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Thomas Aronica: “Together, they work to make sure that we have the best product on the market”

Agile Development — A development team is a requirement for any successful SaaS company since the development they will turn the vision into a tangible outcome. You have to find the right leader and the right developers in order to build a quality product. With agile development, we have found the most success. We work in sprints, […]

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Agile Development — A development team is a requirement for any successful SaaS company since the development they will turn the vision into a tangible outcome. You have to find the right leader and the right developers in order to build a quality product. With agile development, we have found the most success. We work in sprints, constantly improving upon and building the software. Our development team is very collaborative. Together, they work to make sure that we have the best product on the market.


As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Aronica.

Thomas Aronica has more than 12 years of experience building successful organizations in the payment processing and fintech industries. Shortly after graduating from the University of Miami, where he earned a B.S. in computer science, Tom founded his first company, PCI Professionals. In less than three years, he built PCI into a viable acquisition target and in 2011, Tom spearheaded the merger of PCI Professionals with SkyBank Financial, ultimately taking over as chief executive officer. During this time, Tom also founded PrestigePay, a prepaid card issuer providing financial inclusion to subprime consumers in the United States.

Tom’s natural ability to foresee emerging trends and creatively use technology in new ways led to him founding Biller Genie, an innovative cloud-based solution that automates accounts receivable from bill presentment, follow up, collection, and reconciliation — without changing a business’ current process. In its first year alone, Biller Genie was named to the 2019 Money20/20 Start-Up Academy, was an Electronic Payment Association’s NexTen Participant, and received the 2019 CPA Practice Advisor’s Technology Innovation Award.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

After college, I was working in the hospitality industry, attempting to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. An opportunity presented itself to work as a sales associate for a credit card processing company. This was really the first time I had been exposed to the payment processing industry, and with an academic background in computer science, the technology made sense to me.

I went on to work for other employers, and after a few bad experiences, I decided to start my own business venture in the payments world. I launched my first company in 2007, PCI Professionals, and gained invaluable insight into the industry and the technology behind it. This led me to take on other projects as I realized the potential of the technology.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

During my tenure at SkyBank Financial, I spent the better part of 5 years helping to build payment integrations for other software companies. That evolved into adding business logic to encourage best practices. Then workflow optimization. Then automated reconciliation. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was building the concept for what was to be Biller Genie. Then in late 2017, I was at dinner with a colleague who was having issues collecting payments from his tenants at his apartment complex, and we started comparing his current capabilities with those we had created for other industries. I barely slept that night. The next morning, while stepping out of the shower, it hit me. Design the tools as a standalone system that can easily connect to any software and supercharge it! The next day I put an ad out to hire our first developer.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Early in my career, I was working long hours, 20 hour days were common. I kept this routine going for several years. My first home office was actually the closet of my bedroom. My routine consisted of selling for most of the day, and then in the evening, I would continue to create policies, protocols, and basically build the infrastructure of my business. During this time, the bank foreclosed my home. I was paying employee salaries, yet I couldn’t pay myself. I couldn’t afford to buy food or to even travel to see my family. My family made many sacrifices coming to this country and honoring that sacrifice has always been one of my greatest driving factors.

Regardless, despite all my efforts, it was Thanksgiving 2009 when I told my mom that I was ready to throw in the towel. She convinced me otherwise, and with her help, I returned revitalized and was able to grow the company further. Those were some of the hardest years of my life, but I was able to learn valuable lessons about myself, and business, in the process.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going great, and we’re busier than ever! While the economic crisis caused by the pandemic has been unsettling to say the least, we have been fortunate to continue to experience positive growth. We are currently on the eve of two major national partnerships, both of which will rapidly expand Biller Genie’s subscriber base.

We have revamped our marketing and operations, with a unified focus on ensuring our product functions perfectly. I can proudly say I am fortunate to be surrounded by an excellent team of hardworking individuals, who share the same drive and work ethic. We have grown our team during the pandemic and employee productivity and happiness is at an all-time high.

If I had to describe a quality that allowed me to grow a successful business, it would without a doubt be: uncompromised work ethic. These days, I am driven by a stubborn belief that we can play a small role in the inevitable shift towards automation in the accounting profession. As the cliché goes, no one is an overnight success, and that is definitely true in my case. As doors closed, I just continued to push to find the open ones. Success is built on many smaller victories, so as long as you’re moving forward in the right direction, anything is possible.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Chasing too big of an account? When I was first starting out, I had the opportunity to bid on a deal that was processing over 36 million dollars per month in payments. Considering my average deal at the time was around 36 thousand dollars, I thought I was going to retire off just this one. After about a year of (professionally persistent) phone calls, I got my chance. Only they were so big that they had better pricing than I did! Talk about a waste of time. I learned an important lesson that day — it’s the bottom line that counts, not the top.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have an excellent product that is complemented by our extreme focus on our subscribers’ happiness. Biller Genie not only shortens the invoice to cash cycle, but we optimize the accounts receivable process by using automation technology, without changing a business’s existing workflow. We have gotten real results and add real value to our subscribers. As a company, Biller Genie is rated 5 stars on all review sites. Our subscribers get paid on average 15 days faster, see a reduction of overdue invoices by 40%, and save 10–20 hours of administrative work per week. We are a young company full of hardworking individuals, with the same drive and passion for our product.

I have so many stories about how Biller Genie really stands out from the crowd. One of my favorites to tell is the story of an accountant in Miami, where we are headquartered. With every subscriber, we go through a quick setup call where we set up their custom reminder schedule, ensuring customers are notified of upcoming due dates or late invoices. During the first sync, we give our subscribers the option to send a new invoice alert for all invoices, even if they had already sent the invoice to their customer. I always recommend them sending it because what is the worst that can happen, you still don’t get paid?

As I am on the phone with the subscriber, she pulls up a customer and tells me that she has been trying to get this customer to pay her for months — sending emails, mailing payment overdue letters, and making phone calls — but never getting paid. I wish I had this on video, right as she tells me this story, the invoice goes from past due to paid, right in front of her eyes. I could hear her jaw hit the floor over the phone. Turns out, the customer didn’t even know he had an invoice that was past due. He wasn’t trying to avoid it, he just didn’t know about it nor did he have an easy way to pay for it, like the online customer portal we give our subscribers.

That is the power of Biller Genie. We really make a difference in helping small and medium sized businesses get paid for the products or services they provide.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I personally believe that it is absolutely essential you disconnect at times. Even if you are working 20 hours a day, like I was early on in my career, you have to take a day to yourself every so often. Sundays are great for this. Turn off your email, step away from the computer. Physically separate yourself with a change of scenery. I’m lucky enough to live in Miami, so even when I couldn’t afford to go to Italy and lay on my favorite beach, I could easily be at the next best one in minutes.

It is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to build a company on your own. I can guarantee that the business will fail if you burn out. Having great people in your life can help make a big difference. As Jim Collins says “great vision without great people is irrelevant.” If you are thinking about throwing in the towel, take that day off and enjoy it. Do something for yourself. I promise those problems will still be there the next day. They aren’t going anywhere, and you won’t solve them in one day. You will come back refreshed and ready to tackle the world. Take care of yourself — you only have one body.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Aside from the obvious “my parents” answer, who I’m eternally grateful to, I was fortunate to have the mentorship and guidance of two incredible entrepreneurs early on in my career who believed in me when everything was bad. We were losing money, behind on liabilities to our vendors, an unhappy staff, an absent business partner…times were tough. But “TP” (let’s call them) saw something in me, took a bet, and 12 months later none of those problems existed anymore. I wouldn’t be where I am today without TP.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

Biller Genie currently has approximately 4,000 users since we launched, and with our new partnerships, we expect this number to increase rapidly in a short period of time. Building a community requires several components.

Defined Operating System/Strong Leadership Team — It is crucial to have the right infrastructure for your business to grow. This means having the right talent in the right roles, especially during the earlier stages of your operation. It’s a team effort and the individuals around you will play a crucial role in the success of your business. Recruiting in South Florida can be difficult. It has taken me a long time to find my senior leadership team, but early on this year, it all came together. Their insight is invaluable to the company. Listen to them and be willing to accept you aren’t always right. Every week we have a 90-minute huddle where we discuss important issues. Together, as a group, we make decisions that affect not only the future of the company, but the actual development of our software. Having this weekly meeting has positively changed Biller Genie and made us a stronger company.

