Finetics™ Studio at Money20/20: Rene Lacerte

Finetics Studio | Payments | 2/26/2016 1:53 PM CEO and Founder René Lacerte explores trends and developments in the B2B payments industry in our Finetics™ Studio, live from the exhibition floor at Money 20/20, with PaymentEye's Sarah Gill.


Sarah Gill, Reporter: I'm joined now by Rene Lacerte, who is the CEO and founder of Welcome, Rene.

Rene Lacerte: Thank you, Sarah. Glad to be here.

Sarah Gill, Reporter: So maybe to kick things off, we can talk a little bit about what does and why you founded it. Was that from a personal pain point that you came across?

Rene Lacerte: Yes, you bet. So what we do at is we dramatically simplify how businesses pay and get paid. What that means is we automate the payables process, the receivables process, all the collaboration that happens, everything in between, integration with the accounting system--all the stuff that really matters in the back office of the business.

And as a kid, just to step back on why it became personal, as a kid I had my dad and granddad, both of them entrepreneurs, five to seven businesses each. And on the weekends, I would go in with them and I would watch them pay the bills. I'd watch them collect the receivables. And they always told me, "Cash is king. Stretch out the payables; pull in the receivables."

And when I started my first company, PayCycle, I had just finished building some software into it, both the payments platform and the payroll platform for Intuit. When I started that first company, I was sitting there, trying to do what Dad and Granddad taught me. I couldn't stretch out the payables. I couldn't pull in the receivables. I didn't have any of the tools. None of the stuff I'd built got into it. None of the stuff I tried of competitors that I knew from Intuit, none of that worked.

And so the pain point of really trying to figure out how I'm going to decide who to pay and who to collect from was real for me. It was very painful, documents all over the place, things lost. And so that need to dramatically simplify how businesses pay and get paid became real. And I started thinking about it and couldn't stop. So here I am today, yes.

Sarah Gill, Reporter: If you could kind paint a picture of how acute and widespread this problem is at the moment?

Rene Lacerte: Yes, it's interesting. If you just look at the number of checks that are still written in this country, over 21 billion checks, the last Fed survey, 21 billion checks a year are written. 19 billion involve businesses--19 billion checks. So the vast majority of the checks written in this country are either a consumer paying a business or a business paying a business or a business actually maybe paying a consumer.

All of those transactions, if you look at the process flow, and we've diagrammed and talked to our customers and looked at other research, the cost of flowing something through a system, from creating an invoice all the way through into somebody's accounting system, and all the way back into the next person's accounting system--that's over $65.00. 65 times 19 is well over $1 trillion in inefficiency problems in this country. $1 trillion that businesses could use that to actually do something better with their time and more thoughtfully with their time.

And so that's what we're excited about, is that this pain point is widespread. $1 trillion is a lot of inefficiency, and it's why I--problems I like to solve are always around efficiency.

Sarah Gill, Reporter: Okay, great. And then, obviously, as a founder yourself, you must have had a lot of advice over the years. Is there anything that stuck with you particularly that you kind of would like to pass on to anyone operating in the same sort of space now?

Rene Lacerte: You know, a couple--I would probably say three things come to mind. The first thing is to be passionate about what you're doing, the problem that you're solving and how you're solving it. It's one of our core values of the company. And just when you surround something with passion, good things come from it, right, because the energy is just so positive and it's so exciting for everybody to be a part of that. So I think that's really important.

I think surrounding yourself with people that you respect immensely, like your team needs to be people that you respect and think, "Oh, my god, I could never do that job better than they are. I mean, they're just frickin' amazing." You have to surround your team, you have to have people in your company that you respect and that you enjoy. It can't just be the respect. You just have to enjoy them and really look forward to seeing them. So that is a really critical factor. If you have the passion and you don't have the team, then you're actually not going to have a lot of great opportunities to make success.

And the last would be you've got to extend those two things into your culture. You've got to think about the culture every day. You've got to think about how you actually make the company successful and the culture stand on its own. And that's something I learned from Scott Cook at Intuit. And Scott's a phenomenal leader when it comes to the culture. And I learned that from him, I learned that from my dad and my grandfather.

But Scott had a way of kind of putting it into the DNA of the company that was really phenomenal. And so I'd say think about that. Don't say, "Oh, I can worry about that later." That has to be day one. I had my values defined for me before I started the company. And then we refined them and worked with the team to see how it really evolves. But you've got to be thinking about that. That's something you can't take for granted.

Sarah Gill, Reporter: Yes. I mean, there's definitely a lot of excitement about the opportunities to improve different parts of payments. Do you feel like there are any that are over-hyped or do you think like there's just endless kind of room for innovation?

Rene Lacerte: The part to me that is potentially over-hyped, because I don't really understand as much about it, would probably be the big one, right? And so I don't think that's as much necessary to have B2B payments, for example. And people aren't really talking about it from there. You know, faster payments, they have same-day ACH, that's also an interesting question. You know, businesses, when we communicate to our customers and our vendors that they're able to be paid on this date and it's only two days from now or 36 hours from now, they're happy. They're really fine. So I don't understand, having thought enough about the edge case for immediate payment, the same-day ACH, I know there are times when that is the case. But we have wires today. So if we're just driving the cost down, then that's great. But to me, it's not new. It's like why are people still writing checks? Let's solve that problem.

Sarah Gill, Reporter: I mean, do you think people will always be writing checks?

Rene Lacerte: No.

Sarah Gill, Reporter: No?

Rene Lacerte: I don't. I mean, well, just like there's always people that are laggards, that take forever to come over, I think you will see a shift in the next 10 years that the dominant form of payment between businesses will be electronic payments. And I see it every day. Just one of my friends, as an example, one of my friends lives in Boston, came out to visit, and it's getting ready to snow, right, it's wintertime. So the guy who does his snowplowing invoiced him for the season using It's like it was awesome. "I didn't know you guys were out there." It's like, "It's happening, buddy." So I believe that if somebody who's plowing snow on the East Coast can actually figure out how to use technology, that it's going to happen everywhere.

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