Rand is as oldskool as it gets from probably one of the
largest, most professional respected companies in this game. Respect.
Pictures complements of Fubar - check it out the photo archive of all webmaster events!
GFY Ambush Interview thread Rand
Rumor has it Epoch has a big giant dial that regulates scrubbing, where do you guys hide it?
Well, the rumors are
true. Some of them anyway.
The Scrub-O-Meter has been changed a lot over the years. It started out pretty small, got bigger and bigger, then we had to house it in a warehouse near the airport for a while and it took about a dozen people to operate it. Then we figured out how to run it with a scalpel and that's where we are today.
Seriously though, it's always cracked me up when people would say that we've turned up the scrub, or that we are running loose another day. It just doesn't work like that. It's been so many years since any "across-the-board" change was made that I really can't remember when we did. The nice thing about having over ten years of data to analyze is that changes to our scrubbing actually improve sales, not the other way around. Yes, we have to abide by some very strict association rules, but we have made both an art and science out of complying with those rules in a way that helps us approve as many sales as possible, which, is how we all make money (since we don't charge for denying transactions). ;-) And really, if the world was a perfect place and everyone was honest you wouldn't need us. So in fact, what you pay us for is to deny orders. Bet you hadn't thought of it that way.
How in the world did you come to be running one of the largest credit card processing companies for adult websites? Explain the journey.
of all, I'm not running Epoch. I'm fortunate enough to be a part of a pretty
amazing group of people who work like a well oiled machine.
But to speak for Epoch as a whole and our progression, well, I guess you could just say it was the right people at the right time with the right ideas. To explain somewhat about how we got here, the two guys who started Epoch are still owners of the company. Back in those days we didn't have titles on our business cards, but what would be the equivalent of a CTO was Joel Hall. And if you don't think that processing is akin to rocket science, let me just say that Joel came from NASA.
Joel hand coded our systems one line at a time from the ground up. And what he and his partner were able to do is the reason we exist today. A lot of people don't realize that Epoch was the first billing company to offer real time password management, provide real time stats, and launch an affiliate tracking and payment system. In fact, the success of our affiliate system (reseller program) nearly killed us. We had no way to anticipate the amount of volume we received very quickly. We were adding servers every week it seemed. Upgrading equipment daily. And taking a crash course in what fraud really meant. That was both exciting and scary but a test of fire. We came through it better off. Luckily, Joel is still alive to talk about it.
I think being the pioneer in these areas, with proprietary systems, was what sent us to the top with the growing legends of the early days.
The ride to where we are has been very interesting. We've learned and grown a lot as a company. And we've been fortunate to work with most of the pioneers and geniuses of this industry. There were some real shysters too, but that's a whole other bag of worms.
What .org domain did you have and why did you try to get rid of it?
Sorry - Either my memory fails me or you know something I don't.
You were naked at theburningman? Are there pictures of this? Did you sign 2257 concent forms?
I was naked at the temple one night but I have no idea how that happened. Some chick wearing purple and on stilts was there with me and what appeared to be a giant ant. About that time a guy in a space suit came over and started shooting everyone with a water pistol. Then he passed around some "treats" and I can't remember what happened next. All I know is I woke up naked. Well, I still had shoes on. As far as I know... there are no pictures of that evening. It's a good thing.
How many days did it take you to teach Weg Cory to spell saguaro? Did he ever figure it out?
Man, I really don't
understand why people are always picking on Cory. He's a good guy! Don't hold
that midget army thing against him. That shit was FUNNY! And look, he can't
spell because he's dyslexic. And, he's legally blind in the middle part of his
left eye, which is why it always looks like he's looking around you. So
really, I think he does a pretty good job. Add to that, Cory was on
(prescription) medication and drinking mojito's during our soirée so anything
he said should be taken with a grain of salt.
Haha... but seriously, Cory and I (WEG and EPOCH) threw a great party in Phoenix called the Saguaro Soirée, and that was probably one of the best parties I've ever been a part of. It was tons of fun and working with Cory and WEG couldn't have been any better.
People still talk about that night.
What do you do when a Jack Nicholson impersonator keeps fondling the women at your party?
Man, that guy was good but he should've been paying us to be there. He did get a little too crazy with some of the ladies that night so we had to leash him back. Some of the girls were into it and that played out pretty well. The Church Lady helped keep Jack in line.
You guys have recently dropped the Epoch name and now wish to be called Epoch. Why did you guys drop the Epoch name?
I think I know what you thought you meant.
Epoch, est 1996, went through a period of branding that we (at one time thought) might use in mainstream. During that time we marketed a brand called Paycom, which ended up being a part of our adult processing anyway. The idea of working in main stream has changed and we are totally focused on our core competency which is processing transactions for the adult entertainment industry. Because we had two names, our branding efforts were getting confusing so we discontinued use of the Paycom brand in favor of our original (and always) Epoch brand. Once we gained control of the domain Epoch.com this was an easy transition.
