Powerful Global Start-Up to Support Cross-Border Marketers

A group of former postal and direct marketing executives are launching a global enterprise to ease market entry around the world for Internet and direct marketing companies looking to sell outside their home markets.

Ezy.buy.com expects to be up and running in time for the European fall catalog season with an array of services designed to keep merchants focused on their products and not on the minutiae of entering markets and delivering goods.

The most visible member of the five partners who make up the management team is James Grubiak, the former head of the U.S. Postal Service’s International Business unit formed in 1995 to win back market share USPS was losing to foreign posts.

Grubiak launched Global Package Link, a delivery service that linked the unit with postal administrations in 11 major markets including Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Brazil.

But his efforts ran into political flack from UPS and other courier services who accused USPS of unfair competition. Grubiak left the postal service earlier this year.

Other partners include Michael Sweeney who is bringing Fortress Europe, a full service Irish direct marketing company north of Dublin, into the combination. Until recently Deutsche Post had a majority stake in Fortress Europe.

Fortress Europe will be the new company’s European anchor, while Michael Tallent, a former International Business unit contractor, brings in his Virginia-based company as the U.S. anchor. Gary Stroud, another International Business unit contractor, comes in as the software expert.

Charles Cavanagh, president of DM Days in New York, the country’s second largest direct marketing show and a veteran direct marketer with broad contacts in the United States and abroad, rounds out the team.

Mario Neiman, who owns a direct marketing company in Buenos Aires, is coming on to provide the Latin American anchor. The group is still negotiating for an Asian anchor.

Ezy-buy.com’s core product is a hybrid processing center that can offer all the front- and back-end services a direct marketer or e-tailer requires, from call centers to Web page design.

Global Package, Tallent said, had the logistics to deliver goods economically and efficiently but it could not provide other necessary services for market entry.

For example, Tallent said, “Who will tell me if someone will buy my goods in a foreign market? Who will do localization, customer service, paper processing, currency conversion, translation and creatives if needed?”

“What we will be doing is providing all the pieces of the puzzle that are missing now and provide our customers with the best available solutions,” Grubiak said, be it Web page design or handling returns in local languages.

Many companies going overseas don’t know what things they need to include in the design of a Web page. “We hope to include those elements. If all you have is transaction, you are stuck.

For small or medium-size companies that don’t have a Web presence, “We will create that Web for them, put them on a mini-mall, incubate them and then move them all onto a major mall later on,” Stroud said.

“What makes us different,” Grubiak said, “is that we will be bi-directional. If an Argentine company wants to target Hispanic communities in the U.S., our American company will help him do that by identifying the best list broker, best routing and lowest cost.”

Much of the work outside the core business will be outsourced. “We’re not interested in going into the list business,” Tallent said. “But we are negotiating with two list companies to help them get into foreign markets.”

Once there and operational, ezy-buy.com customers could use their know-how in foreign operations as well as their services for coming into this country.

Web merchant customers won’t have their order taken only to find out days later that “we don’t have that suit in stock in your size and color,” Tallent said. “Our system goes right into the inventory of the manufacturer and tells you whether it is in stock.”

Fortress Europe has built a system in which callers from different countries are immediately identified and connected to a native speaking operator. Credit cards are validated in real time and so are stocks in a warehouse.

“If the money and the stock is there, we tell our loading dock to ship it. Once it gets off the dock, we ship it in the most economical way and then suck the money from the credit card company and transfer the funds.

Ezy-buy.com revenues will come from the back end, “from the success of the whole endeavor, not from having a client pay us $100,000 up front to bring him into another country with the risk on the supplier, not the provider.”

Financing is being lined up, and Cavanagh said that the stock market’s recent gyrations haven’t affected them. “We don’t see any problems here,” he said. “And one reason is that we are not selling blue sky, moon and stardust.

“We are lining up hard, operational-type money, and we are performing services that are desperately needed by the people who are marketing and don’t know what to do.”

He sees no problems in getting word out to potential clients. “We know a lot of people, and we’ll contact them via old traditional methods — a letter here, a letter there. I think there is some real interest out there.”

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