Thomas (Tom) Aronica, Founder and CEO of cloud-based account receivable platform Biller Genie joined us for a quick chat to talk about Biller Genie’s inception and story while sharing his thoughts on a few future trends in fintech:
Tom, we’d love to hear about your journey through the years in fintech and also, the idea and inspiration behind Biller Genie…
Shortly after graduating from the University of Miami with a degree in Computer Science, I founded my first company, PCI Professionals, which focused on providing merchant services for small and mid-sized businesses. In less than three years, I built that company into a viable acquisition target, and in 2011, I spearheaded the merger of PCI Professionals with SkyBank Financial, ultimately taking over as Chief Executive Officer. After experiencing first-hand the issues that small business owners encounter every day, I was able to parlay that success into several other ventures including PrestigePay, a prepaid card issuer providing financial inclusion to subprime consumers in the United States and most recently, Biller Genie, an award-winning Accounts Receivable automation platform. During my tenure in the payments industry, I realized that my growing client base all suffered from a common issue: their payment systems did not connect with their accounting software or internal invoicing administrative workflows causing labor bottlenecks, user error and, ultimately, cash flow issues. I knew there had to be a better way, so in late 2017 I set out on a mission to create an automated solution that would streamline these processes and make it affordable and accessible to small business owners.
By the end of 2018, Biller Genie was born and by 2019 we were in market with our beta helping businesses accelerate cash flow, reduce administrative busy work, and improve the customer experience by eliminating payment friction.
How are you seeing accounts receivables platforms change the game for small businesses today?
The pandemic has impacted cash flow for businesses of all shapes and sizes, but perhaps no business has been as severely impacted as those reliant on manual processes. Cumbersome, manual processes cause a negative ripple effect throughout an organization, impacting its ability to invest in growth, pay vendors, or even make payroll. Firms that embrace technology stand to improve the efficiency of A/R processes, especially those businesses that have shifted to a remote work environment.
Increasing efficiency has gained particular urgency now more than ever, as the pandemic has illustrated to business owners the value created through automation and digital tools in their A/R departments, helping them reclaim lost time and money in order to focus on business continuity and growth.
Can you share a few thoughts on the biggest impacts of AI and new advances on these platforms and what users can expect in future?
In my opinion, the biggest impact of AI has been the speed at which we can gain access to immense amounts of data. The accounting profession, as an example, has been undergoing a paradigm shift towards using AI for automation in recent years, but the role of the accountant will never become obsolete because AI will provide immense strategic value to the profession. As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated and present in all aspect of businesses, accounting professionals can spend their time analyzing and interpreting data in more strategic and analytical roles, rather than transactional and routine tasks such as data entry, bookkeeping and compliance work. AI will give us more access to data, faster, empowering the accounting profession to make better decisions for the firms they support.
What can we expect in the future? I’m honestly not sure. The pace of innovation is the fastest it has ever been yet also the slowest it will ever be. If we went from the horse-and-buggy to cell phones in a period of only 100 years, I cannot fathom what the next 100 will hold.
As it relates to Biller Genie – we plan to implement AI to facilitate learning from our consumers’ behaviors to drive better communication so that we can interact with them at a time and in a method that is most convenient for them. In today’s busy world, we believe that consumers seek convenience, and if we can use AI to assist our clients in making it more convenient for their customers to pay them, then we all win.
In what ways have you seen emerging technologies influence the roadmap of financial management in business like payments over the last few years; how do you see this trend shape up in the next decade?
In recent years, we have witnessed a proliferation of Accounts Payable automation solutions that enable buyers to dictate how payments are made to their suppliers, no matter how inconvenient or costly that option might be. This seems backwards to me – why are businesses focused on automating how they pay bills before getting paid themselves? Perhaps I’m biased, but in the future, I envision more supplier-driven solutions, like Biller Genie, that give the supplier control over how they receive payment while still integrating with the buyer’s systems, making it easy and convenient for them as well – closing the loop on the entire ecosystem.
As global fintech trends change and the market shifts due to business environments (and also Covid-19), what are your comments on the state of fintech in 2021 and beyond?
The increased emphasis on digital solutions was underway way before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has accelerated this shift in financial services and will continue to change the way we interact with our financial institutions in the future. For example, contactless payment solutions have been available in the United States since 2014, but it was not until the pandemic that drove consumers’ priorities and demand for touch-free checkout. Similarly, the significant growth of “online-only” banks will continue to grow in 2021 and beyond. Outside of depositing cash, online banks—those without need for brick-and-mortar locations—can do just about anything traditional banks can and the convenience of managing your money from home or a mobile app makes it the future of banking. The benefits of online banking and the nature of digital banks make them inevitable in our world, the pandemic has just so happened to have shed light on that fact a bit earlier than we all expected.
We’d love to hear about some of Biller Genie’s upcoming plans and innovations?
In 2020, Biller Genie experienced more growth and innovation than ever. We are in the final stages of launching a brand new add-ons marketplace that will allow partners to connect their solutions and promote their services to our growing client base. We will be adding more accounting software integrations with ERP systems like SAGE and NetSuite. We look forward to adding new communication methodologies like SMS and IVR – which would allow us to send invoices and facilitate payments via text – and will be adding support for payments via PayPal and cryptocurrencies. This year has been really exciting but we’re just getting started and looking forward to repeating our growth in 2021.
Before we wrap up, a few biggest learnings and tips you’d like to share with fintech innovators and leaders?
When people ask for my advice, I think about of the work that has gone in to getting us to this point. The biggest lesson I have learned is that the product is never finished, and software development always takes longer than our longest projections. During development, it is important not to let scope creep affect your decision-making process and remain hyper-focused on delivering the minimum viable product for the market. Software development is an iterative process best served by learning from what the market dictates. We have a lot of great ideas, but I have learned that the market will always provide feedback and help us guide future development by telling us exactly what they need or what doesn’t work for them. There is no rulebook for fintech leaders. There isn’t a single path to take when creating new solutions or companies – but staying focused has helped us create an innovative culture and the pathways to sustain it.
Thomas Aronica has 12+ years of experience building successful organizations in the payment processing and fintech industries. In 2019, Biller Genie entered its beta year, and in 2020, it became a readily available SaaS solution. Tom has been recognized as an innovator in his space, building an accounting software and payment processing agnostic platform unlike anything that is currently available in the market. Since going to market in early 2020, over 3,000 users have adopted Biller Genie and that number is steadily growing month over month.