What is the Saguaro Soiree video tape and where is it?
it's a tape that shows the Church Lady, Jack Nicholson, and Johnny Carson in
an orgy of adult webmasters on the red carpet at the Saguaro Soiree. There are
parts of the tape with Poppy doing what Poppy does best, Kimmy Kim in a brief
cameo, Amber's cleavage, Eric and Sunny Leone gettin' crazy, Lori Z as you've
NEVER seen her before, Cory big pimpin', and a whole host of other industry
celeb's doing things that would not be safe for prime time without a lot of
The tape has been locked up in a safe for some future time when it may be of use, or, the source of extreme entertainment or blackmail. I'm working on a deal with KB for it to be stolen from the safe and leaked to the main stream media. I already have the domain "AdultWebmastersGoneWild.com" parked and ready. (j/k - it's available if you want it)
Why can't Weg Cory enter the Epoch offices without going through security?
for one thing... you can't walk into Epoch strapped and Cory never goes
anywhere without his Glock 9mm. No, wait, that's me. (kidding!)
No... Cory accidentally wandered into our server room while trying to find the restroom. But security wasn't buying his story after he spent more than 30 seconds in there. Now when he comes to visit he has to wear an ankle bracelet GPS that lets us track where he is at all times. Our server rooms have bio-metric locks and electro-static forcefields so if the facial recognition cameras don't identify you as an approved technician you get a sizable jolt if you touch anything, which, Cory discovered last time he was here.
Do you have pictures of the new offices?
I'll come back to this one and post a few pic's.
Credit card processing for adult websites is a bit more complicated than most people in our industry understand. What is the most difficult problems you see facing credit card processing?
is a very topical question given recent events.
The most difficult things to combat are those things we don't have control of, or may not be aware of until someone discovers the issue and points it out, as with what happened with a particular marketing company recently.
Epoch is more than a payment gateway, we are an information database and risk management service organization. Once a transaction makes it to our servers and we can store, track and monitor activity, we are in control and able to manage the situation. It's when something or someone hijacks the process before we gain control over the transaction that is an interesting dilemma. Never has it been more important to know who you are doing business with. There are ways to combat such problems but for obvious reasons I won't go into that here.
It amazes me how clever some people can be. If we could only bring the unscrupulous away from the dark side of the force it would be amazing to see what they could do.
How many concerts do you attend a year?
varies. I go when there's someone I like performing or someone I just want to
check out. I'm lucky to be in LA where I get a lot of choices. I probably hit
between 15 and 20 concerts/performances a year.
The first concert I ever went to was Elvis Presely. I was seven. It was 5 months before he died. I still remember the show and how good it was. Really. That guy was something else, even with the extra poundage.
I'm supposed to go see "Justice" tonight at the Ford theater, but I'm a little under the weather with a cold and I'm not going to go. The last show I saw was Underworld at the Hollywood Bowl. One of my favorite bands.
The best show I've seen all year was Prince, at 3121 in Vegas. What a great venue for someone like him. He's a really amazing performer live and I was astounded at how good he was.
I'm going to see Crystal Method at a private party this weekend. I already have tickets for an upcoming show of The Cure and a group called Ween (if you don't know Ween you should seriously check them out. They are awesome)
I saw Daft Punk in July, oh helllllllll yeah! Man. So good. -- I saw Roger Waters a few weeks back.
I'm likin' the more intimate shows these days. Going to a mega-arena to see the Stones or Madonna just isn't cuttin' it anymore.
One of the most important aspects of our business is hosting – if someone's servers go down they aren't making any money. This is even more important with Epoch because so many of us in the industry depend on Epoch for processing. Who does Epoch host with and why?
does it's own hosting. Since we handle credit card data we are required to be
compliant with card association rules
We keep it all in house.
Do you do charity work?
I've done a
fair amount of charity work over the years. Normally, volunteering my services
as a photographer. I've raised money for St. Judes Children Research Center,
APLA, the Tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia, and most recently the Venice
I'm currently involved in a project which I founded called One Grass Root. Although it is not a charity, this latest project is an effort to get people to talk about issues that Americans care about in this coming election year. We have produced a film short that will be available soon on YouTube and a website which will allow people to sound off on these issues. The film is simply a diverse group of people asking questions. Such as... "Should there be a tax incentive for volunteer work?", and, "Should we add an option of none-of-the-above to our election ballots". The film even raises questions about abortion, stem cell research, and legalizing marijuana - all in about two minutes.
I'll post more about the One Grass Root project when it's ready for public view. We're pretty close to getting it out. Hope you guys will look at it and pass it along to all your friends. We're hoping to get enough viewers that main-stream media will give us some coverage. Oh, and please buy a T-shirt from our website when it's up.
