Sunday, November 6, 2005

Mary Dridi is tackling an age-old conundrum: How do smaller merchants increase business by establishing a solid track record when they don’t have a track record to attract more business?

As the new chief financial officer for BuySafe Inc., Mrs. Dridi plans to help the Arlington company promote Internet commerce through surety bonds, which pre-qualify online merchants and supply buyers with guaranteed financial protection in case a sale goes wrong.

“It is a very unique service,” Mrs. Dridi said. “If you buy something and it’s bonded, then you have a certain amount of protection regarding what you’re buying and the representations that were made by the seller. It also gives the sellers more credit and some kind of differentiation.”

To obtain a BuySafe Seal, the applicant must clear a screening process that asks for proof of identity, financial stability and ability to honor the terms of sale.

If a bonded seller fails to meet the sale terms, BuySafe provides customers with a replacement item or a refund up to $25,000.

“As it’s more and more acknowledged that there’s fraud, there’s identity theft, there are groups of people who haven’t bought online,” Mrs. Dridi said. “It’s not really insurance, but you can think of it as something like that.”

Mrs. Dridi will oversee the financial and administrative functions of BuySafe, which started in 2003 and has 35 employees. During her seven years as chief financial officer at WebMethods, a Fairfax provider of business integration software, she oversaw the company’s initial public offering and subsequent growth to $200 million in revenue.

“We did a very exhaustive search and met with and reviewed many dozens of potential CFOs,” said Jeff Grass, chief executive officer for BuySafe. “She has an incredibly successful background. She’s got a lot of the skills that are needed at BuySafe now that we’ve got the basic business moving in the right direction.”

Mrs. Dridi said consumer awareness of the service will result in natural expansion.

“Over time, it’s going to be something that people are going to expect to have in place,” she said. “The revenue will grow as that grows.”

Before her seven years at WebMethods, Mrs. Dridi was vice president of finance for SRA International Inc., a Fairfax information technology company. She also has worked as a consultant at accounting giant KPMG. In 2002, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Maryland Tech Council and the D.C. Tech Council named Mrs. Dridi CFO of the year.

Mrs. Dridi, 44, lives in Falls Church with her husband, Raouf, and two sons, 11 and 12.

— Kara Rowland

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