1-When and why did you start Agree.com?
Three years ago I was going through the wedding planning process with my wife, Ali, and each day we would have a vendor send us a contract, ask us to print it out and sign up and then snail mail or fax it back to them! It was brutal setting up printers and walking back and forth to Fedex to fax these things and then on top of that we still had to get them a check. Most of the vendors want a check mailed to them and then ask for the final payment on the wedding day (also via check) so my wife, being the amazing planner she is, had dozens of nice thank you cards and checks ready for all the vendors on the wedding day. That week we also moved some money from one bank account to another to cover all those payments. The wedding goes great and we head off on our honeymoon in Bora Bora and within minutes of checking into our hotel my phone blows up with livid vendors b/c all the checks bounced because the bank had slowed the deposit process because of how much money was getting moved. This was multiple nightmares that all could’ve been solved if these small businesses had simple online contracts and payments like Agree.com
2a-Did you see weaknesses in the existing Online Contract space?
Yes, I found that the online contract space was filled with large commercial solutions, which work for larger companies or the real estate industry, but for small to medium sized businesses there wasn’t a solution that was easy, simple, and beautifully designed.
2b-Did you set out to intentionally make embedded payments part of your services?
Yes – payments have always been a key piece to the puzzle for us because the contract process, and the relationship between business and client, breaks down when the payment isn’t attached to it. We didn’t want people to be able to get a contract signed digitally, but then have to wait for a check in the mail.
2c-What countries do you operate in?
Our contracts are used globally while our payments are currently available to users in the US with international plans for next year.
3-Who is a great fit to use Agree.com?
We’ve found a good fit with a variety of small business owners looking to get online with their contracts while also being able to receive digital payments. Our company has a history with the photography industry, so have seen good traction there as well as with other “event” based industries. If a business owner is needing a contract to provide their service on a certain date, Agree.com will most likely be an excellent fit.
4-What challenges does Agree.com solve for these clients?
It can be challenging and expensive to know how to setup a legal contract, and if you’ve paid a lawyer to create one, it most likely lives as a PDF document you email, or snail mail, to clients. The process of editing and emailing it, followed by asking your client to print, sign, scan, and send it back is severely outdated and wastes a ton of time. Agree.com includes attorney approved contracts as well as a contract builder to help you quickly create a new contract, then you can save any contract as a template and use it later. The process of sending out a new contract can take less than a minute, and can be done from any mobile device. Having payments tied directly to a contract also solves some common problems. Take the example of a PDF contract; once it’s been signed, a business owner still has to figure out how to get paid. If that’s by check, it most likely takes a few days through the mail. And for any payments due later, a business owner most likely has to “politely” remind their client to pay. Agree.com solves that by automatically processing payments on the dates set and agreed to. If a payment fails, we reach out to the client and ask them to provide updated info. Our free iOS app even sends instant notifications so a user is up-to-date with their contract and payment statuses at all times.
5-How does payment processing happen in Agree.com?
We became a certified Payfac through Vantiv as well as partners with WePay to handle our payment processing. We wanted the onboarding process to be integrated instead of requiring a user to go create a merchant account somewhere else and then try and plug it into our system.
6-What challenges did you face with payments implementation?
The main challenge we faced was the fact that “we didn’t know what we didn’t know”. We were new to this arena so the amount of consultants, attorneys and developers that were needed was mind numbing and made the process painfully slow. We’ve learned a lot along the way.
7-Approximately how long did it take Agree.com to get payments side of your business dialed?
Originally we became our own PayFac which took about 6 months to get rolling, plus regular feature updates after that to dial it in. Ultimately we decided that we wanted to focus on the core of our business so we have more recently partnered with WePay to handle our payments. That switch took about 3 months to make and now is running smoothly.
It’s beautiful. New users can create a free account by simply entering in their email and then they can use the digital payments feature by simple clicking a box. No long forms or approval process. We’ve put a lot of time into designing the onboarding as an easy, streamlined, experience. Once they receive a digital payment we need them to complete a few extra pieces of information to create their merchant profile and receive their funds.
9-Does your payment experience help attract and retain clients?
Definitely, it’s one of our most popular features. When users experience the ease of creating a contract and the convenience of receiving payment directly into their bank account, they love it. Even if a client doesn’t use our payment feature for all of their contracts they know they have that option ready and it’s as simple as a clicking a box to get started.
10-Are there areas where your payment platform could be improved?
Absolutely. We will continue to move towards simplicity and mobility. The mobile experience is very important to our clients so we will continue to make that easier. The addition of ApplePay and AndroidPay as well as ACH payments will help both our clients and their clients make their payments easily through their mobile devices. We’re also planning to offer additional payment-plan options so the balance of a contract can be paid over a set period of time, ie. 6 monthly payments. We also have users around the world that would love to be able to accept payments as well, so expanding the countries we work in is another goal of ours.
11-Has Agree.com had fraud issues and if so how do you mitigate risk?
A year ago we experienced a handful of fraudsters trying to pay themselves with stolen credit cards. A few were successful which helped us set up more rigorous background checking for new Merchants. While that put an end to the fraud, it was time-intensive. Fraud prevention is a constant battle in this businesses and was one of the main reasons we are partnered with WePay.
12-What opportunities is Agree.com excited about?
This past year we’ve seen some huge feature improvements, as well as incredible feedback from users who are absolutely loving Agree.com. We’re excited to continue streamlining our app, as well as venture into additional industries that are needing their own online contract & payment solutions. 2018 is going to be a very exciting year for the company and our users.
13-Any new features or release coming out?
As I write this the team is releasing a brand new contract template feature. This lets any user save a contract as a template and then use it anytime to quickly send off a contract. It lowers the time from the (already low) few minutes to taking less than a minute to create and send a contract.
14-What does the future hold for contract management platforms and specifically Agree.com?
There are specific needs for each vertical. Creating a contract platform that is simple to use, specific to the niche and scalable to other industries is a fun challenge and one that Agree.com is excited to take on – from the bottom up. Docusign, and others, have paved the way by getting some of the bigger industries using digital contracts and payments which has validated the market but the smaller niche industries are still largely using paper and pdf’s because there hasn’t been simple solutions created uniquely for them.
Thanks David for your insights on Payment Facilitation and continued good luck at Agree.com.