Gotta love the guys at Toronto-based online invoicing service FreshBooks. Chief Handshaker Sunir Shah blogged today about a San Francisco based startup called billFLO that deliver machine-readable invoices. While many old-school businesses would perceive this upstart as a competitor – take Quicken’s attack of Mint as an example – not FreshBooks. Instead they chose to collaborate and everybody wins.
As I wrote on Friday, FreshBooks believes in playing nicely with the other kids on the playground. The whole future of small business software is going to be about making it easy to move data from system to system. To all our sister companies, I’ll say to you that if your service doesn’t plug into the web of tools customers are using, you will be out of the game.
Of course, the Internet is still young, and there remain gaps in the web of data. Right now, there is a gap between vendors sending invoices and clients paying those bills. Clients have to tediously copy and paste the invoice details into their accounts payable system, and that makes getting paid slower and more painful.
Today, a service called billFLO is taking a swing at the problem. They have devised a machine-readable invoice file format to make it easier to import invoices into an accounts payable system. They hope to cut down the amount of time it takes to get paid by reducing the number of your clients’ manual steps to pay you.
I believe that sooner or later all invoices will be machine readable, but I’d prefer sooner. FreshBooks is happy to be one of billFLO’s initial endpoints because they are showing us a piece of the future. I truly hope that billFLO will serve to bring together the rather loose members of Accounting 2.0 to make machine-readable invoices a reality now.