Flint Lane is a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Billtrust, a company offering B2C and B2B billing services. Billtrust has earned numerous awards from business organizations, including the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and Inc. 500. Prior to founding Billtrust, he was the founder of Paytrust, an electronic bill presentation and payment (EBPP) company. He has also held executive positions at Platinum Technology, Logic Works, and Brownstone Solutions. Mr. Lane received his bachelor of science in computer science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Sramana: Flint, let’s go back to where your story begins. Where are you from, and where did you grow up?
Flint Lane: I grew up in New York and was a bit of a computer nerd growing up. I was the first kid in the computer class each day, and I loved the power that computers could bring to help solve problems. I studied computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I joined Andersen Consulting out of college and left shortly thereafter to begin a path with software companies. I was with two different companies that were acquired by Platinum Technology, so I got a sense of what it took to build great software.
In 1998 I left Brownstone Solutions to start my first business, Paytrust. I had always paid my bills online, but bill paying was a habit that I had to have. I felt there had to be a better way. I wanted to receive all my bills online and pay them all online so I did not have to face a pile of bills at home each week. I could not find a service that did that, so I decided to build one. Our service allowed consumers to sign up to receive and pay all of their bills online.
We did that by redirecting their bills to a paper processing center where we would scan them, digitize them, post them online, and send an email to our clients letting them know that they had a new bill. It was a wonderful service but a very difficult business.
Sramana: Customer acquisition must have been difficult.
Flint Lane: That is dead on. There were two big problems, one of which was customer acquisition costs. We had to convince people to change their payment habits, which was difficult. The second problem was that handling all of that paper was very expensive. We had a good handle on the first problem through partnerships with Citibank and American Express. We gave them branded versions of our service.
The path was not as clear when it came to dealing with the paper problem. We had millions of bills coming in each month. We would go to billers and explain to them that they had an electronic feed that was being sent to a printing and mailing system. We advocated that it would make sense for them to send us the bills electronically and we would pay them electronically through our portal. The billers loved the idea, but they could not get out of their own way. This was 1999 and 2000, when billers could not even get a bill on their own website, much less deliver a bill to a third party.
That was the genesis behind Billtrust. The world was moving toward electronic billing, and the billers were not capable of handling it. If we could build a service that could help billers, we felt we would have a winner.