Flint Lane says his proudest moment was inventing the electronic bill presenting service, Paytrust, that altered the bill paying habits of a significant part of the consumer population. With his second company, he is trying to do this for small and medium-sized businesses. He helps his clients work both sides of the fence by offering both traditional paper and electronic delivery methods.
Founded as Factor Systems in 2001 and now known as Billtrust, his outsource billing service now serves more than 200 clients nationwide. Some bills get paid by paper, but the number that Billtrust delivered and paid electronically grew at a rate of more than 155 percent last year.
Instead of scanning paper bills and putting them online (like Paytrust), Billtrust supplies printed invoices and bills, on the print side. On the electronic side it has an E-mail, a fax, and an electronic billing solution. Billtrust has 22 employees and saw triple digit growth for each of the last four years. Last year, represented by Bill Barish of Commercial Property Network, Lane tripled his space with a move to 12,000 square feet at the new Forsgate Technical Center.
Billtrust clients typically save 20 percent to 35 percent on their cost of billing immediately, says Lane, and the more the clients get away from paper, the more they save.
“The advantages of outsourcing our billing have been a no brainer,” says Steven Helle, president and COO of Granite City Electric. “In 2006 we quadrupled the volume of bills we deliver electronically.”
Herb Bloom, corporate credit manager for Maurice Electrical Supply, says that 46 percent of his customers have opted for electronic bill delivery. “E-mail billing is absolutely the way to go,” says Bloom. “Everyone who tries it, stays with it. Nobody wants to go back to mailed bills.”
A 1988 graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Lane and his wife have four school-aged children. He worked for Andersen Consulting and Brownstone Solutions before working for a Princeton start-up, Logic Works, in 1995. Lane, Ed McLaughlin, and some of the others at LogicWorks started Secure Electronic Services (doing business as Paytrust) in 1998. Lane managed the acquisition of a potential competitor, PayMyBills.com before he left in 2001. Paytrust was bought by Metavante and moved out of Princeton.
Serving more than 2,700 financial institutions and businesses, and employing 5,500 people, Metavante is now the third largest provider of “back office” bank transactions in the nation, and the second largest operator of electronic billpayment services, says Chip Swearngan, spokesperson. Paytrust’s customer base has been sold to Intuit, but the technology has been incorporated into other aspects of Metavante’s electronic billpayment systems. Also last year Billtrust closed a $4 million round of venture capital investment from Edison Venture Fund, and Edison’s Chris Sugden is on Billtrust’s board.
Sugden has an unusually broad view of the electronic payments field, because he is a veteran of Princeton eCom (see article on the firm now known as Online Resources, page 41). “I was one of Don Licciardello’s first hires,” says Sugden. An alumnus of Michigan State, Class of 1992, and a CPA, Sugden had started two companies and launched and sold two magazines before he was recruited into the electronic payments business. He spent 10 years with Licciardello, a pioneer in the field of electronically moving money from business to business.
It is still challenging, says Sugden, to get businesses to pay electronically. “I believe that less than 40 percent of the bills are on the Internet,” he says.
Edison had also funded another Princeton-based financial technology firm, Princeton Financial, a 240-person company that is now a subsidiary of State Street Corporation. Edison is now Billtrust’s sole institutional investor.
Billtrust has no competitors in the tri-state area, says Sugden. Its nearest competition, Invoice Insight, is in Virginia.
Sugden has also invested in a firm called InPerson Payments (IPP), which has an electronic payment technology that could serve the same clients as Licciardello’s — an “unbanked” population. If Licciardello’s Poni card helps foreign workers send cash home electronically, then Sugden’s IPP payment engine helps workers without bank accounts pay bills electronically. Sugden says that IPP supplies technology to 6,000 storefronts and serves one-fourth of the unbanked market in North Jersey.
Sugden points out that Princeton eCom (now Online Resources), Billtrust, and IPP are “all here in New Jersey.” But the electronic bill availability market may be at a plateau, and he predicts that the unbanked market has the greatest potential for fast growth. “The banks are trying to tap that market, with a credit card for the undocumented workers who want to remain anonymous — but who need banking products.”
Still, Sugden maintains that only a couple of small firms do what Billtrust does in electronic and paper. Noting that Billtrust makes pitches to companies that send from 15,000 to 250,000 bills per month, he reveals that the “sweet spot” is the company with 50,000 to 100,000 bills. Says Sugden: “Whatever way a customer wants to see the bills, we can do that.”
Billtrust, 1095 Cranbury-South River Road, Suite 3, Box 480, Jamesburg 08831; 609-235-1010; fax, 609-235-1011. Flint Lane, president. Home page: www.billtrust.com