.
Internally, we grew our team with the appointments of a new CFO and director of sales, as well as other key hires, and refreshed our brand and visual identity with a new corporate website.
Vendo also received several industry distinctions in 2022, which tells us we’re moving in the right direction. As you know, we were recognized at the 2022 XBIZ Europa Awards as Payment Services Company of the Year, and we are also the first to be chosen by ACI, a top-20 global fintech, as their crypto payment processing partner.
XBIZ: Discuss how Vendo stays proactively ahead of the curve on regulatory hurdles and developments.
PLATT: We operate in a strongly competitive and regulated environment, so ensuring regulatory compliance is an internal priority for our company. In parallel, we work closely with our partners and providers to meet all the industry and card scheme requirements, with the overriding objective of thoroughly understanding and implementing them, and educating our merchants via our newsletters and quarterly Vendo Merchant Conferences so they are always protected.
Vendo’s scope of regulations includes PCI DSS Level 1-certified, AML/KYC, GDPR-EU general data protection regulations, high-risk payment processor certification, PSD2/3DSV2.X and ongoing support and implementation of new requirements for card schemes.
XBIZ: How have you adapted your business to serving a diverse, international array of clients?
PLATT: Vendo’s merchants are based primarily in Europe and the U.S., but we work to ensure they can sell globally since most operate on an international level. As mentioned earlier, we’ve dedicated significant efforts to localize checkout processes and deliver stellar customer support. Our decision to work with local currencies and adapt pricing to reflect region- or country-specific purchasing behaviors has undoubtedly helped drive our merchants’ international expansion.
In addition to technical developments, acquiring a strong grasp of local regulations is key. Not all products and services can be legally sold everywhere, so staying up to date on regulatory shifts is crucial, especially in high-risk niches like adult entertainment, dating services and even CBD.
Actually, CBD is an excellent example. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis used in a range of health care products and is increasingly popular in Western markets, with a slew of companies trying to cash in. The market has become so flooded with different products that regulators are struggling to separate the wheat from the chaff. The result is a global diversity of directives, approaches and speeds of implementation. This uneven regulatory landscape requires a comprehensive strategy that covers all the countries our merchants want to sell in.
XBIZ: What’s your elevator pitch to a prospective Vendo customer?
PLATT: Vendo helps merchants get fast, reliable payment processing so they can focus 100% on their business. We remove business complexity, decrease risk and promote revenue growth through cutting-edge AI tools to help merchants fulfill their potential and create raving fans.
XBIZ: Describe the technological innovations you’ve rolled out recently to make your service as robust as possible.
PLATT: Our utilization of Amazon Web Services has dramatically increased our ability to process and monitor real-time data and improve our fraud systems, while AI tools have led to improvements that benefit all of our stakeholders.
We have also integrated with ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce and Magento by adding plug-ins, helping merchants significantly elevate their subscription management performance. Other advances in 2022 include crypto payment processing, SEPA in Europe and PIX in Brazil.
XBIZ: Tell us about Vendo’s regularly scheduled Merchant Conference.
PLATT: As mentioned earlier, we hold merchant conferences every quarter to bring people together and share key data insights, regulatory and compliance updates, and news on our latest tools, services and initiatives to better serve our merchants. Every conference also features an expert guest speaker, while offering merchants the perfect venue to network and find synergies with other vendors.
Our next Vendo Merchant Conference is scheduled for May 25 and open to all merchants who would like to learn about Vendo and the latest trends and innovations in payment processing.
XBIZ: Reflecting on the evolving payment processing industry, what opportunities and challenges is Vendo most focused on presently?
PLATT: We are keenly focused on Asia at present to bring more value to our merchants and allow them to access a broader customer base in the region. Meanwhile in Europe, PSD2 and open banking/payment initiation has become a hot topic. In this sense, we already see the Mastercard and Visa players taking up space, and are closely tracking this shift to see where and when adult entertainment and high-risk will fit in.
On a broader level, we understand payments are a commodity, which is why we continue to explore new payment methods and develop added-value services to help our merchants grow and stay protected.
XBIZ: Discuss your charitable initiative, which you launched recently.
PLATT: The Vendo Care Foundation was launched in 2022 with two main objectives: to make a positive social impact and to create a fund for financial or medical emergencies, educational opportunities and scholarships for Vendo employees and their families
We kicked off the foundation with a team-building event by inviting members to share a cause that was important to them. It was an amazing opportunity to connect and get to know each other better. For the social-impact pillar, we voted to support the SJD International Children’s Hospital this year. In March, we will take part in the hospital’s annual “Magic Line” walk to raise awareness and collect donations. It will be a great way for Vendo to spend the day in the fresh air and give back.
XBIZ: How do you foster effective teamwork and leadership within the company?
PLATT: High-performance teams and the necessary leadership to build them is one of my favorite subjects.
Boiled down to its essence, I would highlight two core aspects. First, keeping team members highly engaged with Vendo’s vision and strategy, and second, giving them a platform to grow both personally and professionally.
At Vendo, we achieve this in several ways. To ensure alignment, everyone has access to the Vision Tracker Organizer, which includes an updated version of our three-year highly achievable goal, our current one-year plan and quarterly objectives, as well as resources to make these objectives a reality. The leadership team also shares the firm’s OKRs — objectives and key results — to involve every department in defining their concrete targets based on quarterly and annual goals. In this way, they are able to submit their OKRs for approval based on a clearly defined and communicated roadmap.
As you can imagine, promoting communication, collaboration and transparency among employees is especially critical with a geographically dispersed workforce. To this end, we hold weekly kickoff meetings and monthly town halls online, as well as annual in-person holiday parties and retreats. We believe strongly in “getting people off their island” to reconnect and meet face to face.
We are also firm believers in continuous learning and professional growth, and consider it a key competitive advantage. A common theme at Vendo is “standing on the shoulders of others” in order to see farther, reach new heights and ultimately fulfill our potential as individuals and as a company. With this in mind, we encourage individuals and teams to include at least one training and development objective in their quarterly planning. Teams often attend conferences together in their area of expertise, which we fully support.
In everything we do, we strive to foster a startup culture that encourages experimentation, engagement, ownership and effective feedback. In terms of the latter, we use two systems — CAVE and fishbowl — to promote giving and receiving feedback, and help people recognize where they excel so they do more of it, as well as potential blind spots.
CAVE stands for Celebrate, Analyze, Vision and Execute, which everyone completes at the end of each quarter and subsequently shares with their team members via a live “fishbowl” Zoom meeting for feedback. These systems allow me to personally respond to each team member’s CAVE with my own feedback, see where they excel and where I can support them.
XBIZ: What are your business goals for the rest of 2023? How about the next five years?
PLATT: We are all about helping our merchants fulfill their potential and create raving fans by delivering impeccable payment processing services with a human touch. We engage with our merchants with passion and empathy to see how and where we can improve. Along with our growth goals for 2023 — we hope to surpass 2022 — we are very focused on bringing added-value services to our merchants.
We will continue to invest in emerging markets by integrating alternative payment methods that have reached a certain level of critical mass, while further driving AI and data innovations, which have always been cornerstones of our business model.
We also want to continue supporting our community by facilitating networking opportunities through our Vendo Merchant Conferences and sponsoring “speed networking” events at all XBIZ conferences in 2023. Finally, we are laser-focused on building the next generation of payment services for the industry. We can’t disclose more details yet, but stay tuned!