Matt Bullock was 28 when he started online payment business eWAY in 1998 with the promise of “making online payments easy” for merchants — and he was prepared to invest $50000 in the venture that friends warned was too risky.
Only an entrepreneur would express such confidence in the future of online retailing at a time when ecommerce was mostly uncharted territory. But that’s not how Bullock saw himself. “I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur,” he says. “When you’re starting up, you think, ‘am I a business person?’ You have doubts. Yes, I was doing things, I was creating things and I was growing something small into something much larger but when you start a business you don’t realise that.”
Bullock was a finalist in BRWs inaugural Entrepreneur of the Year awards (March 31 issue). His Canberra-based company, which employs 35 people, provides secure banking transactions for online merchants. Last month, eWAY was the conduit for 1.4 million transactions between its clients’ online businesses and their banks, averaging $5 million a day.
These days Bullock does see himself as an entrepreneur, even though he’s been operating his business for 13 years. Bullock says there is plenty of growth left in the business and he wants to be the one driving that growth: eWAY has 8000 clients and is signing up 200 new clients a month. “I don’t think we’ve even started yet.” he says.
Most of eWAY’s business is in Australia but it’s in the early stages of overseas expansion, Its entry into Britain in 2009 was a rare misstep for Bullock, who tried to break into the UK by using an outsourced call centre to market the business. The attempt at expansion on the cheap without incurring the cost of setting up a local operation with eWAY people on the ground was a disaster: the call-centre operators simply didn’t understand the eWAY business enough to be able to handle customer queries. Bullock has since appointed a country manager to open the eWAY Europe operation in London.
A New Zealand operation is running from Auckland and an agreement with Standard Chartered Bank last year will enable eWAY to accept merchants in India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Bullock says he still thinks like an entrepreneur and is always on the lookout for “a better way of doing things”. One thing I’m fixed on is providing our clients with a point of difference — it’s all I ever think about,” Bullock says. “For me, being an entrepreneur is waking up at 2am with a crazy idea about how we can change the whole customer experience and coming into the office the next morning determined to create something new, something better for our customers.”
Bullock regularly networks with clients and business partners to find inspiration. “Whether I’m on the internet, sitting on a plane or talking to someone in business about how they’ve handled a problem. I look for inspiration everywhere, and I find it,” he says. “It’s about finding those ideas that are out there and plugging them into what you do.”
With that level of enthusiasm it’s no wonder that the question he is most often asked is the one he finds the most curious. No, he does not plan to sell or list his business. “I really enjoy what I do. I can’t think of anything else I’d like to do.” he says. “The biggest thing driving me is not cash, it’s success. What drives me is looking at my business and being proud of it — and I’m pretty damn proud.”