10 Startup Tips with Billtrust CEO Flint Lane
“Believe that anything is possible.”
If you're an aspiring entrepreneur, you might want to listen to the words of Flint Lane, the CEO of Billtrust, a provider of outsourced billing services. Having founded two successful corporations (before Billtrust, Lane started Paytrust), the chief executive has several years of experience to draw upon when giving advice.
“I started out as a consultant at Accenture (NYSE: ACN), which is a great preparation for an entrepreneurial career since it exposes you to all aspects of business operations,” Lane told Benzinga this week. “But I'm an entrepreneur by nature, so I left the consulting world and went on to play a major role in several successful startups.”
Lane founded Paytrust, Billtrust's predecessor, in 1998. “Over time, we grew it to become the leading electronic bill presentment and payment solution and had over 100,000 customers nationwide,” said Lane. “We formed relationships with blue chip partners, including American Express (NYSE: AXP) and Citibank (NYSE: C). We sold Paytrust to Metavante, which is now owned by Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU).
“Between the time when I left Accenture and started Paytrust, I worked in management roles with several startups, including Platinum Technology, Logic Works and Brownstone Solutions.”
When asked about the transition from Paytrust (a company that was ultimately sold) to his new company, Billtrust, Lane said that it was all about spotting a new opportunity. “[It was] an untapped market for delivering a seamless migration from paper billing to full electronic bill presentment and payment for companies,” said Lane. “I wanted to fill that need and make a mark in the industry by offering businesses a better way to handle billing and payment.”
Lane definitely made a mark. And in three years, Billtrust achieved profitability. “We've had our ups and downs and have reinvented ourselves more than once,” Lane confessed. “In the early days, we ran the operation from my garage. Now we have more than 800 clients, including Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT), Toshiba, CDW, New Balance, Under Armour (NYSE: UA) and Tech Data (NASDAQ: TECD).”
With regard to industry changes, Lane said that there have been many since he started his career. But he notes that the most transformative change has been the growing acceptance of electronic billing. “These days, it's an accepted reality, and perhaps everyone but the U.S. Postal Service envisions a paper-free billing future,” he said.
During the early days of Paytrust and Billtrust, Lane said that they were initially self-funded and ran on a shoestring budget. “Once we became profitable, I could have kept self-funding if I wanted to operate a ‘lifestyle' business on the revenues we were generating,” Lane explained. “But what I really wanted to do was change the world, so we raised capital to invest and grow. We had a great story to tell because we were providing a solution no one else was providing.
“Getting financial backing entailed building a strong business case for that need. We closed a $4 million round of venture capital with Edison Venture Fund, which allowed us to develop the organization, technology and processes to expand our client base and average 50%+ growth each year.”
When Lane was at Paytrust, “we raised tens of millions in venture capital, so securing the funding wasn't the horror story,” he said. “But it was sometimes a challenge to deal with stakeholders with competing agendas, and there were dead-ends on the development side occasionally.”
Growth and New Services
“We're growing quickly and adding new staff,” said Lane, whose company is currently hiring. “We recently relocated to a new headquarters to accommodate our existing and future growth. We anticipate adding more than 25% to our workforce.”
Earlier today, Billtrust launched Invoice Central, “an open business invoice network that gives companies a way to consolidate invoice receipt, processing and tracking on one user-friendly portal,” said Lane. “It's something new in the industry.
“Consumers have bill aggregation options, but until we launched Invoice Central, businesses had to visit a number of different sites and deal with multiple platforms to receive and process their invoices. We were in a unique position to provide this new service since we've got such deep expertise in electronic billing, and we have the infrastructure, security and marketing resources already in place.”
Lane said that one of the most important parts of being a successful entrepreneur is “knowing your limitations and surrounding yourself with a great team.” His top 10 tips are as follows:
- “Don't invent a solution and search for a problem; identify a problem and develop a solution.”
- “Never run out of cash.”
- “Always ask if there's a way to do something more efficiently or effectively.”
- “Don't be afraid to reinvent yourself.”
- “Stay in touch with your customers and constantly ask what they need.”
- “Believe that anything is possible.”
- “Surround yourself with smart, capable people and listen to their counsel.”
- “Always keep an eye on the future and have a strategy to meet emerging needs.”
- “Never stop looking at the market and identifying problems that need solutions.”
- “Stand out in the marketplace with an obsessive focus on customer service.”
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