Cory Capoccia, Co-Founder & President of Womply | Episode 7

Greg: Hi, I’m your host, Greg Myers. And this is episode seven of the Leaders in Payments podcast, featuring Cory Capoccia, the President and Co-founder of Womply. In this episode, Cory and I talk about Womply’s mission to help small businesses grow, especially through the use of data. Cory talks about his journey from starting and selling, Verifi to Visa to starting Womply with a few other people in an apartment. Cory and I also talk about the time he took off to travel 30,000 miles around the country in an RV, and finally we talk about the value of mentoring and how important it is for people just starting out in payments or any other industry for that matter. So let’s get started.

Greg: Hi Cory, thank you for being here and welcome to the Leaders in Payments podcast.

Cory: Hey, Greg, thank you so much for having me. Really looking forward to the conversation.

Greg: Yeah, me too. Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself? Maybe where you were born, where you grew up, went to school a few things like that. 

Cory: Yeah, absolutely. So my name’s Cory Capoccia. I’m a born and raised California native. Grew up in Southern California just outside of LA a little bit ended up going to school at a good Pac 12 school UCLA. Right there on the other coast in a kind of Santa Monica area and studied business, economics and accounting while I was there – more recently relocated just in the past few years, out to Park City, Utah, with a couple hops in between So-Cal and here so I did spend a good chunk of time living in San Francisco and actually before that, pretty much on the go bought an RV and spend some time just traveling around the US. And, kind of before we ended up in our spot in Park City area.

Greg: Yeah, that sounds like something we should dig into at some point. So, let’s talk about Womply. Tell the audience a little bit about Womply and what they do.

Cory: Absolutely so Womply is a technology company with a mission focused around small businesses and helping small businesses use technology to their advantage. If you think about the general landscape, most small businesses do not have the same resource that larger enterprises have at their advantage. I mean, they don’t have teams of people with specific focus, certain functions, like a marketing team or a customer success team. They also don’t have the resource largely to go and hire people to focus in those areas or use different tools or technology and time to then go and figure out that they use these enterprise solutions on their small business. And so they’ve been largely at a disadvantage for a very long time. We started the company back in 2011 with a focus on how do we help small businesses thrive in this kind of ever changing digital environment? And part of what we focused on is this concept we coined called zero data problem, and we recognize that most small businesses do not have access to their own data. It tends to exist in all of these different silos around their business. And there’s not really a centralized view of how their business is performing who their customers are, how they’re doing relative to their market or the competition. And what happens with their customers when they’re not in their business, And how do they engage with them and re- engage with them on an ongoing basis? And so, what we set out to do was to start to collect as much data as possible about small businesses. And we brought that data into what we refer to as our commerce graph, which is a really well-structured data set that has lots of information on millions and millions of small businesses and all of these additional attributes about these small businesses. Some things like their profile information, what the name of the business is, the address, their hours of operation, their contact information. Then we also extend further into things like, where do they have a presence online? Do they have a Facebook page and Yelp Page, Google page, and then we go further and pull in financial data. What’s happening with their financial transaction activity, whether it’s through their merchant account and the credit cards that they accept or in the bank account where they deposit their funds. We want to paint this kind of holistic view of what’s happening with their financial activity. And then we paired that with what we refer to as our consumer graph. And this is where we’ve brought together a similar data set on millions of consumers across America that enables us to then help the business owner understand more about who their customers are. You know how they interact with a given business and then really drive the actions and the outcomes that the business owner is looking for, using that underlying commerce graph so that now the business owner can connect with their customer in a more meaningful ways and drive you home or repeat behavior of sales and better interactions with them across the board. We’ve been building our software out since we started the company and now have over 450,000 small businesses that use our software all across America pretty much every zip code that I’m aware of that, at least that has humans living in it and then we have pretty much every category of business represented across at 450,000 with a heavier concentration on businesses that tend to be consumer facing. So, usually more of the main street type of businesses that you and I would interact with on a regular basis. So those are you service based businesses like nail salons, hair salons, retail, restaurant, hospitality and so on. And so that’s been historically kind of the core part of our business has been building software for small businesses, leveraging the power of this data asset that we required to really help solve that zero data problem for small businesses. And more recently, what we’ve been doing is opening up that same data asset, our commerce graph to different developers in the developer ecosystem. And so, you know, our thought process is this. We want to enable developers to make their solutions better by being able to benefit from that same data that we’ve amassed on small businesses and help them ultimately serve these small businesses better. And so the concept there is thinking of a developer who you might have a problem with their software where they don’t know a lot about a business. The first time a small business owner launches their software, they suffer from typically what’s called a cold start meaning when I log in to software for the first time or sign up for the first time, you’re looking kind of at a blank screen because none of my data is there and I need to then go in and you connect different data sources or populate data manually. And you know the experience is much better if I can benefit from a warm start where they can pre-populate that information for the small business user. And that’s where Womply’s APIs can really help those developers create a better experience for their customers where there’s less data input upfront. We can also provide rich data about a business so that they can provide even more feature rich features to their end customers as well. So that’s been a big part of our focus for 2020 and beyond, as we think about how we serve small businesses wherever they’re operating either directly through our software or indirectly through various developer partnerships through our APIs. 

