Matthew Golis, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at YapStone Inc., was a consultant for Netscape Communications Corp. in the mid-1990s when the browser pioneer launched one of the first online, direct-to-consumer bill payment platforms utilizing card-based payments rather than bank transfers.
This is what led Golis to the payments industry. "I had some very early experience with using card payments before Amazon and a lot of other e-commerce retailers really got going," Golis said. Golis saw a promising opportunity in the electronification of bill payments, especially for larger-ticket bills.
"What's most peoples' largest bill? Their rent," Golis said. That insight led to the birth of YapStone, a company whose focus on rental payments has expanded from apartment complexes to vacation rentals, self-storage facilities, homeowners' associations and bed and breakfasts.
The value proposition of such payments is straightforward: paying online with a credit or debit card is faster and more convenient than cutting a check. "I'm sure The Green Sheet crowd would love to hear this: the bank bill payment systems could not deliver a payment to the landlord in time," Golis said. "Because it was a card payment [via YapStone], the landlord was getting a real-time notification that the person had paid."
Although the majority of rent payments are still done the old-fashioned way, renters of the future are poised to change that dynamic. "When these 20 somethings move into apartments, I mean they've never written a check in their lives," Golis said.
He believes this younger generation of renters will demand to be able to pay with bankcards, and property management companies will be forced to adopt card-based online bill payments.
With YapStone already processing $6 billion annually in card payments, Golis sees a bright future ahead for electronic payments in rental markets.
If YapStone's success is any indication, the future for ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) rests in specialization and customer service. Basic, one-size-fits-all solutions do not address the distinct needs of businesses in specific niche markets, Golis said. "Just reselling an e-commerce gateway or virtual terminal that's fairly generic is just not good enough," he noted.
Golis advises ISOs and MLSs to target a few markets, learn their intricacies and become experts in how niche businesses in those markets operate.
That knowledge can help sellers overcome disadvantages, such as not having in-house information technology departments and proprietary technology to give them a competitive edge.
"Even if you don't have your own technology, understand that it's not just a matter of deploying a terminal," he said. "You have to understand how these people would take payments electronically."
Golis warned that having a generalist mindset and resisting change can be a career-ending combination. "I think there are a lot of people who are still set in that mentality, and they've got to change, because [otherwise] they will perish," he said.
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