In a world where email has killed the hand-written letter and MP3s have surpassed the vinyl record, only 8% of the 330 billion invoices sent around the world each year are processed electronically.
Electronic invoicing, or e-invoicing, is a $67 billion growth industry with a roughly 20% increase in the global volume of electronic bills each year.
Invoice Sharing is a Dutch start-up looking to disrupt this sector with a ‘freemium’ business model and open-source philosophy.
The story of Invoice Sharing began with an e-invoicing company called TBlox, which CEO Jeroen Volk founded over nine years ago. In 2013, Volk and TBlox CTO Vincent Prooij decided to spin off the digital invoice sharing portion of TBlox into a new company which they run today.
“Usually invoicing platforms are built as closed systems (which place restrictions on what other software they can interact with), but me and Vincent both are strong believers in open systems. We wanted to build something that was open to everybody,” says Volk.
Their knowledge of this highly competitive industry led them to adopt a high-volume, low-cost business model that offers free digital invoicing with added premium features. Customers pay nothing to send, receive and validate a capped amount of invoices electronically. Then for a monthly subscription of up to 499 Euro ($670) they can make use of premium features such as an automatic ‘accounts payable’ function.
Despite a multitude of firms offering electronic invoicing services, the sector is fragmented in terms of features each offer. Most firms are focused on large cap companies for their customers.
Invoice Sharing’s main competitors are the U.S.-based Tradeshift and Taulia, a five-year-old firm that turned over $11.3 million in 2012.
“There are thousands of companies in this world, but they only connected to one or two other systems and they are very costly. We connect to our platform in XML and then output the same invoice into a different platform, so it is very open,” says Volk.
This open source approach makes Invoice Sharing stand out from the pack and the firm is already gaining recognition in the startup world. In July of this year it was selected by Startupbootcamp to join its London-based finance technology accelerator program.
Over the next year Volk plans to launch Invoice Sharing in more European countries, starting with the U.K., and then the U.S. in order to continue building its brand. A few big name clients would help establish the start-up as a serious player and persuade customers to pay for its premium features.