Greg: Okay. And you are a pure SAAS model, right? 

Cory: We are. So we’re, a SAAS model, and we focus on delivering our software just through wherever the business owner is operating so we’ll either push email information out to them so you can digest it in their inbox or we make it accessible by any device that can connect to the Internet. So, whether you’re on your laptop or tablet or a smartphone, you can benefit from Womply software and run your business better. We’ve got a couple offices that we operate out of. We’ve got an office in San Francisco where we originally started, and we’ve got an office just outside of Salt Lake in an area called Silicon Slopes or Thanksgiving Point specifically in the LeHigh here. And we opened that a few years back. And now, across both offices, we have a couple 100 employees that are helping support our customers and support of developing partners.

Greg: Okay, And how do you go to market, through channel partners? Direct sales? A little bit of both. 

Cory: It is both, so we spend a lot of time developing partnerships. You know, our objective to a partner is to be the best partner that any of our partners I’ve ever worked with. And so we really focus on bringing to the partnership kind of everything that a partner would need to develop on their own if they’re trying to do anything related to what Wompy’s working on. And so what I mean by that is we view ourselves as an extension of the functions across our partners. So we’ll look at it from a full stack from sales and marketing on the front end through product to then ultimately, customer support and servicing. We want to bring all those capabilities to our partnerships and empower our partners to help either through a referral or a resell model, sell Womply software to their customers so they can benefit from the value of Womply software, and their customers will exhibit higher retention rates with them, so increase stickiness and then they can also generate incremental revenue through those channel partnerships. And then, in addition to that, we do have a direct sales arm of our business as well, where we have a number of small businesses that come and sign up for Womply software directly, And that’s usually a result of the thought leadership work that we put in place to really get a presence across lots of different national and local press to have small businesses, understand what’s happening in their local markets and different trends that happen within businesses in their category. So we’ve ran studies looking at everything from how hurricanes impact small businesses in areas like Texas, to how Valentine’s Day is actually not a productive holiday for small businesses, namely restaurants because the conclusion there is consumers tend to dine out less before and then leading up to and then after Valentine’s Day and restaurants turntables fewer times on Valentine’s Day than they would otherwise, to other studies looking at things like the relationship between online reputation in revenue and so we’re the only company that I’m aware of that can actually quantify the impact of a negative review or a positive review on a business’s revenue. So, all of those different thought leadership pieces that we’ve put out there, you know, help small businesses really look at Womply as a thought leader and as a resource for small businesses. And then, as a result, we see them come in to Womply’s sales team and sign up for our software either through a self-serve model online or via the phone as an assisted sale with one of our sales reps who helps their kind of handled them through the process.

Greg: Sure, talk a little bit about payment processing or merchant service, and how that sort of integrates into all the other value-add service that you provide?

