How many times you started an online purchase but stopped short, in the payment section, because you didn’t trust the system, or the methods were limited? Having a good payment partner is crucial for e-commerces from every industry and every size.
Helcim’s mission is to be world’s most loved payments company and their growth in the last couple of years is impressive. Website Planet‘s Miguel Amado talked with the head of marketing, Jeff Merkel, to know more about the organization, what Helcim does differently from the competitors and what are the next steps.
What are the main differences from Helcim compared with your major competitors?
Take one look at our homepage and you’ll see right away that we certainly look and feel different from our competition. But beyond how we present ourselves, it’s really three words that represent our biggest differences. Pricing, Platform, and People.
First and foremost, small and medium business owners are concerned with cost, and justifiably so. Pricing matters. Merchants typically have to choose between some of the more recognizable names like Square or Stripe, whose flat rate fees are astronomically high for any cost-conscious business, or the legacy bank processors who have made their money for years from deceiving their merchants through confusing statements, hidden fees, and sneaky rate hikes.
So the great thing about Helcim is that our rates are not only some of the lowest in the entire industry, but our pricing is also the absolutely most transparent pricing you will find. We employ an interchange plus pricing model, which is generally regarded as the most affordable and fair way to bill merchants and is essentially a wholesale pricing model. Every card transaction has a variable price set by the card brands (Visa and Mastercard) called the interchange rate. With Helcim, every time you process a transaction, we ensure that you get the lowest possible rate. That’s it. There’s no hidden fees, you only ever pay for what you process, and your rates actually decrease as you process more volume over time.
The best part? If you don’t like our service you can leave at any time without penalty. We don’t have any contracts or monthly fees, which means that merchants that stay with Helcim, stay with Helcim because they want to. That’s a powerful form of validation for anybody considering signing up with us.
Beyond pricing, our all-in-one Payments Platform allows you to take payments any way your business needs with one free account. In-person payments, Invoicing, ecommerce, recurring payments, virtual terminal, card vault, point-of-sale, online food ordering, SMS payments, even bank transfers (ACH, EFT)…are all included with your free Helcim account from day one, along with many more features we’re constantly updating and adding.
Lastly, and this is the reason why our merchants love us and stay with us, is because we are a People-first company. We have always put our merchants first and it shows in the way they talk about us. Don’t take my word for it, go and read our google reviews. 90% or our reviews talk about how they’ve been personally treated by our team, and 80% of those reviews mention a Helcim team member by name. When you partner with Helcim, you and your business are not only going to be supported, but you’re going to be respected.
In a previous interview, your CEO pointed out that Helcim grew 400% in 2021. To what do you attribute that growth?
Well a lot of our growth can be attributed to those same three P’s I just spoke about. I think we live in a world now where, yes, pricing and functionality absolutely (still) matter. But that’s no longer enough to remain competitive, you also need to stand out and offer something different. For us, that something different has been building a trusted brand around the values-led company we’ve always authentically been.
The word has gotten out that if you partner with Helcim, you’re going to have a great experience and we’re going to treat you with fairness and respect. I think beyond any one Marketing or Sales channel, that’s what matters the most and that’s why our service has resonated with as many merchants as it has, in the way that it has.
Transparency is an important word in your culture. Can you give us some examples of transparency in your organization?
Absolutely! Beyond our radical approach to pricing transparency and overall candor with our own merchants, there are many examples within our own company culture that demonstrate that same level or transparency across our organization.
We practice open book management, meaning that every employee has access to all of our company financials right from day one. We also employ salary ranges that are open to all employees. Our leadership group is constantly peeling back the curtain on decisions and encourages involvement from all levels of the company. When we were raising capital, we were shown the decks that the investors were shown and given candid updates throughout the process.
It truly is one of those core values that is consistently demonstrated at all levels of the company, and that’s why we’re so able to easily and generously extend that same honesty and candor to our merchants.
Security is a priority in your industry, since cyberattacks are more frequent and sophisticated. Why should I trust Helcim in that regard?
Simply by virtue of being a payments company, we are beholden to very strict security compliance standards. Security is one of our number one priorities, right down to the way employees are expected to behave within the office and how we work. All of our laptops and workstations are locked down with VPNs, antivirus and other measures to ensure the highest of security standards. We obviously deal with sensitive information, but there are very strict measures in place that dictate which information hits which servers or systems, and who has access to any of it at a given time. We strongly adhere to the principle of least privilege.
We use Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) as well as Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) to evaluate incoming traffic and protect against harmful actions.
We require multi-factor authentication for every internal system as well as have a default deny all policy for inbound and outbound network traffic. Any allowed traffic must be approved and added as new firewall rules.
Sensitive data is encrypted at rest using the AES 256 standard. Data in transit is protected by using a minimum of TLS version 1.2.
From a merchant’s perspective, they can be sure that their data is safe with us. We even ensure that our own merchants are not handling their own customers’ sensitive data by tokenizing it and removing any exposure they may have to any liabilities.
What do you see as the main challenges that your company has? Is it tough competition, cybersecurity, compliance…?
Payments is a tricky business and we are certainly never short of challenges, and they come from everywhere. The great thing about the way we’ve structured our business, however, is that we are positioned in such a way to be able to work through all of our own challenges ourselves, and we don’t have to rely on anybody else. This is always encouraging because we have such a passionate team that really, truly cares about their work and who we serve. So when something goes wrong, I know the team here is gutted if a merchant is affected and we do everything in our power to fix things quickly.
The biggest challenge from a marketing perspective would probably be just letting the world know we exist. I think our value proposition can sometimes sound “too good to be true” for some merchants, and if they haven’t heard of us, they’re perhaps less likely to trust us without some form of external validation. Fortunately for us, our merchants speak volumes about us and some of the biggest platforms and publications are consistently ranking as the best payments provider in the industry, so that goes a long way to helping small businesses find and benefit from our solution.
Q: Do you believe your payment solution can scale to merchants in other countries and continents?
As of right now we service businesses in North America, but I think it’s safe to say small businesses everywhere value great tools, affordability, and being treated with respect.
We are, after all, trying to build the world’s most loved payments company.
You recently raised a US$ 16 million in a Series A round. Obviously, this is a major turning point in your company. What does the future hold for Helcim with that capital to use?
The amazing thing about our business model is that when the small businesses we serve thrive, we also thrive. So we can authentically say that our goal right now is to continue to grow so that we can help as many businesses as we can, however we can. We truly believe that through helping small businesses thrive, we are also helping our communities thrive, and that benefits all of us and our families and our friends.
With everything going on in the world, I think we all feel this deep-seeded drive to contribute to some sort of positive change. It’s been said that in this day and age, it is companies – not government or institutions – that will be the greatest drivers of change. We’ve seen this over the last few years as corporations have been forced to get involved with issues of social justice and picking sides on important matters. I can tell you that we are trying to build a great company that can have a positive impact in this world and we are just grateful that we are in a position to help drive some of that change in some small way.
We think we’re just getting started.