Partnerships — Establishing partnerships early on in my career was vital to being able to build a team to help drive the business forward. Starting a business always requires capital, and access to capital, more possibilities open up. Early on, most of my partners had more experience than I did, which proved to be extremely valuable when it came to making the correct decisions. In terms of Biller Genie, partnerships with financial institutions and payment providers has proven successful in growing our subscriber base. These partners have hundreds of thousands of customers and being able to tap into and market to that base has been very beneficial.

Focus — Focus is perhaps the key component to ensuring productive growth. Setting a roadmap is necessary to execute your strategy yet focus is what allows your team to be committed. It is necessary that this flows from the bottom down, in other words from the CEO all the way down the chain. This applies when you’re creating a customer-centric product or business. Focusing on the customer will affect the way your company evolves, allowing you to create long-lasting relationships and affecting the longevity of your business.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

Our goal is to make enterprise level accounts receivable software accessible to small and medium sized businesses for a fraction of the cost. Our pricing is based on three tiers. Each tier has a monthly price range, with the two lower tiered plans including a percentage taken on each invoice that we collect upon. The pricing model is based on a monthly recurring cycle, and we have premium add ons such as the ability to send out paper mail and ACH processing.

Initially, the idea for the pricing model was to limit access based on the different features, but we decided we wanted all subscribers to have access to the same great tools, so we changed the model to be performanced based where we only get paid if we help our clients get paid. It is the combination of this and our advanced features that make our product so successful. Given that the average published cost to manage invoices manually is 22 dollars each, Biller Genie saves its subscribers on average over 80% of the cost of processing invoices manually.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.

Agile Development — A development team is a requirement for any successful SaaS company since the development they will turn the vision into a tangible outcome. You have to find the right leader and the right developers in order to build a quality product. With agile development, we have found the most success. We work in sprints, constantly improving upon and building the software. Our development team is very collaborative. Together, they work to make sure that we have the best product on the market.

A Roadmap / Vision — Having a clear and concise plan for your software will make sure you are hitting your goals and progressing efficiently. Breaking down the roadmap into sections and parts, allowed our team to tackle the right projects within the right time frame. This also allowed a space for innovation since we were able to review our product from a microlevel and adjust accordingly.

Not only does this apply to the software, but also to the actual company. Let’s be frank — Biller Genie is a startup. We are building the plane as it is flying. There are a lot of processes, procedures, training, documentation, and employee culture that can easily be thrown to the wayside, because we are moving at the speed of light. It’s important to not forget these things. You cannot have a successful company without a proper structure that sets your employees up for success.

For example, now that we are working full remote due to COVID-19, it became tough to maintain employee culture. We started having weekly kickoff calls on Monday mornings, where everyone gets on camera, we talk to each other, we learn things, we play games — just an half hour a week where we all get together and “hang out.” We even did a fun “Biller Genie in a Bottle” parody to Christina Aguilera “Genie in a Bottle” and everyone sang and danced on video. Check out our YouTube channel — it’s hilarious and was a run project that involved everyone.

An Innovative idea — Technology advances along with consumer behavior. As a SaaS business it is vital to stay on the cutting edge to know what your customers need before they even know it. I realized early on that the payments industry placed a strong focus on accounts payable yet I noticed that business owners were having difficulty with their accounts receivable. I had this innovative concept that is disrupting the A/R space.

Creative Marketing — A great product or idea means nothing if you’re not able to get your story out. Focusing an effort on marketing has been a fundamental part of growing my business. I knew I had an excellent product that carried with it a great story and having the right team to convey that story became an important asset. Properly positioning a software product requires a lot of strategy, from product launches, to new partnerships, to press releases. Being able to tell your story properly can make all the difference.

Leadership — As a leader, one of the most important things you will do is to find other leaders to help guide your vision forward. Like I said, I recently completed building out Biller Genie’s executive team and having the right assets in the right positions has allowed us to rapidly advance our product and our company in the past 8 months. A team’s commitment is only as strong as the leader’s commitment to the team; therefore, it is important to bring the best you have every day, and your team will do the same.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would make children’s apps to teach the fundamentals of software development and application design. Sounds crazy? It is widely accepted by the scientific community that children are able to learn and understand languages more easily than adults because the brains and neurons fire faster in their young brains. The skills needed to learn a natural or programming language are the same, but programming language also promotes logical thinking, resilience, determination, problem solving and creativity. If I could find a way to make it easy to teach kids how to think like a computer, I’d be excited about what the next generation creates.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomaronica

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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