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Billhighway Hitting The Fast Lane Of Growth

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TROY — A local tech company that got its start helping college roommates split bills is now seeing rapid growth in helping nonprofits manage their money more efficiently.

Billhighway has just opened up 18 new positions which, when filled, will bring the company to more than 60 employees, founder Vincent P. Thomas said.

The openings are for .Net developers and sales, marketing and accounting professionals.

Thomas founded the company in 1999, when he was still a finance student at Eastern Michigan University.

“I just saw a big problem,” Thomas said. “I was living with roommates, and we had a really hard time managing expenses together. We had all these bills we had to split four ways — rent, utilities.”

Enter Billhighway, which created a place online for roommates to split their bills and pay easily.

Only one problem — college students are notoriously impoverished, so paying even 1 percent of their bills for a service like Billhighway was a tough sell. Paying credit card processors was even tougher.

So, in 2002, Thomas borrowed money and added billing and more sophisticated payment technology to the system, and hit upon the idea of marketing the service to nonprofits. Based on his experience selling Billhighway through colleges, he got contact information for 125 college-related organizations, from student groups to professional fraternities, and started selling to them. A couple of them bit, and the modern Billhighway was on its way.

Today’s Billhighway provides a complete cloud-based financial management package for non-profits, including a cash management system and a complete accounting package.

“We focused on nonprofits because the need for help and assistance is very very high,” Thomas said. “I thought we could do the most good there by giving them more time and money to devote to their missions. Typically when we walk in the door of a potential client, we see a hodgepodge of systems that don’t talk to each other, with a lot of duplicate entry of data — very inefficient. We give them the ability to take the time and resources they are now devoting to finances, and devote them to getting more members and more donations. Finances are no longer a problem.”

Billhighway charges a subscription fee to use its system, and is paid a small transaction fee on every transaction processed.

Today’s Billhighway serves 4,000 organizations across all 50 states and Canada. It will process $5 billion in transactions this year. The company is attempting to move beyond its customer base in social and recreational nonprofits to human-service, professional and faith-based nonprofits. It’s hiring a full marketing and sales team after years of depending on word of mouth. It’s developing mobile apps. And it’s developing a new Web site that will launch July 11.

“We’re changing the way the world works,” Thomas said. “If we can help St. Jude’s Hospital collect more money, how many more kids will they be able to help?’

But with that growth has come problems — Billhighway’s 8,000-square-foot headquarters in Troy, its home since early 2010, is now too small. “So we’re contemplating what we’re going to do for space,” Thomas said.

More at www.billhighway.com.

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