Desire to be No 1 Drives eWAY Boss

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Ever since he made it easy for businesses to sell products on the internet people ask Matt Bullock when he’ll list on the stock exchange. He kicked off eWAY with $50,000 when he was 28 and a decade later doesn’t know whether it’s worth $1 million or $100 million.

For months he wooed St George Bank to become a partner. Once he got them he signed up the other big banks in Australia and then New Zealand. It took him two years to convince the Royal Bank of Scotland he could increase their business. Now they are one of the five major banks in Britain partnering eWAY, which has just snared the Standard Chartered Bank, opening a path to merchants in India, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Mr Bullock hot on the idea of an online trading service while helping to establish online payments for Medibank Private. His first customer was a Queensland bicycle parts company. Now eWAY transfers customers’ money for all over the world to merchants in Australia, New Zealand and Britain. On average there’s a transaction every second. Debt-free, aside from paying off its headquarters in Phillip, eWAY’s revenue last financial year has grown 47 per cent this financial year. “The more the business grows, the brand grows and the excitement grows, the more I get asked about a float,” Mr Bullock said. But he has no desire to become a public company, nor the need of the money this could raise – just a burning ambition for eWAY to dominate the global online payment provider space.

Of all things about being in business he has learned, the key is that when someone says no, it is just the start of getting to a yes. Two years after the Royal bank of Scotland said no he returned to their office to be told no once more. “After three hours of saying no they said yes and then they said ‘this is going to be exciting’ and ‘this is going to be great'”.

Reliant on merchants paying for his online service, Mr Bullock is now negotiating a fee from banks as well, so eWAY is paid at both ends of a transaction. In its infancy online trading was hamstrung with media stories of internet security breaches costing customers lots of money. He said more sophisticated data security, tighter compliance and extensive external and internal auditing has given businesses and customer’s confidence to trade online. Any breach would end eWAY and the careers of his 35 staff. Mr Bullock said his smartest move was getting partners, including tier one infrastructure companies like Macquarie Telecom and a network of online shopping cart providers.

It hasn’t been plain sailing all the way. While smaller online operators have helped build eWAY’s brand, other third-party providers have not come up to scratch. In hindsight he said the business was better off doing core functions internally. He had to sack staff in a British call centre because they could not grasp eWAY’s business. He is now building a bigger, around -the-clock call centre in Canberra.

While Australian technology companies have grown quickly only to crash and burn overseas, Mr Bullock believes he has the capability to expand as swiftly as online shopping around the world. “We have two data centres in Sydney and one in the United Kingdom. Everything has two or three or four of everything we need. We have a massive amount of redundancy; it is totally built for scale. We’re running at 1 per cent of what we could do. If we think of it as a stadium we have sold a couple of seats of what we could do with the infrastructure we have today”. Caption: BIG AMBITIONS: Matt Bullock at his Phillip headquarters. The company is now building a bigger, around-the-clock centre in Canberra.