Cory: Absolutely. So we took a look at the payment processing industry a while back, and I don’t think it’ll be a surprise to any of your listeners, but you have an industry with a lot of challenges just because the product that was being produced was so commoditized. You have lots of players really selling the same product to the same market, and the result is that the industry overall was feeling lots of challenges around very low customer loyalty rates or super high churn rates which has a huge cost when you’re investing so much to acquire those customers. There’s also a lot of undercutting happening where you have the basics of “hey show me what your current effective costs of credit card processing and I’ll cut off a couple basis points and maybe a few bucks a month. And given that the switching costs are so low, businesses would jump pretty quickly. And so what that did was put a lot of downward pricing pressure. And so, we saw margin compression on what the value is of pure merchant processing, a payment processor. And there wasn’t as much innovation as when Square kind of came out that I think the industry woke up and said, Hey, we really need to figure out how to reinvent ourselves because we’ve got this great distribution vehicle in place where we’ve got reach into lots of different distribution channels. But we haven’t spent much time really truly innovating in the way that we think about how a payment occurs and what we can do to help leverage the data that we acquire on every single transaction for the benefit of our customers. And so what we did is we set out and said, we’ve got a great opportunity to become a partner to the payments industry where we can help our 50 plus different merchant processing partners; acquires, ISOs, processors and ultimately the sales agents that are out either on the phones or feet on the street selling to small businesses, we can help them have a product and a capability that really kind of changes that conversation and makes them more competitive with some of the newer entrants that were challenging the existing ways they’re doing business. And so fundamentally, our value proposition to our payment processing partnerships is all around how do we help you express the value of the underlying data asset that you’ve been acquiring with every credit card swipe that happens through a merchant account you provide for the benefit of your merchant customers? And so what we do is we helped them drive significant improvements in customer loyalty, so they have much higher retention rates with their merchant customers than without Womply software. We also help them differentiate on the front end sale process so we will help them use kind of this differentiated value proposition to be more of a consultant to their prospects and help their businesses ultimately look at them as someone that can help them run a better business, not just more of the back-end expense utility of accepting credit card payments as a necessary component of running a business. And then finally, we do share in economics with our partners, and we help them generate a material amount of revenue so they can offset some of that margin compression that they’re feeling from just their core typical processing revenue.

Greg: Let’s talk about the competition. So obviously the payment space is very competitive. And as you mentioned, there’s even commoditization going on in the industry. But obviously you’re much more than a payments solution. So who are your competitors and what makes you different or better than your competitors? 

Cory: It’s always an interesting question, Greg, from our perspective, we see the competitors not really a competitor for Womply, but more so a competitor for our partners. So, I have mentioned Square as an example. You know, Square has built out a kind of beautifully vertically integrated solution, and ultimately, why they built all that out is because they want to earn that merchant process in relationship and generate revenue off of those card swipes that happen through their registers. And when you think about that as a threat against the legacy providers in the industry that have been running kind of the same program for 40, 50 years, yeah, that’s where we really see the competition. It’s who’s trying to win that merchant account in that merchant processing relationship. From Womply’s perspective you can definitely look at some companies that might have point solutions that could overlap with parts of what we’re doing. So obviously, there are companies that focus on reputation management and helping small businesses manage their reviews like your Yelp profile and Facebook profile. And there are companies that only provide marketing solutions, whether that’s something like a MailChimp or a Constant Contact that helps run your email campaigns. But where I think Womply’s really unique is we are really covering a broader set of all of those solutions in a single consolidated location, so that as a small business owner or manager or operator, you don’t have to put together your own stack of different capabilities across all these different solutions that do not interoperate with one another or are not powered by this core commerce graph data set and you are kind of less intelligent solutions as a result because they don’t have the ability to kind of speak with one another. Or really if you kind of assume out, just understand that there’s really one customer that you’re talking about and whether they received an email from you, then transact with their business and then decided to post a review online. There shouldn’t be tracked in separate systems. That’s one customer experience across a lot of different facets of your business. And so what I think what Womply’s done really elegantly is we’ve been able to bring that customer experience across all these different dimensions into a centralized place so that now as a business owner I can get a single view of who my customers are, and then I can manage them and interact with them in much more meaningful ways.

Greg: Okay, so where do you think the payments industry is headed in the next few years? But being that you’re much broader than just payments maybe talk about where small business is headed and where your solutions fit into what small business will be doing, say, five or 10 years from now?