Is Visa going to pull out of adult? (yawn) ;) Is amex ever comming back?
one can accurately predict the future. But.... an educated guess would tell me
the answer to both questions is "no".
However, the latter is more likely than the former.
Visa knows what we do and how we do it and have qualified third party billing naming it an HR-ISPS. (High risk Internet Payment Service Provider).
If you can use your Visa card to buy Playboy or Hustler magazine, why should they care if you buy your dirty pic's online?
You live in California. What kind of car do you drive?
I have two cars. I have my "practical" BMW 328i and for fun I have the BMW Z3 convertible. Nothing overt the top. I don't drive that much anyway.
Do you have a favorite porn star? Know anyone famous? Fucked anyone famous?
No favorite pornstars. Well, how do you define that exactly? If Aimee Sweet
and Sunny Leone are considered pornstars then they are my favorites, but I
don't know if they really qualify for that term.
- Famous? I do. But I'm not a name dropper and they probably wouldn't want me bringing their names up here. Famous people are just regular people (for the most part) that everyone knows. They have a lot more free time on their hands though so they tend to have very interesting hobbies.
A very dear friend of mine is a world-renowned artist that I will share with you. He's been on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and covered in several magazines. He's famous for his hyper-realistic paintings of classic automobiles. You can see his stuff at http://cleworthart.com. Check it out.
- As for the last part of your question.... not that I recall.
At one point Paypal made a bold entrance into the adult industry and started processing for adult sites (but then quickly pulled out). Was Epoch threatened by this?
Well, PayPal was a concern. They were well known and certainly must have been attractive to a lot of webmasters. However, they did not know the adult business and did not know how to manage the risk. They would not have been able to mingle adult transactions with, say for instance, their eBay transactions due to the way adult transactions must be coded according to association rules. Add to that, as a publicly traded company, it turned out that their Board of Directors decided it was best not to dive into the adult pool. They had their own market niche and didn't want to risk their own particular golden egg. I don't blame them for testing the waters, but when they realized how many sharks there were they made the right decision and moved on.
Can Epoch host MPA3 for programs?
Epoch has it's own version of cascading and tracking software that is based on MPA3. Our version is hosted on our servers so webmasters don't have to integrate anything. We offer this service at no charge to all Epoch clients.
Do you think your Don Johnson or something? Did you really live on a sailboat the first few years working at Epoch?
It is true. I lived on a boat for several years in Marina del Rey. Nine years to be exact. I think I was still on the boat for the first few months I was at Epoch. Sometimes I really miss it. It was a beautiful place. The water was so soothing and provided the best sleep I've ever had. This lifestyle forces you to be a minimalist which I also enjoyed. I met a lot of really amazing people this way too. I took the sailing and seamanship courses offered by the Coast Guard and took up sailing. I have sailed some beautiful yachts to Catalina and in the West Indies. Some very good times in my life, indeed.
Since you started your career at Epoch how many co-workers have left the company? Rumor has it you're the longest lasting employee there.
still have the very first phone list I received when I came and joined the
Epoch crew. There are sixteen names on it and I have it in a frame in my
office. Of the names on the list, only three of us (me and the two owners)
remain with the company to this day. It's been a great experience growing with
a start-up to where we are today. One of the best experiences of my life.
I don't know how many people have come and gone, but, we currently operate with about 140 people I think. Remember, we operate 24/7/365 and always have staff here for billing support and technical support.
Do you tell your neighbors that you work for a credit card processing company that does mostly adult processing?
I hardly ever see my neighbors as I'm almost never at home. But all of my friends know exactly what I do. Usually when I tell someone their response is pretty much "oh", while they think about it. Then they usually have a few questions. ;-) Sometimes I can see the wheels spinning while they are going through their minds wondering if I'm able to know something about their surfing habits. It's petty funny. And then others just say "oh yeah, I've seen Epoch on my billing statement before."
Is it true that you used to be a paparazzi?
I first moved to California I attended classes at the American Film Institute
and worked in the movie business for a couple of years. My highest rank in the
film industry was "Transportation Captain" and part of that job was
to shuttle "the talent" around. It was kind of fun but not a career
Shortly after I was out shooting with my camera at an event somewhere and met someone who offered to be my agent. He wanted me to take photos for celebrity events. He would get me the credentials, pay all of my expenses, and sell my photos. I made a percentage of each sale. So, I started out shooting a few shoot movie premiers. Then parties such as Vanity Fair, and eventually the Academy Awards. I will tell you that the group of men (and women) that do this for a living can be ruthless. I wasn't, I was just having fun and making a little money. So, I had an "obviously" different approach. When standing in a bank of who knows how many photographers, they would all have their camera up shooting and I would just be standing there looking at the celebrity walking by, who in turn, would look at me because they could see my face. They would often look a little puzzeled at first but I would give them a wink and a smile and they in turn would give me a straight on shot. I got some of the best pictures this way. My agent was always impressed. And in turn, some of the celebs (after a few events) got to know me. They would come out and look around going "where's Rand?" I loved it and the other photographers would just look at me like "who is this guy?"
