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Marc Guyer and Mike Trotzke have been solving online billing problems together for over 15 years. Today, they run Cheddar, primarily splitting development work (Marc) and business development and management (Mike) between them. Both are seasoned developers with business acumen and a passion for user experience.

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Christine Brackenhoff
1-812-339-1195 x201

Billing for the Consumption-Based Era: Cheddar Tosses Out Old Accounting Mindset to Create Sleek Billing Platform for Usage-Based Models

Billing processes are often last-minute considerations in the software or online service development cycle. But they can determine the very business model of a company, and thus impact how their product works and how it’s monetized. 

Cheddar wants to change the way developers and others in the software business think about where the money’s coming in and how to collect it. The API-based billing platform can manage everything from one-time payments to usage-based billing, thanks to continuous updates from client companies’ data. Its intuitive dashboard and visualizations of data are designed to help software businesses see and learn quickly where the money is.

“Many online billing services are simply digital iterations of old paper systems,” muses Mike Trotzke, CEO of Cheddar. “We started by thinking about the problem from scratch, not mimicking past processes. We wanted to imagine a world with a real-time connection between software and billing. Instead of being batch or manual-entry based, you let the platforms talk to each other in real time.”

This gives software teams far greater flexibility as the business side of their company takes off. “We help development teams avoid wasting time. We didn’t want them burning hours agonizing about pricing structure and price points early on, because it’s easy to adjust the billing via Cheddar,” Trotzke explains. “We stumbled on this solution for our own startups: an abstraction layer between the billing and the software.” Instead of crafting code for a specific business plan and pricing structure, developers can remain flexible. They only need to send a few data points to Cheddar via its API, and the billing is done.

Cheddar started as a tool Trotzke and two other entrepreneurs developed for their own crop of startups, as they reimagined the role of venture capital in supporting entrepreneurs. Longtime colleagues and friends, Trotzke, Marc Guyer, and Brad Wisler decided to push the pace of development and launch speed for these fledgling companies. They eventually went on to found Sproutbox, a venture studio in Bloomington, IN, the university town turned nascent tech hub. 

First, however, they wanted to try their methods out on themselves. “We knew we wanted to build a new revenue-centric startup every three months,” he recalls. “Three months from just an idea to a viable product generating revenue.” They decided they needed to test their methods first, starting three companies that would help guide their approach to future investments.

The complexity of certain back-office functions, however, threatened to slow this sprint to revenue. “With our timeline, we couldn’t spend two of our three months building the billing part. So we built Cheddar.” 

“It is really easy to bill in the system, no matter what type of payment approach you’re looking at, be it subscription or a usage-based. To make this work, our API doesn’t consider things in dollars and cents terms. That’s not the language we use,” Trotzke notes. “In real time and throughout the billing period, Cheddar gathers data about what users are doing and notifies clients about this activity. Some of the things you track you never bill for. You’re throwing tracking data at the platform and then defining how to bill for that usage, not just invoicing digitally.”

Usage-based billing capabilities are key to many SaaS models. It’s increasingly what consumers and customers expect, to pay only for what they use and to have their personal information held securely to ensure ease of payment. “Simple subscriptions aren’t the right fit for most software ideas,” Trotzke says. “Consumption-based billing makes a lot more sense for many products and services. Instead of selling someone a bottle of water or sending them a monthly invoice for a water cooler plan, you can bill for exactly what’s pouring out of the tap.” Regardless of the model, Cheddar can handle the billing--and move easily between the different approaches as businesses change.

Cheddar is an API-based billing platform that can manage one-time, subscription, and usage-based payment structures via continuous updates from client companies' data. Instead of being batch or manual entry-based, platforms talk to each other in real-time. Not only does this give software teams greater flexibility as the business side of their company takes off, it significantly reduces time spent on building payment structures.