Cory: Absolutely. I think from our perspective, the two actually do converge quite a bit. You’ve got a lot of innovation that is happening in payments across the board. You know, I think if you look at it on a global level, the macro trends are borders need to kind of drop in cross border needs to no longer be a challenge or an obstacle for any business. Whether that’s accepting payments from consumers, that are coming from other countries, and you accepting those payments seamlessly to being able to operate and conduct business across other borders for the customers that live there, I think you’ll continue to see that a lot of businesses will need to evolve to just be able to operate on a global level, even if they’re small businesses. You know, I think the other dimension here is really the friction involved with a payment needs to continue to evaporate, and we’re seeing that happen in different markets faster than others and in different industries faster than others. One of the examples that everyone loves to cite is how Uber has made payments invisible. And if you think about other form factors like Apple Pay or internationally, other acceptance methods and payment methods that are happening whether it’s QR codes or other mediums, I think we’ll continue to see that accelerate, because ultimately consumers are going to be focusing on whatever the fastest, most convenient path is for them to transact. That is where they’re going to gravitate towards. And so I think that the intersection between payments and business is very meaningful here because your consumers, just by nature, still spend most of their money with small businesses on their day-to-day interactions. That’s where kind of my day to day activities occurs at these various small businesses, whether I’m going out to get a meal with my family or friends, we’re staying at a hotel for a vacation, we’re shopping for something in our neighborhood, I’m still interacting with small businesses on a regular basis, but as a consumer, I’ve come to expect a much more efficient, simplified checkout process and interaction with that business, much more like the Uber experience where payments also become invisible. And I think what you’ll see is as small businesses in particular start to adopt this, you’re going to have that same kind of feeling like when you take a taxi for the first time after having been in Lifts and Ubers forever, and you open the door and go to walk out and realize, oh, I forgot to pay. And that feels like a very foreign dated, like antique experience to us as consumers now. And what you know, I think you’ll find, is that the businesses that are not adopting these newer payment methods to really streamline that checkout experience, whether you’re online with them or in store, you know they’re going to be the ones that feel like that taxi ride that feels very unnatural and foreign to you. And so, as our payment innovation continues to make that process simpler, no matter where I’m interacting with the business online or offline, you were going to see that acceleration of payments and kind of small businesses interact much more tightly to create that invisible experience for consumers.

Greg: Yeah, what do you think about the Amazon stores that have no checkout lines? 

Cory: I think it’s brilliant. I mean, that’s a great example of where commerce needs to head. And Amazon is innovating in that area. And just like Square had put pressure on certain parts of the checkout process. I think Amazon is doing the same thing and really challenging the predisposition we have to wait in this queue. I need to then pull out my wallet, decide which card I’m going to use, you know, hand that card over to someone or swipe it through, sign, press okay that I accept this charge, then sign my name, which doesn’t even matter for anything. Take the card out, get a paper receipt and then walk out. And I’m now done with that transaction. I mean, there’s so many unnecessary, clunky steps in there that just happened to be part of the muscle memory that we’ve developed that can be eliminated through innovation. And I think Amazon is doing a great job of really pressure testing that, and putting that challenge out there to say this is where we’re going. Everyone else needs to start responding to it and learning from how we’re kind of leading the charge here right? 

Greg: Yeah, completely agree. All right let’s change gears a little bit. And let’s talk about you. Tell us about your journey to your role there at Womply. Sort of what was the journey that you took to get to be where you are today? 