This method worked so well for me that one night I was backstage at the Academy Awards in the place that was set up for the Oscar winners to come back with their trophy to be photographed. The guys that won the Oscar for "When We Were Kings" (Best Documentary Feature) were standing near me holding their Oscar. I was taking a good long look at it because at the time it was as close as I had ever been to one. The director caught me admiring the trophy and asked if I would like to hold it. He handed it to me and seconds later every photographer in the room was looking at me like I had committed some heinous faux pas. But in reality, they were all very envious. Again, it was like "who is this guy?". A lot of those photographers got to know me that night.
But there wasn't much money to be made when 50 or more other photographers were getting similar shots as yours, so I left that paparazzi game after only a few months. Now I get to walk the red carpet on occasion and some of those same photographers yell "Hey Rand" when I walk by. That always makes me smile.
Was Cross-Sell your first love?
first love was the Internet. Then, T3 speed.
But yes, cross sells have worked very well our clients. Used properly and not abused or disguised, they are an effective cross marketing tool. They are not for everyone, but, well managed programs with long term goals can use them with excellent results.
You once attended a concert called the " KROQ Inland Invasion". Explain to us your brilliant idea about using four wheel drive to beat the traffic……
Well..... this music festival was huge and there must've been close to a hundred thousand people there. I was there with a couple of the guys that worked with CyberSocket, one of them was Brian Dunlap who agreed to drive us all out to the show. We had a really good time topped off by a great performance by The Cure. But trying to leave that place was a nightmare. Brian, who had a 4-wheel drive SUV spotted a road that no one was taking and suggested that instead of just sitting in the car for an hour or more waiting for traffic to move that we should see where that road went. So we did. It turned out to be one of those access roads that was built for construction of utility towers and didn't really go anywhere. We went about 10 miles or so I think before we turned around to come back. I started thinking about how I really didn't know Brian that well and wondered where he was taking me. (haha, j/k) It doesn't make for such a great story but we did all have a good time. It was more fun than sitting in traffic.
Seriously, where do you guys hide the scrub dial?
We gave it to Sleazy.
What is the next big thing in processing for adult?
is a lot of speculation about this. The most likely way that billing for adult
will change is that sites will move toward the "pay per view" model.
I think the industry should restrain from that model as long as possible, but
that's probably where it will go eventually.
We have some big news coming out of Epoch soon, but I'm not quite ready to announce it just yet. Stay tuned.
You've been with Epoch for a very long time. Who is the best manager you have ever worked for since your time there?
aren't really structured that way, but I know what you are asking.
I have to say that the person who taught me the most is Clay Andrews. I learned so much from him and admire his keen sense of logic to this day. Clay has great instincts and is easy to work with. It made for a really good learning situation. He made it fun too.
Joel has always been the technical genius and just way over my head with his ideas, but since becoming our CEO, I've learned a lot about his business philosophy and about protecting assets. Joel is a humble guy, riding a bike to work almost every day. He's not about "bling" but strictly about his business and doing things for the right reasons. That's a great type of guy to have leading your company.
And I can't leave out Esther Martinez whom I communicate most with these days. She has a very clear perception and a heavy Spanish accent. She's the best person I know to brainstorm with. She knows how to ask the right questions and thinks many steps ahead of the immediate situation. She's one smart lady I have a lot of respect for.
If processing for adult sites was declared illegal in the morning, what would you be doing for a living?
there were no hypothetical questions?
Well, other than trying to find a place where it would NOT be illegal and setting up shop there.... I guess I'd be doing something creative. I am surrounded by so much talent. Artists, photographers, singers, directors, DJ's, etc... that I would probably try to find a way to move into something creative where I could put these talented people together.
Either that or just sell everything, buy a 40' sailboat, and travel for a while.
What kind of porn turns you on Rand? Can epoch legally process it?
it or not, I don't really look at porn. I see more at a show than I do
But I can assure you that if I did it would definitely be something Epoch would process for.
What can the adult industry look forward to from Epoch in the near future? Any big plans or surprises for us?
is never finished fine tuning. We are continuously looking for ways to do what
we do more efficiently or by offering new tools and features. We do indeed
have a new product coming out before the end of the year. We're not yet ready
to announce it though. Do stay tuned.
As far as big... yes. A surprise? Probably not.
Who do you look up to in the online adult industry? Down on?
( Did not answer the question.)