On the future of business, omnichannel commerce, and the role of company culture in facilitating sustainable growth in a rapidly changing environment, the LTP Team had the pleasure of interview Drew Sementa, the CEO of Tidal Commerce, a payments technology company that offers a wide variety of payment processing solutions for merchants of all sizes, saving clients on average >30% on their credit card processing fees when they switch. With over a decade of industry experience and an A+ Rating from the BBB, Tidal Commerce is trusted by over 1000 merchants and processes over $1B annually.
Elena Mesropyan: Drew, for the part of our audience that may not be familiar with Tidal Commerce, please give us an overview of the company – what products and solutions are you offering, the target customer, the scale of the company and partnerships, etc. Does Tidal Commerce offer a set of APIs?
Drew Sementa: Tidal Commerce is a payments technology company. We have software and services that allow businesses to accept payments, manage payments, manage disputes, protect from fraud, manage and analyze customer data and will continue to refine and build tools to help the business scale.
Our target market is really the SMB market. We currently have a full solution for doctors, dentists, and chiropractors which includes a HIPPA help center to help manage HIPAA compliance.
We have spent the last 13 years building a foundation in the payments industry and through our recent tech acquisition, we are now poised for scale and growth. We are developing software tools that we know are needed to the SMB market. We have recently partnered with Poynt, the first manufacturer of “smart terminals.” This partnership will help us deliver our full suite of software tools to the point-of-sale. We do have APIs but more importantly, we have plugins that give merchants the ability to access our tools without the need for a developer.
Elena Mesropyan: There is a rather interesting trend set by nonfinancial companies like Apple, Facebook, Alibaba, and Amazon. In particular: Apple with its emphasis on AR at the latest WWDC as being the future and the end of smartphone era in the next 10 years; Facebook with a similar quest to kill smartphones in favor of AR/VR; then the concept of invisible payments embodied by Amazon through Amazon Go; and, finally, Tao Cafe by Taobao, working on a similar concept as Amazon Go. How does this all correspond with an ever-increasing number of financial technology companies entering the payments industry with some sort of mobile payments solution (apps, online payments solutions, even Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other products)? Where is the place for such solutions in a changing market?
Drew Sementa: Here is where we have an edge. To use any of these new technologies, you still need a merchant account. We underwrite, issue and maintain merchant accounts. We have a wholesale BIN (bank identification number) if you are using a Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express you need a way to get the money from the cardholder to the merchant. That is where we come in. We don't care how the transaction physically happens – swipe, dip, microchip, we handle the actual authorization and settlement of the transaction.
There is a place in the market for any new solution that actually solves a need. Amazon Go is specific to Amazon. Apple Pay is a mobile wallet. Regardless of where AI and machine learning go, you will need some way to get your money to the people you want to buy goods and services from. A machine will never tell you what you want to buy and when you want to buy it.
Elena Mesropyan: In your opinion, what’s the most important change coming to your segment in the next 3-5 years?
Drew Sementa: Omnichannel is the new buzz word, and I think that is something to seriously think about. The future of business is going to have less defined lines. Meaning, online, face-to-face, and mobile shopping. Unifying these different ways of shopping into one easy interface that is easy for a merchant to manage is going to be a big sea change. The other big move is delivering data and analytics to the SMB market.
Elena Mesropyan: Cybersecurity became one of the most discussed matters as we hear of data breaches every other week. It appears that as rapidly as the innovation adoption happens in the financial services industry, cybercriminals are always a step ahead. First, what can businesses do to ensure the security of consumers’ sensitive data? And second, how does Tidal Commerce ensure the integrity of its systems?
Drew Sementa: First and foremost, merchants need to educate themselves on PCI compliance and take it seriously. PCI is best practices and policies for businesses to implement and follow to protect cardholder data. We follow PCI. Also, we have tools that walk merchants through implementing and managing PCI that also come with breach coverage in case a breach occurs.
Elena Mesropyan: Tidal Commerce saw a three-year growth of 4,790.5%, which is quite an impressive pace. What ensured such rapid growth? How do you, as a CEO, make sure that the company can manage such growth in a sustainable manner? I would like to know about the operational part – how do you scale a company at a rapid pace.
Drew Sementa: First, that growth was from 2005 to 2008. The industry was booming at that time. We were signing a lot of customers who had never accepted electronic payments before. The landscape has changed drastically since then. Now, every business accepts electronic payments. It is much more difficult today to grow with those tremendous numbers. The challenge has been in surviving and thriving in a changing environment. That is why our tech acquisition and rebranding was so important. To ensure and sustain rapid growth you have to implement and maintain a certain culture. Your team has to feel like they're not just coming in eight hours a day and going through the motions. First, I treat my people like family; we foster that team mentality. Second, we have profit sharing so the better the company does the better the people do. Third, we foster the attitude that we are making a difference – to our customers our community and each other.
Elena Mesropyan: Finally, what milestones do you have for the company? Tech development, product introduction, international expansion, etc.
Drew Sementa: I want to be voted the best place to work. We are constantly thinking of ways to innovate the payments space and make payments safer, faster and easier. We are launching our new gateway and dashboard in December/January. It will be the first of its kind, with fraud prevention, data analytics, and dispute management built in.
Elena Mesropyan: Thank you, Drew!
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