02 Dec 2013 Another e-invoicing miracle announced
Today the world of e-invoicing witnessed the birth of it’s latest miracle. “A business model considered ‘impossible’ by the industry is now the new reality.” the press release states. “A bomb in the world of paid electronic invoices.” Not just a miracle, a spectacular miracle. Although, I have to say, some of the impact has been lost in translation.
And it gets better.
“The InvoiceSharing business model is similar to companies like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, that all have one thing in common: They have been changing the world.”
Let me rephrase the above: “Spot the odd one out: InvoiceSharing, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn”
InvoiceSharing are new and they’ve just launched themselves into the e-invoicing world with a level of self-delusion that makes some of their competitors appear almost realistic in their assessment of their ability to disrupt. But don’t be misled by my mocking tone – InvoiceSharing might just be onto something.
I was sent the press release in advance last week and in a moment of madness, wrote to Jeroen Volk the CEO of InvoiceSharing asking – in effect – “WTF?” To my surprise I got a really credible response.
First, I asked about the positioning relative to some of the greatest internet success stories of the last decade. There are serious problems comparing yourself to a business that has already succeeded. I had a conversation a few months ago with an industry personality (who will remain nameless) and the subject of Alibaba.com came up. “We’re looking at the Alibaba model” he said with a glint in his eye like he thought he was on to something. Looking at the Alibaba model? That’s like me saying “I’m looking at the General Electric model. I’m thinking of inventing the light bulb.”
Being a start-up and being excited about a good idea is something InvoiceSharing has in common with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – and about a million other start-ups. A very small number of those start-ups will go on to share more traits with those success stories and become very successful themselves – a very, very small number.
Second – free invoicing. Tradeshift started this trend. They made a great play of free to supplier e-invoicing and they made a name for themselves. Others have followed suit. Free e-invoicing is nothing new.
Third – free invoicing again – It’s the elephant in the room. Where’s the revenue?
The answers I got to these questions were intelligent and thorough. I’m not going to share the detail but Jeroen clearly understands the e-invoicing market. He knows the players. He knows their strengths and he knows their weaknesses. He’s seen the good moves and he’s seen the mistakes. The revenue model they’ve described in their press release is far from new but they have the original spin that will intrigue some – including investors and if they continue on a credible trajectory and lose the self delusion that has distracted some of their predecessors, they could go on to great things.
Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin