Some businesses are easier to understand than others.
Restaurants and breweries are straightforward. They make food and drink, and sell it.
Today’s startups — especially the tech ones — aren’t always as clear. As Charlotte’s startup scene develops, our city is home to companies both new and old that are a little harder to grasp. Here’s everything you need to understand what 10 of them actually do.
[Agenda story: The 34 most powerful startups in Charlotte]
What does AvidXchange do?
This unicorn’s business often gets condensed to “accounts payable processing.” In more casual language, they help companies pay their bills. Let’s go a little deeper.
Even today, businesses run heavily on paper for invoices and billing while their accounting systems are almost exclusively electronic. Companies spend a lot of time and money getting paper bills, filing them, sorting them, shipping them around, approving payment and then getting them paid — sometimes with a paper check.
Think about all the bills you get to your household and how hard it can be to keep track of them all, especially ones mailed to you. Now imagine you have a lot more bills, sent to a lot more people, and perhaps even at different homes.
AvidXchange makes a computer system that helps companies manage all that.
Their tech team has put together a system that integrates with their banks and any other computer programs they’re using for accounting and planning. The AvidXchange product has a system they can have their vendors use to submit invoices.
Then the person in charge of paying bills — an accounts payable specialist perhaps, or even chief financial officer — can easily pull up all the pending bills, when they’re due and when they’re going to be paid.
Finally, the software lets companies approve payments and actually send out the money electronically.
What does Red Ventures do?
Red Ventures calls itself a “digital consumer choice platform” which “connects online customers with products and services in the home services, financial services, and healthcare industries.”
What this actually means is that Red Ventures is a company that big brands contract with to convert potential customers online into paying ones.
Red Ventures does the marketing, and then does the selling, too — the whole funnel.
Here’s basically how it works. A company will hire Red Ventures to help them sell certain products or services. Red Ventures’ tech team will spin up a website to market those products, leaning on their search engine optimization expertise. The phone numbers and other contact info on those sites go back to Red Ventures.
The company has call centers that then sell the products and services to the customers. Red Ventures does a lot of data analysis on the campaigns, as well.
DIRECTV was the first big client. They’ve since signed deals with companies like AT&T, National General Insurance and Verizon.
Lately, Red Ventures has been acquiring platforms that let people compare products, like Bankrate (financial products), Allconnect (home services), and Imagitas (moving services). This is building up a meaningful lead generation business, a rival to Charlotte-based LendingTree.
What does Passport do?
Passport creates mobile platforms for parking and transit.
The company was originally known as “Passport Parking,” and parking management is still one of their biggest businesses. Passport builds apps that allow customers to pay for metered parking spots instead of feeding coins in. Some of their biggest clients are cities and towns, including Chicago, Boston and Cincinnati. Passport also serves Michigan State University.
Other lines of business include apps for transit system payments, parking ticket payment and parking permit systems. Passport also creates systems for parking enforcement, where “meter readers” can issue parking tickets.
In Charlotte, Passport created the Charlotte Area Transit System app where you can buy light rail tickets directly on your phone.
[Agenda story: How to get a job at Passport]
What does MapAnything do?
To understand MapAnything, you must first understand Salesforce.
Salesforce is what is known as “customer relationship management” software, or a cloud-based way to track interactions a company has with its clients or customers. Companies use it to track sales leads or service tickets or orders or other things in that vein.
Salesforce has become a huge platform and is the 800-pound gorilla in this world. Pretty much any company that has a large number of clients or customers uses their systems.
MapAnything is essentially one of the top apps in the Salesforce “app store.”
If your company needs to know where your customers physically are, MapAnything is probably a good tool for you. It can map out sales or delivery routes or sales territories or anything like that.
If you’ve got a bunch of trucks out on the road, MapAnything can track them. They can also loop in existing business data on a map to help you identify potential customers.
Right now MapAnything is focused hard on signing up more businesses to use their product.
What does Stratifyd do?
This fast-growing startup is an AI-powered data analytics platform. They take unstructured data — read: text — from businesses call center transcripts, email, online chats and social media and analyze it for them.
Stratifyd’s systems can extract user intent (what the customer wants or has a problem with) and customer sentiment (whether they’re mad or happy) in real time.
You can see how a company could use this. They could find out if there’s a sudden spike in people complaining about a certain product or service, or quickly determine quantitiatively how people are feeling.
Big clients include Etsy, Microsoft and Kimberly-Clark.
What does Payzer do?
Payzer is a financial services company that specializes in businesses that send people to work out into the field — like handymen, plumbers, HVAC technicians, roofers, etc. So it’s kind of like Square but for contractors.
Their company goes significantly further, though. Besides accepting credit and debit card payments, Payzer also makes it easy to provide financing to your customers (if you’re dropping a big bill on them, for example) and lets your company issue credit cards to subcontractors.
Payzer has also expanded its software services to include an end-to-end business management product for $399/month. Basically Payzerware is a service business in a box — including technician scheduling, customer call management, invoices, appointment reminders, etc.
What does AddShoppers do?
AddShoppers is an e-commerce marketing platform. In simple terms, the startup helps online retailers sell more products.
Have you ever been window-shopping online? Or put something in your cart only to delete it? AddShoppers is what companies use to get you to actually buy.
This could include building an email list, creating refer-a-friend programs, sending email campaigns to people with an abandoned cart, serving up Facebook video ads, etc.
The retailer uploads marketing materials like product images, and AddShoppers then recommends different campaigns to meet their goals.
Their clients generally are companies with 25+ employees and who sell more than $5 million worth of product each year online. But they can get much bigger — AddShoppers counts Hanes, Champion, Jockey and Everlast as clients.
What does Ecomdash do?
Ecomdash makes “multichannel inventory control software for e-commerce sellers.” As you know from AddShoppers, e-commerce sellers = online stores.
Basically, Ecomdash helps these sites keep track of all the products they have and then make sure they get shipped to the right place.
This can be especially tricky if the retailer is selling in multiple places, like Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, Walmart and Houzz in addition to their own website. Ecomdash brings all the different places together into one dashboard and lets retailers update product information all at once.
If you’re using Amazon or a third-party fulfillment company to ship orders, Ecomdash spits out a report of what’s been sold and where for them to start shipping products. If you’re shipping things yourself, it will print out packing labels.
Ecomdash also links in with basic accounting software.
What does SignUpGenius do?
SignUpGenius provides an online tool to coordinate volunteers or manage events. The easiest way to understand it is through examples.
Let’s say you’re a school PTA putting together a fall festival. You need people to man the ticket booth, the concession stand and the bounce house in shifts from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
SignUpGenius helps you create a web page you can send to everyone in the PTA letting them sign up for different time slots. You can see that there’s an empty slot at the bounce house from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and sign up for it.
There’s also a paid version for larger organizations who send a lot of emails, want more customization and want to remove ads.
[Agenda story: Charlotte startup SignUpGenius lands majority investment]
What does Elements Brands do?
You know how Procter & Gamble owns a lot of consumer product brands, like Tide, Bounty, Old Spice and Charmin? Elements Brands is kind of like that, except for smaller brands that sell online.
Elements Brands has a portfolio of product lines that have niche markets and are consumable — meaning that people buy the product over and over again. Think skin care and cleaning products.
Elements Brands buys these brands from mom and pop businesses and then uses their expertise in digital selling and marketing through platforms like Amazon to scale them up.
[Agenda story: This Charlotte startup is building the Procter & Gamble of 2050]