8,000 Websites Can't Be Wrong: Glo-Bill's Formula for Success

"Who wants a plaque when you do amazing work? I want another Pikachu!"

Pok_mon-themed praise is novel and fun, but it's not the only praise to be found within Glo-Bill's company headquarters. Aside from awarding plush toys for jobs well done, the third-party processor is proud of its "Wall of Glo!," a huge bulletin board filled with tokens of gratitude and appreciation - in the form of e-mails, pictures, and gifts - all from Glo-Bill's clients.

It seems that Glo-Bill has indeed found a sweet spot in their customer's hearts, but how did Glo-Bill get to this stage from just a few years ago, when it wasn't even called Glo-Bill, had 2 employees working out of their respective homes, and had no "Wall of Glo"?

Back to the... Past

The year was 1996 and the setting was the video game industry. Rohan Singh was busy writing support tools and libraries for the first wave of 3D cards hitting the PC market. He, like, oh, one or two others in the software industry, was eyeing the ever-growing Internet and curious about its potential.

It was about that same time when small-business owner Adrian Martin was also considering strategies for entering the online marketplace. Quite by chance and a mutual friend, Martin and Singh met and decided to write billing and shopping cart software for the smaller brick-and-mortar companies that were migrating to the Web.

Seeking financial backing for their venture, the pair approached Adrian Martin's fraternal tie, older brother Ken Martin. The brother spared more than change, though, and brought his business experience to bear as CEO/CFO when the trio opened shop. On the Edge, a corporation selling its billing systems on a for-service basis, focused on serving small brick-and-mortar companies wanting to establish a Web presence.

On the Edge met with success, but as the company's clientele consisted primarily of small businesses such as hobby shops and novelty stores, they worried about their survivability as they watched eBay and other auctioneering sites enjoy skyrocketing popularity. So, two years into their venture, the principals made a decision and quickly switched gears. In early 1999, the company re-grouped and emerged as Glo-Bill (www.glo-bill.com), with a fresh demographic and a refined objective to focus on - providing third-party billing and member-management services to sites wishing to offer membership sales.

"We expanded our programming staff and set to work on creating a stats, functions, and affiliate tracking system with enough flexibility to give Webmasters total control over their earnings," says Singh. The programmers worked on more than just code, they worked on their Rolodexes too, soliciting feedback from their Internet entrepreneur contacts. The results proved invaluable; the company received advice regarding needed features and direction about the way the stats and functions pages should operate.

As the programmers were working on revamping the billing software, the management group was busy attending trade shows, surveying Webmasters, and testing competitive systems. The key findings of their market research were that Webmasters needed a better way to combat chargebacks and that anti-fraud measures were not, at that time, being touted by any of the major billing companies.

Glo-Bill's founders wanted to be the first to have anti-fraud measures worth crowing about, so they charged their programming group with creating a sophisticated anti-fraud system to spot credit card fraud before it happens. The group got seriously down to work, using things like "artificial intelligence" and "neural networks," but more on that in a minute.

Hundreds of thousands of lines of code were punched out and revamped in the space of a few months and sure enough, Glo-Bill.com capitalized on its anti-fraud kernel by promoting the revenue-enhancing aspects of chargeback reduction. All this happened in early 1999, when the Web was still known as the Wild Wild Web, and Webmasters were infamous for not caring about chargebacks.

"Our gambit worked; Glo-Bill's anti-fraud measures began winning competitors' customers straight out of the gate," recalls Adrian Martin.

Kernel of Truth

"A primitive shotgun system" is what Singh calls anti-fraud measures that fail to go beyond negative databases and blind scrubbing - and that's why he's developed the anti-fraud kernel that has become Glo-Bill's hallmark.

A general goal of "intelligent" computing is for software to follow a procedure for solving a complex problem in a way that resembles the complexities of human reasoning. Instead of thinking, "If A, then B," imagine a salesperson's considerations when evaluating whether the statement, "We'll take it," means, "We'll pay for it, too," or, "We'll take it, if we can sneak it out the door." In this same way, Glo-Bill's artificially intelligent neural network analyzes how a customer order compares to past fraud patterns as well as current and attempted fraud occurring right now, in real time.

First, the software examines over 175 data points from each credit card order, considering factors such as how fast the user types in credit card information, the results of geographic IP tracing, and many other parameters. Next, the data set is compared to the millions of customer transactions in Glo-Bill's historical database and hundreds of thousands of other real-time fraud data that is culled from three separate contractors in the banking risk-management sector.

By making a sophisticated assessment of how well any given order fits fraud patterns, the order is then accepted or rejected as appropriate. The result is reduced chargebacks for Glo-Bill's clients without sacrificing any significant signups.

Giving Credit Its Due

Glo-Bill's credit card processing and membership database management service is handled remotely by the company's secure servers in Silicon Valley, and accepts payment from a wide variety of credit cards (both international and foreign), online checks, and per-minute dialers. All sales transactions are real-time verified. Surfers are directed through to Glo-Bill for sign-up, and after a successful transaction, receive a security pass for site access.

Webmasters get a fully-featured billing system with the flexibility to set their own prices and membership durations, and have control over their trial memberships by setting them to convert automatically to paid memberships. In addition, Glo-Bill backs up their billing system with their dedication to support services and promises all of their Webmasters, and their users, that billing questions will receive a response within two hours.

"Program highlights include no set-up fees, no monthly fees, a partnership program and a user-referral program that are included for free, and, with an easy set-up, Webmasters can be up and running within an hour, for the cost of a 5 percent reserve and from 12 to 15.95 percent of sales billed - and if that's too much of a commitment, tell them to take our services for a test drive," says Operations Manager Phil Mazzoni.

While credit card processing with strong anti-fraud measures and customer support are Glo-Bill's key offerings, they haven't overlooked the enhancements that make a program attractive to experienced Webmasters - partnership and commission programs.

PartnerPRO is the company's multilevel-marketing capable reseller program. Its adaptability allows Webmasters to set commission rates globally or partner by partner, as well as the ability to set and pay partners a percentage for partners that they refer. Glo-Bill takes care of sending the checks, with no minimum. Even if a partner earns just a single dollar, Glo-Bill promises, that partner can expect to receive his check on time.

SurferPRO allows surfers to earn a commission for referrals they send. As with PartnerPRO, Webmasters can set commission rates and let Glo-Bill take care of support, stats, and billing.

While we're on the subject of commissions, Webmasters earn rewards for referring Webmasters to Glo-Bill - one percent of sales indefinitely and additional bonuses of up to $240. Better yet, the money comes out of Glo-Bill's pocket, not the Webmaster's.

Not "The End"

These days, Glo-Bill can count itself as one of the major third-party processors, with more than 8,000 Websites currently using the company as their primary processor for credit cards, online checks, 900 phone billing, and dialer solutions. If you visit the company's Walnut Creek headquarters, you'll notice how obvious it is that this is no longer a two-man show.

The company currently employs a complement of 32 managers, salespeople, support personnel, and programmers; all of whom use the overcrowded "Wall of Glo!" as a performance yardstick. Mazzoni puts it this way: "Listening to the valuable suggestions and feedback of our clients affords us an opportunity to continually enhance, perfect, and expand our product offerings.

"Glo-Bill's continued focus is on gaining market share with its tried and true technique of providing the highest quality of customer service combined with extensive and fully fleshed-out features in our billing and membership management systems."

It sounds like they've found their winning formula.