A question we often get asked by potential partners, investors, the media, and candidates looking to join Merit is some variation of, “How does Merit make money?” Our vision is to build a network of truth and trust so everyone can shape their future, and that’s only achievable if everyone in the ecosystem gets value from Merit. Bill Gates once said, “A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it exceeds the value of the company that creates it,” and we strongly agree with this platform mentality. Merit is in the business of value creation, not value extraction. Therefore we are very deliberate when it comes to our monetization strategy.
First, let’s cover what we do not charge for.
If we want every part of the ecosystem to get value from Merit, then we cannot charge organizations to send merits, we cannot charge individuals to receive merits, and we cannot charge individuals or entities to verify merits. In other words – we do not charge for using the Merit platform, treating it like a utility. We feel very strongly about this, because one of our core company values is “everybody is a friend, even if they don’t know it yet.” For us to stand behind that pillar means Merit needs to be truly accessible, regardless of an organization’s or person’s size or financial situation. More truth should lead to more usage, and putting up tolls to access truth limits that opportunity.
For organizations, that means the software is free. Another core value of our company is that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” We would be breaking that promise and limiting the feasibility of achieving our vision if we charged partner organizations to access our platform, because there is no equitable pricing model that works for everyone we want to engage with. Non-profit organizations requiring thousands of software seats couldn’t possibly pay at the same rate that a for-profit business would pay for a handful.
For individuals, a free platform means no fees to receive digital versions of certificates or achievements, no fees to access them, and no fees to prove you earned them. Charging for that would limit the usage of authenticated data, which would then limit the opportunities associated with that merit. In many cases it would also become a double-taxation, something comparable to online “convenience” fees.
For developers, this means we don’t charge to hook into our system to build functionality like license renewals or updates. The bottom line is that Merit’s system is a service that we maintain and operate, but we do not tax its usage.
And finally, we do not ever sell partner or consumer data to third parties. Many companies, and even entire industries, are well-funded and make a lot of money by doing this. We choose not to, because that does not add value for the ecosystem we are building and participating in. Again, we are in the business of value creation, not value extraction.
So what do we charge for?
Our business model challenges the way technology companies typically make money. In most cases, customers pay for access to the technology, but then must use the software on their own to achieve results, often with little or no support once the deal closes. We don’t agree with that model.
Software isn’t a solution; it’s a tool. We sell solutions because we believe in the power of the platform we created to achieve those solutions. No one explicitly wants software – they want results. We charge for results, and work with our partners to achieve them. Organizations choose to partner with us because they believe we can solve their problems. They work with Merit in order to achieve a certain goal, which often means working with parties across the public and private sectors. So while we don’t charge for software, we do charge for the continuous support, roll-out, training, and achievement of partner-specific metrics in an ongoing manner.
A typical solution has many pieces, from data mapping and ingestion, to organization set-up and training, to launch materials and maintenance. For every partnership, we establish a cross-functional team that works with the partner to execute all aspects of deployment and ongoing support. This includes appointing a dedicated project manager who oversees the initial technical integration and onboarding processes, runs point on developing and implementing custom print, video, online, and in-person educational materials, builds and distributes marketing assets and constituent communications plans, and sets practices for ongoing maintenance, feedback loops, and future functionality support. We work hand in hand with every partner during every step to ensure they achieve the solution to the problem they are facing. That’s how we make money.
In addition to the values of “everybody is a friend, even if they don’t know it yet,” and “a rising tide lifts all boats,” Merit’s core values are rounded out with “measure to meaningfully improve” and “building a network of trust and truth.” We are a values-driven organization, and we have spent a lot of time thinking about making money in a way that feels right for our company. Aligning our revenue philosophy and business practices with our four values is just as critical today as it will be in the future as our business evolves.