EY Entrepreneur of the Year emerging catergory finalist: Alan Coleman, Brite:Bill

We generate over 80 per cent of our revenue from international markets

Alan Coleman of Brite Bill speaks about pivoting in business and the benefits of making firm and fast decisions. Video: EY

 

Alan Coleman is the founder and chief executive of billing software company Brite:Bill.

A graduate of University College Dublin and the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Coleman began his career with Morgan Stanley investment bank in London.

Before establishing Brite:Bill, he was alliance sales director for the products operating group (EMEA) at Accenture. In this capacity, he was responsible for €100 million worth of hardware and software sales.

Founded in 2010, Brite:Bill is headquartered in Dublin, and has offices in London, Madrid, San Francisco, Shanghai and Toronto. The company helps service providers, such as utility companies, telcos and banks, present and manage billing communications.

With the Brite:Bill platform, service providers can improve customer interactions by pre-empting questions, tackling issues and highlighting appropriate and new services through personalised, targeted messages.

The improved billing process, with interactive bills, reduces bill-related helpline calls and customer churn, boosts long-term loyalty and improves customer satisfaction.

Business customers get the insights they need through tailored analytics and customisable dashboards to understand costs and service-usage through simple graphs, tables and alerts.

Over the past five years, Brite:Bill has secured deals with Sprint, Vodafone Ireland, TMobile, Eircom, UPC, Meteor and Tele2.

What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start up in business? I remember seeing how hard it was for my mother to stay on top of all the written bills and letters that she amassed over the years from companies. This showed me that there was an opportunity to vastly improve how we structure these communications and how we distribute them.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it? I was once advised to go back to the office and let half my employees go as a market we were pursuing was not working and we needed to preserve cash.

I felt strongly that was the wrong thing to do as I knew our other market would work and I needed people to meet that demand, so I backed my team to win the business and generate the cash we needed. I made the right call. Describe your growth funding path: We are privately backed by two Irish venture capital companies (Investec and Delta) and some individuals. We have raised a relatively modest amount of investment capital for our type of business.

My preference is to fund our business out of cash receipts as much as possible.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans? We generate over 80 per cent of our revenue from international markets. We have offices/representation in Australia, China, Spain, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US. All our future growth will be international.

What is the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make? I think some entrepreneurs look at the tag of being a “start-up” as being an excuse for not running their businesses with the right levels of professionalism.

I look at it as the exact opposite; if you are a “start-up” then you have to outperform much larger competitors with a fraction of the resources. You have to be better than them at everything.

What were the best and the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out? The best was probably around the importance of decision making.

Do not hesitate to make a decision. The worst was a number of people who told me that I did not have a scalable business. I listened, considered and then ignored them.