As 'gig' companies consolidate, Tipalti sees a way to untangle their tech

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As the gig economy expands, at least some consolidation is inevitable. As a result, companies that already have complex webs of payments, billing cycles and workflows will need a way to merge their systems with those of their acquisition targets.

"You will wind up with multiple brands in e-commerce, or globalization that results in one business having different entities, needs and rules in different areas," said Rob Israch, Tipalti's chief marketing officer. "One division may require a certain payment method, or another may require a certain currency. Or there may be tax compliance that's different across different countries."

To address this need, the San Mateo, Calif.-based Tipalti on Tuesday released three new features designed to accommodate broader payment, logistics and compliance needs for accounts payable departments. As contracting expands for companies that receive digital content, products and services delivered from and to different countries in different channels, the payment needs will become fluid from one part of a company to another.

The features are early payment automation, which is designed to make it easier finance teams to pay suppliers ahead of a due date. The early payments option is integrated into Tipalti's accounts payable workflow, enabling clients to avoid manually seeking lines of credit from third parties. In this case, suppliers opt into Tipalti's early payment feature to connect with companies that wish to pay early.

Another new feature is designed to give businesses with multiple subsidiaries or divisions to manage different accounts payable workflows while locking in controls, strategic "best practices," and reporting across the entire business. Each unit in a larger company can have its own independent brand, payment options, invoice, tax workflows, approvals managed in one separate place.

A third feature, the AP Hub, centralizes all accounts payable and supplier payment processes in one cloud-based interface. The hub encompasses supplier management and communications, invoice processing, global remittance, fraud detection and controls, reconciliations and other functions.

Tipalti's roots are in providing gateways for payments to and from different jurisdictions, partly for companies that have large networks of geographically dispersed suppliers. That's often the business model for large media or advertising companies that have contributors or contractors who deliver to a central location. These contractors don't all get paid the same way or in the same currency, or follow the same tax rules.

In the past year, Tipalti has moved toward handling supplier payment flows for expanding companies, adding cloud hosting to accommodate rapid changes in payment needs for clients.

The technology released Tuesday is partly is designed to address mergers and acquisitions that result in one company having several different networks of payees and supply chains to manage at the same time.

"I you think of a large or mid-sized company with headquarters in the U.S. and divisions in the U.K. and Australia and a recently acquired company in Minnesota, that's a lot of entities that have to be managed," Israch said. "You want to do that from a single location, one that has all rules across different workflows in place."

The so called gig economy, in which technology-driven companies like Uber and Airbnb rely on a large network of suppliers and workers, provides a near constant opportunity for new payment technology, according to Andy Schmidt, an executive advisor with Gartner's CEB.

"The payment stream are becoming more complex and the gig economy is only amplifying that," Schmidt said. "You have multiple payments in different types and often in different currencies. Aggregating those payments into a common account in a cost-effective way will become increasingly important."

There is a cottage industry that provides services to the gig economy, said Michael Moeser, director of the payments practice at Javelin Strategy & Research, noting examples such as TriNet, which focuses on human resources and compliance; and CTP Solutions, which provides accounting, payroll and human resources with a focus on startups.

"The startup is never going to be able to spend the required resources to make sure everything is done correctly," Moeser said. "Why should ride sharing startups invest in the accounting, HR and compliance needed to serve their contract drivers just to compete with Uber and Lyft?"

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