Behind every idea lies a muse. In Kevin Laracey’s case, the idea was for a software application that would let businesses and consumers manage and pay their bills online. His muse was his wife, Stephanie, whom he watched separate charges for business and personal calls on her cell phone bill with pencil and calculator for three hours each month.
To turn his idea into reality, Laracey, 37, founded Edocs in 1997. Edocs sells eaSuite, an online account management platform that helps companies including American Express (also an investor), AT&T Wireless, Humana and Target cut costs and improve customer service.
The software pulls billing, statement and account data out of legacy systems and presents it to individual consumers over the company’s website. Consumers can view up-to-date account information whenever they want, pay bills, dispute charges, and even manipulate the information to show?in the case of a credit card bill, for example?how much they spent on clothes versus groceries during a given month.
Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner estimates that moving the bill presentment, payment and dispute resolution process online can save companies at least $13.1 million each year. The savings is so compelling that Edocs currently has more than 100 deployments of eaSuite in five industries?telecom, financial services, health care, retail and energy?in spite of the high implementation cost, which ranges from $500,000 to $5 million.
“When you have satisfied customer references coupled with a strong ROI story, that’s a good recipe for success,” says John Ragsdale, research director at Giga Information Group in San Jose, Calif.
But it wasn’t always that way. The company’s first products didn’t scale well, says Avivah Litan, Gartner’s vice president and research director for financial services. But, she says, “they’ve gotten over that.” And today Edocs is managing more online account management applications than any other company, she adds.
Litan says that Edocs’ willingness to work closely with its customers and make them successful helped the company grow. “They’re dogged. When they’re after a contract, they’re like a dog at your heels?they won’t go away,” she says.
Giga’s Ragsdale adds that Edocs’ vertical expertise is also a strength. “What Edocs brings to the table is that they work with their customers to develop unique sets of features for consumers that are only available in the online channel and that will entice consumers to migrate to the online channel,” he says. “The fact that Edocs can walk and talk financial services, telecom, utilities, health care and retail is very helpful to them.”
Of course, it won’t be long before more enterprising MBAs invade the company’s lucrative space. Currently, Edocs has no direct competition, though CheckFree, Metavante and even Pitney Bowes offer their own flavor of electronic bill presentment and payment.
To stay ahead, Edocs needs to continue to acquire more customers in health care, enter the European market and cross-sell its products into different divisions of organizations that are already customers, Litan says. She also advises the company to devote resources to developing and enhancing its existing payer-based applications for B2B billing and payments.
While Edocs has experienced 16 consecutive quarters of revenue growth at 85 percent each year, according to CEO Laracey, it’s still not profitable. And if the company doesn’t become profitable, Litan and Ragsdale agree, it will be ripe for acquisition.
“They’re not going to go out of business,” says Ragsdale. “But as a small, private company, they could be very attractive to a larger ERP or CRM vendor.”