Doxo, Aspiring to Become Grand Central for Online Billing, Nabs $10M

2/16/11Follow @curtwoodward

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of consumers may be paying bills online, but far fewer are getting their statements electronically.

“Say you’re in health insurance and you’re mailing out tens of millions of explanations of benefits every month,” Shivers says. “You haven’t had any business come to you and say, ‘Hey—I can dramatically increase your paperless adoption.’”

That’s not to say the payment-processing service is necessarily playing second fiddle. It sounds like doxo expects that part of the business to be fully integrated and always available. But Shivers said the focus has been on digitizing the paper stream first and then worrying about whether there’s a billing function they can handle.

Quick side note: Doxo’s bill-paying service, doxoPAY, operates on a fee-for-service basis instead of taking a percentage of the action. Shivers has some choice words for the payment-processing industry.

“I’ll bet there is no more convoluted and unnecessarily complex system,” he says. “A lot of it has been set up specifically to allow a bunch of incumbent players get a piece of the action here, there and everywhere.”

Obviously, the big challenge for a service like doxo is ubiquity, or something close to it. A service like this needs to be hooked into all the major bill-collecting outlets—utilities, cable companies, Internet service providers, the list goes on—before an individual consumer can truly go paperless with a hub like doxo. Doxo argues that one major reason more consumers aren’t going paperless at a high rate now is the multitude of accounts, usernames, passwords and middlemen required to manage all those information streams.

What it also means is doxo won’t take off unless it becomes the center for nearly everything that you presently get in the mail on a regular basis.

Starting with a utility is an interesting step along that path. With a solid baseline that could get you into tons of homes—PSE claims about 1 million electric and 750,000 natural gas customers in the Puget Sound region—doxo says it can now head out to other national, regional, local and even hyper-local providers who have customer overlap.

In the next quarter, Shivers says, doxo plans to build on the PSE partnership to focus heavily on adding more service providers in the utility’s service area. The big idea there is to build a strong portfolio of Seattle-area service providers as partners, from the big cable or phone company down to your kid’s private school or even the landscaper, and replicate that model in other regions. (Doxo will still have a national focus too—Shivers says more companies may be announced soon.)

The desired end state for doxo would actually be sort of like a utility—always there, running basically in the background, not flashy or really all that noticeable (unless it breaks).

“Frankly, I’d say the more invisible we become, the better,” Shivers says. “It’s not often that you’re creating a service that I almost want you to go without thinking about.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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