Growing gains

Houston fintech company forms partnership that allows for rapid expansion of its SaaS platform

A Houston-based fintech company has taken a huge step in the right direction for growth. Getty Images

Houston-based fintech company HighRadius Corp. has forged a partnership with Canadian conglomerate Thomson Reuters Corp. that will open up more markets for its enterprise software-as-a-service.

The partnership equips HighRadius to tap into the global network of Confirmation.com, a unit of Thomson Reuters. Confirmation's network features more than 1,000 banks. Credit managers at those banks will be able to use HighRadius' software to automate the credit process for online credit applications.

"This partnership will allow us to expand our credit inquiry solution to new markets," Mark Portanova, Confirmation.com's vice president of sales for the Americas, says in a release. "We will enhance workflows, reporting capabilities, and client authorization processes within the HighRadius platform. These measures will progress the traditionally slow, manual, and time-consuming credit approval processes … ."

HighRadius' AI-powered software is designed to streamline accounts-receivable and cash-management processes. For instance, HighRadius' Cash Application software relies on AI to comb through documents like emails and invoices to automatically match incoming payments with customers' accounts.

Sayid Shabeer, chief product officer at HighRadius, says the company's suite of product ultimately lets companies free up millions of dollars in working capital and reallocate employees' time to higher-value tasks.

Among HighRadius' customers are corporate heavyweights like healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, apparel maker adidas, food company Danone, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group. In January, HighRadius reported it had passed the 350-customer mark last year and doubled the size of its European workforce.

"2018 was the year that the bets we've been making over the last few years started to pay off in scale," Sashi Narahari, founder and CEO of HighRadius, says in a release.

Among HighRadius' competitors are Billtrust, Rimilia Holdings, Cforia Software, and Financial National Information Services. The global market for credit management software is forecast to exceed $2.1 billion by 2022, up from $636.4 million in 2017.

HighRadius, founded in 2006, employs more than 1,000 people in North America, Europe, and Asia. Since its inception, HighRadius has raised more than $50 million from Philadelphia-based Susquehanna Growth Equity, and has collected strategic investments from banking behemoths Citi and PNC.

HighRadius recently hired Jon Keating as vice president and general manager of its Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) markets. Keating most recently was chief sales officer at San Francisco fintech company Taulia. Earlier in the year, the company tapped SaaS veteran Natalie Fedie as vice president of customer success to help propel its global growth.

"HighRadius continues to invest in talent across Europe and Asia to fuel its growth plans and keep ahead of the innovation curve," Shabeer says.

Last year, HighRadius moved its headquarters to 200 Westlake Park Blvd. in the Energy Corridor. More than 150 employees relocated there. HighRadius subleases the space from BP America.

"The expansion of HighRadius into the Katy area represents another high-tech company choosing to mature in our community," Lance LaCour, president and CEO of the Katy Area Economic Development Corp., said at the time. "HighRadius is projected to have an estimated regional economic impact of over $600 million over a five-year period."

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Building Houston

 
 

Cloudbreak Enterprises is getting in on the ground level with software startups — quickly helping them take an idea to market. Photo via Getty Images

Lauren Bahorich is in the business of supporting businesses. In February 2020, she launched Cloudbreak Enterprises — B-to-B SaaS-focused, early-stage venture studio — with plans to onboard, invest in, and support around three new scalable companies a year. And, despite launching right ahead of a global pandemic, that's exactly what she did.

Bahorich, who previously worked at Golden Section Ventures, wanted to branch off on her own to create a venture studio to get in on the ground level of startups — to be a co-founder to entrepreneurs and provide a slew of in-house resources and support from development and sales to marketing and administration.

"We start at zero with just an idea, and we partner with out co-founders to build the idea they have and the domain expertise and the industry connections to take that idea and built a product and a company," Bahorich says.

Bahorich adds that there aren't a lot of venture studios in the United States — especially in Houston. While people might be more familiar with the incubator or accelerator-style of support for startups, the venture studio set up is much more intimate.

"We truly see ourselves as co-founders, so our deals are structured with co-founder equity," Bahorich says, explaining that Cloudbreak is closer to a zero-stage venture capital fund than to any incubator. "We are equally as incentivized as our co-founders to de-risk this riskiest stage of startups because we are so heavily invested and involved with our companies."

Cloudbreak now has three portfolio companies, and is looking to onboard another three more throughout the rest of the year. Bahorich runs a team of 15 professionals, all focused on supporting the portfolio. While creating the studio amid the chaos of 2020 wasn't the plan, there were some silver linings including being able to start with part-time developers and transition them to full-time employees as the companies grew.

"Within the first month, we were in shutdown here in Houston," Bahorich says. "But it's been a great opportunity for us. Where a lot of companies were pivoting and reassessing, we were actually able to grow because we were just starting at zero ourselves."

Cloudbreak's inaugural companies are in various stages and industries, but the first company to be onboarded a year ago — Relay Construction Solutions, a bid leveling software for the construction industry — joined the venture studio as just an idea and is already close to first revenue and potentially new investors. Cloudgate is also creating a commercial real estate data management software and an offshore logistics platform. All three fall into a SaaS sweet spot that Bahorich hopes to continue to grow.

"We are looking to replace legacy workflows that are still performed in Excel or by email or phone," Bahorich says. "It's amazing how many opportunities there are that fit into that bucket — these high-dollar, error-prone workflows that are still done like it's 1985."

Given the hands-on support, Bahorich assumed she'd attract mostly first-time entrepreneurs who don't have experience with all the steps needed to launch the business. However, she says she's gotten interest from serial entrepreneurs who recognized how valuable the in-house support can be for expediting the early-stage startup process.

"What I'm realizing is a selling point is our in-house expertise. These founders are looking for technical co-founders," Bahorich says. "We can both provide that role and be capital partners."

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