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Once bitten, the e-invoicing bug remains forever

Let me first clarify what I meant by e-invoicing here. It is not about scanning and OCRing paper invoices with tight integration of accounts payable systems. It is about connecting disparate finance and procurement systems seamlessly, so that an electronic document (purchase-to-payment and supply-to-cash) from one system flows automatically to another system owned by the same or separate organisation without duplication of effort. At its very basic level, avoiding retyping of data created by the originating system. In my mind, you can only achieve this through a electronic document exchange hub. A prime example is OB10 (in the case of OB10, with limitations).

What I realised over the last few days is that once you bite the e-invoicing (EIPP) bug, you can never really get away from it. What I mean here is that those rare individuals who got the guts or sheer lunacy to setup businesses around the concept of e-invoicing, never really give up. Their first attempt may fail drastically. But they will find a way to have another crack at the market. This is certainly true of Mark Morahan. In Mark’s case, it may well be the third attempt. He may argue that it’s the second attempt as the second attempt was never reached conclusion. In my case, I had my first experience. Obviously, I am not counting my involvement with Mark in 2004, as I was not responsible for setting up Morahan International.

Since ending the development of ebdex Document Exchange at the back-end of 2006, I had numerous offers by technology firms and technologists to develop the platform in exchange for shares, etc. It is hard to ignore such suggestions, but I always remember the words of my mentor, late Gerry Lemberg. If you want to be successful, you need to have the connectivity up and down the value chain. It is not just about funding. You must have access to that large client, who is going to trial it for you. You are not likely to make money out of this, but that is not the point. I believe OB10 had this break with their first client. You also need to have access to your suppliers. Every time I was approached, none of them satisfied this vital requirement. I am also no longer prepared to boot-strap with another e-invoicing startup.

So, it was strange to receive a call from an ex-colleague few days back, who was involved in the e-invoicing startup scene several years ago but left it due to similar problems I described above. How weird! As they say, there is no harm in having a coffee! Give me a call, if you are listening as I no longer have your contact details.

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