Cory: You know, it’s I think like a lot of people. Yeah, when you’re young, you say I want to be a doctor or a fireman or an astronaut. I don’t think anyone in this industry said I want to grow up and be in payments and lead payments innovation. You know, I had a pretty similar path. I did a lot of different jobs when I was younger starting as early as things like house sitting and pet walking and your computer repair and saving enough money to buy a was called a Goped, which was like a motorized scooter so I could expand the market that I could reach. So I had a lot of kind of that entrepreneurial DNA just embedded within me. And my parents did a great job of really kind of driving that making me dependent upon my own income at an early age so that I really understood the value of a dollar and what you need to go after. When I was at UCLA I had a pretty I would say, conservative kind of lay-up job at one of the Big Four consulting accounting firms lined up and kind of randomly fell into an opportunity to be part of the founding team at another company in the payment space. It was Verifi, and we started building that company. Literally the first day on the job, I remember, was sitting in an apartment and we’re putting the furniture together. We had kind of a view of what the business would be. But I had no idea where I could really go. And they’re just a few of us on that team. And we continued to build the company out purely on cash flow without raising any outside capital. We had the opportunity to hire some amazing talent. And you had some great wins as we developed our product strategy and brought new customers on. And it really was, I think, the practical MBA that helped me develop into where I am today because I just had the opportunity to take on so many different roles and challenges while we built that company up. And it was really neat to see last year when Visa decided to acquire Verify that something that was started in an apartment in LA became part of one of the best-known brands in the world. And so, yeah, I took out of that experience and that random leap into the payments industry, on kind of a whim when I was younger and at a much higher tolerance for risk without a wife and children. And that’s really what I think formed me into the payment’s leader today. Then I was able to go out and kind of take that little bit of time off that I mentioned where you took the RV and kind of was driving around the US. And just exploring different ideas, and kind of getting a sense for where I wanted to spend my time. And that’s when we started Womply up. And you realize that small businesses really the core backbone of America and they have this need for technology to work for them. And so when we decided to start Womply up, we went down a little bit of a different path of raising some outside capital and having investors. And now we’ve raised quite a bit of money from various investors to help us grow the company at a faster pace. And it’s been an amazing experience. To also similarly start from an apartment with a couple of us in an idea that now having a couple offices, a couple 100 employees and hundreds of thousands of small businesses that are dependent upon our software to improve how they run their businesses.

Greg: Sure, where was your favorite place that you took the RV to? 

Cory: You know, it’s always a fun question to answer. There’s two well, three places, actually, but I put a toss-up between. One of them was at the very beginning of the trip we went down to this area called White Sands, and this is where they filmed like Star Wars and some of these other scenes. And it’s this big area of gypsum sand dunes. And it’s just a really beautiful but completely foreign feeling place kind of outside I think AlmaGordo? you can actually, like, slide and ski and sled down these hills, just because they’re such massive sand dunes. But as far as you can see, they’re just beautiful. So that was just something that was totally foreign that I had never seen before. That I thought was really, really unique. You know, a little bit later on in the journey, I think is probably mile 20,000 of about the 30,000 that we drove around that year. We ended up in northern Michigan and northern Michigan in the summertime is one of the absolutely most beautiful places that I think exists. There’s just an incredible amount of activities and land and just beautiful flora and fauna out there. So we had an amazing time going through Northern Michigan, and then we ended the trip kind of going through the Montana and Wyoming area and one of our favorite parts of that adventure was going on a highway called the Bear Tooth All American highway that climbs up, I think, north of, like, 10,000 or 11,000 feet. And it is just an absolutely stunning view through, I think, some of the most beautiful landscape in America from kind of the Montana Wyoming area. And you start to get into Yellowstone after there. And it was just this unbelievable reminder that growing up in LA and a large city, in suburbs and tract homes, you know how much more of America there is to see and how beautiful our country is. And so, those were three areas that really stuck out to me as just this beautiful kind of contrast of different parts of our country that a lot of people. I don’t think of taking the time to go and enjoy. And I really enjoy just the fact that you can do it, be on the road on your own schedule. Yeah, they’re not necessarily areas that you would look at as you’re trying to book a plane flight for your next vacation But spending that time together on the road and having that road trip, you know, kind of experience just made everything that much richer.

Greg: Yeah, that’s great. So name some things maybe that you’re passionate about they could be work related or could be outside of work. Just what you have a passion to do.

