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  Monday, December 1, 2008

  Q.& A. | Ronald D. Martin

by Christopher A. Krafcik

We caught Ronald D. Martin, the chief executive of Neovia Financial, which, until recently, traded as Neteller, amid a busy day.

The technologically savvy Mr. Martin, whom we discovered is an unwitting lightning rod for travel delays (just ask his management team) was keen to discuss the ups and downs of running a publicly traded firm; Blackberry addiction (a proliferating condition, if you ask us); a $15 million planned acquisition; and the travails of getting his daughter outside and away from the alluring world of Webkinz.

Can you tell me a bit about what motivated the recent Neovia rebrand?

    We've had a lot of questions around this, actually. This is really the final phase of a rebranding process that we laid out 12 or 14 months ago, so this has always been where we were headed. We've been progressively rebranding the brands of the company, and while we certainly have fondness for the Neteller name, it will remain at the wallet level, but it no longer did a very good job of providing an umbrella over what we think is a very capable payments suite. Neovia gives us a lot more headroom, better describes what we do today, and, equally importantly, gives us a lot of headroom for the vision we're trying to pursue, which is a broader, more capable system -- both with gaming and other e-commerce communities.

You guided Neovia through a difficult period in 2006-07 and are now facing a challenging macroeconomic climate. Can you tell me about your best and worst day as C.E.O.?

    We faced some challenging business decisions in '07 -- I had to take ultimately tough business decisions to restructure the company rapidly to address the reality of where we were, in terms of reduced revenue opportunities, at least in the short term. At the end of the day, Neovia -- or any business -- is a collection of people with talents, drive and motivation, and clearly one of the most challenging and heart-wrenching things for me was letting go of a lot of people that had done a lot to drive the company to where it was and who were talented. Had the situation been different, we would have liked to have them stay as part of the team. So that's probably -- I can't point to a single day, but certainly as a memory is how I'd look at that.

    Today, in terms of what it represents, is as good as any other we've had, in that our acquisition from IDT Corporation gets us one of the largest prepaid businesses in Europe. It leverages a lot of Neovia's strengths, it brings a whole new distribution channel to the company, it brings some talented people and gives us another product line that we can extend as we grow the business.

    On the same theme, I think IDT Corporation is a sort of representation of a best day. The Neovia management team -- I'm extremely proud of the way the team has come together to overcome the adversity that the company has faced, and I think we've come back and solved our problems and laid out a vision for the future. We've done that aggressively while maintaining the business that we have. So, every time I get together with my management team and we problem solve in an effective way, you know, those are great days.

    One of your questions was what motivates me. Working with smart, driven talented people is the answer to that question. Many of my best days at Neovia are when my management team -- or, as a broader organization -- get together and decide where we want to go and take steps to realize that vision that we're trying to put in place.

What would you be doing if the Internet had not been invented?

    (Laughs.) I hadn't seen that question. Not to sound like a broken record, but I like organizations where you work with people to solve problems. So, I think it would probably be something in technology. I come from the software business, before this, so taking technology and applying it to make economic sense, I hope, would be something I'd be doing. I came from Boston out of the Internet boom, so disconnecting the Internet from all that would be hard to imagine.

What were you up to in Boston?

    I'm originally Canadian but have been in the States for 10 or 12 years before joining Neovia. I came from the outsource industry, but came across to the software industry 10 years ago with venture-funded businesses in the Boston area. I worked with Benchmark Capital and others in various deals. I happened to be at a company called Global Force when I joined Neovia, which was an Ireland-based software company that I was helping bring to the States.

As an I-gaming industry executive, you've no doubt traveled extensively. Have you had any weird or funny cultural experiences you'd be open to recounting?

    I read that question and couldn't think of a cultural experience. I will tell you that my management team hates to travel with me because it seems like any time I'm on the airplane, something bad happens. I won't name the airline, but once, we were at a gate and they backed it up and jammed the plane into the gate itself -- that was in Calgary, and it was 12 hours until they replaced the plane. Once, a nose wheel broke, so we sat around for another 14 hours. The most recent one was in Gibraltar, and we got diverted, so it was just one more in continuing stream of belief that my management team doesn't want to go anywhere near me on an airplane.

At least nothing's happened mid-flight . . . right?

    No, no, it's all been safe. It's all been us sitting around airports, but they'd still like to avoid traveling with me.

    (Laughs.) I don't take it personally.

Any online trends you wish would disappear?

    Obviously, I'm a big fan of the Internet, and the technology is how I earn my livelihood. I happen to think a lot of people would be well-served to get away from their desks, go outside and maybe get some exercise. I'm not sure swapping TV for Internet is the best approach for people. Getting out and going for a run, taking your dog out -- whatever -- would serve people better than the hours some people tend to spend sitting in front of the PC. As interesting as some of that stuff may be, I don't think it should replace getting out with friends or getting some exercise.

    (Laughs.) I battle with my daughter because she loves Webkinz -- these stuffy animals. They've attached an Internet model, which I think is quite brilliant because it makes people want to buy a lot of them, and they hang out online all together. So I'm always fighting with my daughter to get her outside and doing something as opposed to hanging out in Webkinz world. This is a trend I've seen that I could see diminished anytime soon.

How attached are you to your mobile, and if given the choice, would you be rid of it?

    (Laughs.) Glad you're not asking my wife that question.

    Because I'm back and forth between North America and Europe, I carry a cell phone from each region -- one's a Blackberry from Calgary, and I have a cell phone I use when I'm here (Europe).

    Even on vacation, I have trouble putting that Blackberry down, so I'm probably the same as everybody else in terms of being addicted to the response and getting back to people. It's tough to not be online -- you're sending responses back at two in the afternoon when you're supposed to be sitting around the pool. No doubt the same as everybody else out there -- Blackberries don't go away easily.

FROM THE EDITOR: Tell us what you want to read about in IGN.

About the Author
Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.

 

More Articles by Christopher A. Krafcik

See Also

After 'Intense' Tenure, Neovia C.E.O. to Step Down

Neovia Welcomes New Shareholders to Fold (Update 1)

Neovia Bolsters Prepaid on Pickup from Struggling IDT Corp.

U.K. Consumer Downturn Hits Neteller's Netbanx Europe

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