Online Subscription Billing Is Still A Hassle, SaaSy Aims To Change That

Small business owners have about a gazillion things to worry about when it comes to running their company. It’s enough just to manage and execute their business model, let alone having to worry about software, infrastructure, tracking, compliance, customer service and so on.

As more and more Web businesses turn to subscription-based models to make money, services have popped up left and right to meet the demand, but the fact remains, developing and maintaining the many moving parts of an e-commerce infrastructure is still time-consuming and expensive.

Enter SaaSy, a company launching this week that wants to take the process of building, managing, and improving an e-commerce system (in other words, the hassle) out of your hands to allow you to focus exclusively on the development and marketing of your subscription-based service. (What’s actually important.)

SaaSy is an all-in-one subscription e-commerce service for software-as-a-service, web 2.0, and web services companies. What that means is SaaSy targets businesses that sell downloadable software, games, e-books, and other digital downloads, for example. There are quite a few companies out there aiming to make it simple for companies to offer subscription-based services and provide an easy-to-use system with a nice user interface, thorough analytics, and all that good stuff. Recurly, Chargify, and Spreedly all come to mind as startups offering similar services.

What sets SaaSy apart from its competitors is that most of these recurring billing services require you to obtain your own merchant account through payment gateways like Authorize.Net. Because SaaSy is an off-shoot of sister company, FastSpring — itself a payment processing and merchandising solution — it is building onto a full-service e-commerce platform. FastSpring has been in operation since 2005 and is used by more than 1,000 companies.

This means that Saasy (via FastSpring) is the merchant of record, so it handles all aspects of purchasing and delivery, including licensing and activation, and manages buyer satisfaction and payment-based customer support. What’s more, merchant account, payment processing, and gateway fees are built into SaaSy’s pricing. As a result, you don’t have to deal with the extra cost of hosting a merchant account, or take the time to go through registration and approval and, as the merchant, SaaSy takes on the various risks associated with these accounts. That means no more worrying about being dropped by a third-party or having a heart attack because your gateway is down and you have no backup for payment processing.

SaaSy also enables your customers to pay for your subscription service globally using major credit cards and provides a customizable, order page so that you can match the design of your web site. The order page also displays results in your customers’ local language and currency. Pretty cool.

And because SaaSy is a software-as-a-service company itself (it’s not just a clever name!), the company is familiar with the challenges of building and maintaining software on the web for a large client base. SaaSy’s UI and e-commerce platform, SpringBoard, (which you can see in the image above) is designed to be easy to use and implements an intuitive task-based layout, simple navigation, and contextual help.

When I spoke with SaaSy CEO Dan Engel, he told me that part of being a good software-as-a-service company is, of course, providing software that is simple, functions reliably, and is customizable to users’ needs. But, just as surely as I’m typing this, am e-commerce SaaS company (though this applies to all, I think) is going to have to respond to questions, concerns, and problems on the user end on everything from implementation to payment processing. As such, the way in which a company provides support is key, Engel said. Fast, smart customer service can make a company — just ask Zappos.

As this is the case, SaaSy offers year-round support, seven-days-a-week, and Engel said that the average time it takes for a staffer to respond in person is between 1 and 2 hours. The company also assigns your business a “Dedicated Account Manager”, who will work one-on-one with you on your store “and can offer insights into e-commerce best practices for optimal page conversion and for maximizing revenue per order”, according to its site.

Prior to becoming CEO at FastSpring and SaaSy, Engel was Marketing Manager at Google, where he led online advertising for AdSense and AdWords. And before that, he was VP of Market Development at Picasa and in charge of online marketing, sales, and biz dev initiatives. His client-side experience, he said, taught him the importance of providing and maintaining a high level of customer service and technical support. Both he and SVP of Software Development Ryan Dewell spoke volubly about customer service and how seriously the company takes it. They think it’s what really sets them apart from the rest of the field. I almost fell asleep listening to their thorough customer service pitch, but I was impressed. They clearly mean it.

On the flip side, however, while SaaSy does not charge for sign-up or setup and does not lock you into a contract, SaaSy isn’t exactly cheap. Pricing is 5.9% plus $.95 or 8.9% flat per transaction. That’s not exorbitant if your business is working with a ton of customers, and it’s nice that there are no monthly charges, but that model isn’t exactly geared towards other startups, like other recurring billing services that offer different pay grades for how many customers you serve.

That being said, FastSpring is making money, which will give SaaSy a financial cushion. The founders bootstrapped $30K to start FastSpring in 2005 and have grown the company to over $45 million in revenue, with no VC funding. Not too shabby. Engel said they’ve had VC interest, but as of now, they’re happy calling the shots.

So, if you’re in the market for e-commerce solutions, check ’em out. SaaSy’s full feature list is here.