Cory: I’m a pretty big adrenaline junkie, and I like things with wheels and motors. So when I’m not spending time working or with my wife and two kids, you can usually find me either skiing in the winter, doing some backcountry skiing and cat skiing, Helo skiing or out on what’s called the timber sled or a snowmobile. So a timber sled is a dirt bike that’s been converted into a snowmobile and you can kind of take it through all kinds of really interesting terrain, and in the summertime, just absolutely love getting outdoors as well. So, lots of mountain biking, hiking with the family, boating or dirt biking as well. Those are kind of the main hobbies that I tend to spend some time doing. On the kind of personal side, something that I’ve gotten involved with more recently out here that I’ve just absolutely been loving has been mentoring a local high school class on entrepreneurship. And I’m a part of this organization called Junior Achievement and then a local group called Entrepreneurs Organization. And we basically adopted a class at a local high school with about three or four entrepreneurs, and for a semester we don’t just talk to them about entrepreneurship, but we actually go through the process of deciding on a business that we want to start up. So, going through all the aspects of kind of a business plan, we actually start the business. We run the business, we generate profit hopefully and then typically will donate most of that profit to a cause. And then we shut down the business at the end of the semester. And what’s really neat about it is it just gives this great opportunity for high school kids that you have had more of the academic exposure to just apply themselves practically at a quicker pace than I think they would, kind of normally go through that kind of academic schedule and I think really introduced them to the power of entrepreneurship early on. So that’s another area that I’ve been spending some time on that I’ve been really enjoying.

Greg: Yeah, I wish they had that when I was in high school for sure. Yeah, that’s a great segue into the last question is and as you know the payment space particularly has grown a lot in the last 10 years. A lot of investment. A lot of new people coming into the space wanting to have careers in payments. What would your advice be to a young person who’s just starting out in the payments area? 

Cory: I think the main piece of advice that I would give anyone starting out, whether it’s payments or any industry, is ask for mentorship from people that you respect.  A lot of think folks are just too shy to really look at people who have been successful in whatever your range of motion that they’ve applied in their role or their career. And just say, hey, this is something I’m really interested in. I’m obviously newer and less experience here. Or maybe I come from a different industry, and so I don’t have as much of it the context for how things operate within the payments industry. Would you be open to me buying you lunch once a month? And can I pick your brain? There’s just so much value and being able to have that kind of guidance and leadership and mentorship that you can get from someone that’s gone through a lot of the trials and tribulations that we get going through any kind of new role in new industry. And I think the fastest way to fast track that and really get good examples of how do you kind of navigate your own personal career is to build out your mentor base and to find folks that you can serve is that role model for you and that support because inevitably you’re going to hit some roadblocks, you’re going to hit some dead ends, have some hard times, and you’re going to have some crossroads where you need to make decisions on how do you kind of develop your own career? Having someone that you can trust that’s been there on that journey with you is just worth no more than any other I think advice that I could offer to anyone. So, I would encourage everyone to go out there and find a mentor, and offer them a free meal. Everyone loves a free meal, and in exchange I think you’ll find that people really love mentoring others as well. And you know, that’s something that I’m very passionate about. I think you’ll find that people are much more willing to help you out than maybe you might assume on the outset.

Greg: Yeah, totally agree. I think that’s why people are scared to ask because they think they’re going to say no. And, you know, I’ve certainly seen it in my career where most of the time people who have been successful are more than willing to help. It’s just you have to ask.

Cory: Exactly I mean at the end of the day, everyone’s busy. We’re all busy. We’re all working a full day. We’ve got families, we’ve got personal commitments. Everyone’s busy. But you know, I think you’ll find that people are more willing to carve out some time to help you out in that capacity than it might seem obvious from the outside, and so the overall obstacle there is just don’t be so shy that you don’t put yourself out there because you’re only doing yourself a disservice.

Greg: Completely agree. Well, Cory, we’re about to wrap up any final subjects you want to cover. Any final thoughts for the audience?

Cory: No. Great. This has been great. I think the only thing I threw out there is I’m pretty accessible so you can find me on LinkedIn or my email is Cory@womply.com, and if anyone has any questions, or if anyone ever wants to reach out more than happy to connect with them. So feel free to shoot me a note.

Greg: Great. Well, Cory, thank you so much for your time today. I know your time is very valuable, so I really appreciate you being here.

Cory: Likewise. Greg, thank you so much for having me on. It’s been a pleasure.

Greg: Absolutely. And to all you listeners out there thank you for your time as well. And until the next story…

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