What happens when a talented payments sales guy teams with an accomplished software maker to solve an age-old payments automation problem? In the case of Ion Craciun and Adrian Talapan, the founders of Wayne, Pa.-based startup Fee Navigator, the answer was a groundbreaking sales tool.
Craciun is Fee Navigator's chief revenue officer and co-founder. He was a former financial forensics investigator and also one of First Data Corp's most decorated salespeople. He launched Fee Navigator's precursor company Fee Notice, but never fully accomplished his original vision to automate the statement analysis process.
Craciun introduced his problem to Talapan, a serial software entrepreneur whose company specialized in extracting health record data and analyzing it to identify behavioral patterns. Talapan, Fee Navigator's chief executive officer and co-founder, recognized the gap. "As I learned, the nature of the opportunity was how much it would benefit agents and independent sales organizations to move quickly," he said.
"I also realized why many companies had put a ton of money into trying to build something like this, but it never went anywhere," Talapan continued. "The statement analysis process is extremely difficult, and this is the reason nothing was available."
Talapan also noted building an application like this requires a few key ingredients. "We were able to do it by applying a big-data strategy and hiring incredible people to work with us," he said.
According to Talapan, the Fee Navigator software is an agnostic tool with three main capabilities. "There's a bot for analyzing statements on the road in seconds, a drag-and-drop tool you can use in front of the computer, and a merchant lead generator launched in December that helps agents easily gain future clients," he said.
Craciun indicated these tools replace what has traditionally been a drawn-out process for comparing statements. "People have to do this manually," he noted. "There are a few consultants that will help you within 48 to 72 hours, and inside groups that help, but it still takes the time."
The tool produces a statement analysis file in Excel format. Agents have full editing control to adapt the final product to their liking. Fee Navigator owners also indicated they designed the results page as a single page for easy downloading and/or conversion to a sharable PDF.
The company prides itself on a turnaround time that far exceeds industry standards. "It takes an average of 30 minutes to do a manual analysis, and with Fee Navigator, it takes five seconds," Craciun said. "If the agent chooses to edit the file, it's still only a three- or four-minute process."
Craciun also noted it's easy to offer merchants analysis on the fly. "With the bot, you don't need a computer, and can just show the merchant the analysis from your mobile phone," he said.
According to Talapan, since the application's October 2019 launch, 150 to 200 sales agents have begun using the software. Talapan also said the platform is evolving, with updates constantly being added. "What we're building is a platform, and we have a few elements already there," he stated. "You can email a statement to your own bot we've nicknamed AMA (short for automated merchant analysis) and our lead funnel gives agents a widget to add to their website."
Talapan also sees a promising future ahead. "As we have more information, we will turn on the part of the platform that aggregates the data," he said. "At that time, there will be access to trends such as average ticket pricing and effective rates by merchant code."
Talapan and Craciun indicated they intend to help move the needle for the industry. "We're excited for this year, because we believe we can really make a huge impact," Craciun said. "The agents can now do more with these new capabilities."
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