February 1, 1998

NETdelivery adds bill paying service to push technology

BOULDER — Ever since the first personal computer landed on a desk, soothsayers have been predicting the advent of a paperless world. Declines in paper volume have not been noticeable for most people, however. The amount of advertising and advice sent out in bills and direct mail seems to be increasing, if anything.

But Boulder-based NETdelivery actually may be able to change that. The privately held company is providing “network-independent” software to provide consumer information and billing to people who request their services.

The “push” software allows consumers to receive information directly on their computers that might ordinarily be available from a Web site or from direct-mail offerings. For instance, Land’s End Inc. catalog clothing is one of NETdelivery’s clients. The company can deliver the contents of its catalog directly to the computers of interested consumers who have requested the service.

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According to a 1996 company “white paper” posted on the NETdelivery Web site, “Getting people to return to a Web site regularly and predictably is still an elusive goal that presents many challenges to Web marketers who are not accustomed to conducting business this way. None of these specialized products offers a universal delivery mechanism for all Internet users regardless of computer platform, browser or e-mail system.”

Consumers, for their part, receive only the information they want and are protected from the “spam” — electronic junk mail — that sometimes accompanies e-mail based services. The cost to Land’s End would be between five and 20 cents per delivery, depending upon the number of electronic catalogs delivered, considerably less than the cost of delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.

According to Donna Nelson, manager of bill relations, the company now is initiating another service, the sending and receiving of bills and payments electronically.

“This can replace the paper altogether,”she said. “I hate to get my bills in the mail, open the paper, pay the bill. This takes away all the paper. I can open it via my desktop, look at it, pay it, even file it away. It allows the biller to save a lot of money.”

Push technology will allow billers to send bills directly to a customer’s computer, rather than through the mail. The customer can open it — even in a facsimile of the paper bill, if desired — and pay it electronically, either by credit card or bank debit.

With current electronic billing systems — as with commercial Web sites — the customer has to take the initiative to access the information and act on it. With the NETdelivery system, the bill is sent to the individual’s desktop, and allows him to pay it from there. The system can tell whether a customer has opened the bill and whether he has paid it. Push technology also provides audit trails and database mining.

One company — which Nelson could not identify because the details have not been finalized — which sends out over 70 million bills a month, has signed on as the first customer for the service.

Nelson would not say how much the electronic billing service costs, but the savings potential to the company are large, reducing the cost of postage, paper and the physical handling of mailing and receipts.

NETdelivery was founded in 1995 by Tom Higley, a Harvard-educated attorney who invented the principal push technology. He was the head of FortNet, an early Internet service provider in Fort Collins. The privately held company is funded with venture capital.

In 1996, the company began testing its technology with Land’s End, The Weather Channel and other early clients. The company now lists about 150 consumer-oriented companies in its software access. They include magazines like PC Magazine and NetGuide.

Future applications of the technology may include business-to-business interfaces, Nelson said.

The company does not have any competitors as yet in the direct-to-desktop billing business, she said. However, MSFDC — Microsoft First Data Corporation — may become a competitor. A call to Microsoft offices in Denver failed to yield any clues about this however. An operator at Microsoft said that the MSFDC telephone number in Denver is proprietary information. Directory assistance had no listing for the company.

BOULDER — Ever since the first personal computer landed on a desk, soothsayers have been predicting the advent of a paperless world. Declines in paper volume have not been noticeable for most people, however. The amount of advertising and advice sent out in bills and direct mail seems to be increasing, if anything.

But Boulder-based NETdelivery actually may be able to change that. The privately held company is providing “network-independent” software to provide consumer information and billing to people who request their services.

The “push” software allows consumers to receive information directly…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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