Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Preventing Chargebacks

One of the things most vexing and costly concepts for new businesses are “chargebacks”. Chargebacks are when a customer’s banks forcibly requests a return of funds. In a nutshell, its when bank is the one asking for a refund vs. a customer to business transaction. What’s the big deal about this? Well, it’s a bad thing for multiple reasons. Each Chargeback returns the amount that was transacted, plus a fee from your payment processor (which varies from provider to provider). It’s not uncommon for each chargeback cost to reach up to $30 each. These obviously directly impact your revenue and with their random nature, it inhibits your ability to accurately forecast revenue. Even worse, if you have lot of chargebacks, your merchant account provider can suspend, or even cancel your account. If this is the only way you get revenue, you could find yourself without a way to bill customers.

How can you best prevent chargebacks? The easiest way is to provide your customers an easy way to contact you regarding billing questions. Refunds are one of the most common types of chargebacks and by providing your customers with an easy way to contact you regarding a refund, you can avoid having to pay to avoid the chargeback fees. By quickly responding to refund requests, you save your company the cost and the risk of handling additional chargebacks that could be avoided. Another way to prevent fraud-based chargebacks is by requesting the “CVV2″ numbers, which provide another way to ensure the credit card number you’re transacting is correct. A clear terms of service on your site also helps as it makes it clear what services your offering, and when a customer is entitled to a refund. These are just a few ways to avoid chargebacks. For some other helpful tips, the 37 signals team has a great post on their approach to avoid chargebacks.

Recurly Rocks

From TechCrunch; Back in mid-November, we wrote about a new startup called Recurly which aimed to help other startups alleviate the pain of implementing subscription-based payment systems for their products. Since that time, Recurly has accepted 172 companies into their private beta, and feel comfortable enough handling that load that they’re opening to a public beta today.

That will make the 450+ other companies on the wait list happy. And it should bring a rush of new interested customers as alongside the public beta launch, Recurly is announcing two new features. The first is that they’ve made the service international-friendly. “We learned from our beta that many international companies weren’t being served by the existing subscription providers, so we expanded our International Payment Gateway support. We have expanded gateway support from the US, UK, and Canada to also include companies in Europe, Asia and Australia,” co-founder Tim Van Loan tells us.

CauseWorld Will Be Huge

CauseWorld is a mobile application that lets you help the world while you shop!
This is the easiest way to give back to your community, and its entrance in the mobile app market is perfect timing for the holidays. Best of all, in these tough economic times, it costs you nothing – our generous sponsors pick up the donation bill. All you need to do is walk into one of the many stores you most likely frequent anyway, such as common groceries, hardware stores, department stores, and many others. Pull out your phone, open the app, and check in. No purchase is required. By checking in, you earn karmas from our sponsors. Donate those karmas for specific actions to improve the world. Some of the many actions in the CauseMall include donating to classrooms in need, planting a tree, providing a meal for the hungry, or helping an injured animal. CauseWorld is available on the iPhone and Android phones. Join the CauseWorld community today - and make a difference with the causes that you care about!

10 Fastest Growing FaceBook Euro Markets Interesting but back from 9.09

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Linden Lab Gets New CFO

Wonder how long he will last? From VWN; Linden Lab announced today that it has appointed Bob Komin as its new Chief Financial Officer. Komin will be stepping into the shoes left empty when former CFO John Zdanowski announced that he would be leaving the developer of Second Life last March. At the time Zdanowski said the company had overcome the challenges of a start-up, so he was moving on. Komin will report directly to Linden CEO Mark Kingdon and take responsibility for Linden's finances and Second Life's economy, which the company says reached $567 million in user-to-user sales in 2009. Most recently, Komin served as CFO for Solexel, a solar energy start-up. Previously he was CFO for voice-technology provider Tellme Networks, helping it through an acquisition by Microsoft. While some shares of Linden have been changing hands recently, it sounds like Komin is dedicated to building out existing revenue.

"“The virtual goods industry is in its early stages and there is enormous potential for Second Life to redefine how people interact with technology and think about what is possible,” he said in a statement. “Linden Lab – a pioneer in this multi-billion dollar industry – is a market leader today, and I am delighted to join the company during this phase of growth.”

Why PayPal Guy Was Fired From Jagex

This is old news but interesting for those who missed it ... apparently the EBAY / PayPal CEO guy was forced out because "he was too focused on making money".

"Iddison resigned from Jagex in January 2009[4], for unspecified reasons. Based on the ambiguity about exactly when he joined Jagex, he worked for the company for 15 to 17 months, though Andrew Gower is quoted as saying that it was 18 months.
“ On behalf of everyone at Jagex, I’d like to thank Geoff for everything he has brought to the business over the last 18 months, and wish him all the best with his future endeavours. ”

— Andrew Gower, [4]
“ I have enjoyed working for Jagex immensely. The business remains at the cutting edge of the video games industry and its continued growth reflects the strong business model and the high calibre of people within the company. It was great to be part of a business which is shaping the industry in such a way. ”

— Geoff Iddison, [4]

However, in an interview published in May 2009, his successor Mark Gerhard commented on what he perceived as the problem with Iddison's approach, which he thought was being too concerned with making money. This was both through constantly encouraging free players to pay the membership fee, and by employing the most lucrative forms of advertising (namely video advertisements). He described this as "simply wrong, not in the spirit of the free game, absolutely wrong".
“ The problem was, a year or so ago, there was -- let me say confusion, as a subtle word -- as to what part of the business was important. I expect the CEO’s focus was just sort of on the profit and loss column, and all of the attention was sort of on "members members members and members conversions" and getting free players to convert to Members by putting members hooks in the free game. Unfortunately that had a really negative effect on the community, as you've taken what was an epic entirely free game and turned it into a sort of demo for the members game which was never the idea.

So unfortunately we had a year where we did that. One of my first orders of business in February was ripping that part out. There are various things we did to “monetize” the free players. Such as serving long-standing free players video ads. Something like 10 or 15 seconds. Which whilst profitable was simply wrong, not in the spirit of the free game, absolutely wrong.

— Mark Gerhard, [17]

Gerhard had said when he took over as CEO in February that video ads "generate significantly more revenue than other adverts", but that they were "annoying to the point it was putting [free players] off playing", which is why he scrapped them immediately[18].

Jagex Starts Publishing 3rd Party Games

UK-based Jagex, developer of the popular free-to-play MMORPG RuneScape, is publishing a third-party developed title for the first time in its history, according to a report in the Cambridge News. "With the strongest pipeline of new games and updates in our history, we're on track to cement our position as one of the fastest growing games companies in the world," commented Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard, who promised "big plans" for 2010. "2010 is set to be our most successful year to date, with more world class browser games, the publishing of War of Legends, our first third-party developed title, and building on the success of our first iPhone game Bounce Down," he added. Jagex has an official website for War of Legends that describes the online multiplayer title as "free strategy game." The game's official Twitter account says the game is real-time and has "a mix of 3D isometric and 2D graphics." The game's developer is currently undisclosed.

'Microtransactions' for virtual goods add up for free online games

By Mike Snider, USA TODAY
A few virtual weapons here, a few avatar outfits there, and pretty soon you're talking about real — not virtual — money. Having first appeared in free-to-play online games in China and Southeast Asia, virtual goods and game enhancements paid for in small purchases called microtransactions have become a billion-dollar boon for U.S. online game publishers. The newest game with microtransactions is War of Legends, from the makers of online hit RuneScape. But unlike RuneScape, which is free but has subscriptions (starting at $5.95 a month) that give players access to premium areas, War of Legends is a free game that lets players buy virtual goods and upgrades to enhance their experiences.