How billing EU customers became a breeze
Turning checkout into a nice, streamlined experience
With Marc Köhlbrugge
- BetaList helps you discover new startups in early stages.
- Eindhoven, Netherlands
It’s always interesting to see how a tiny side project can evolve into a successful startup on its own. BetaList was originally created in 2010 just to help Marc’s other startup get some media attention. Featuring new, early stage startups on one website, the idea worked unexpectedly well. After first mentions in TechCrunch and Forbes it was clear that BetaList isn’t going anywhere and became an actual business.
A little time has passed and more and more startups reached out to BetaList to get featured. After a couple of months, a serious waiting queue had developed.
If you submit your startup today it might be three months or even longer before you’re featured on the website,
Overloading BetaList with startups wasn’t Marc’s intention, so he came up with an idea to sort out those who take it seriously. This is how expedited reviews were created. After paying a fee, your startup is prioritized in reviewing and if it meets BetaList’s criteria, it will be published sooner. If not, you get a full refund.
Together with advertising on the page and newsletter, expedited reviews became a steady stream of revenue, allowing BetaList to grow further.
But as for many others startups and entrepreneurs, VAT regulations complicated everyday operations. The fact that Stripe wasn’t available in Netherlands back then didn’t make things easier.
Marc had been using several billing and invoicing systems before, from Paypal to Dutch alternative Moneybird, but none of them were ideal and able to solve out VAT automatically. Moreover, existing services just weren’t as fun to use.
They often wanted to do too much or they didn’t work exactly how I needed.
After Stripe became available in Netherlands, Marc replaced his current billing platform and looked for a checkout solution he could integrate with Stripe.
Before signing up for Quaderno, Marc tried Taxamo as one of Stripe’s recommended integrations.
It was a little bit more complicated and I didn’t really like their design. This might seem like a detail but if it’s a service that you use daily or weekly then I really feel that great design can go a long way.
And what was equally important, their checkout wasn’t as Marc wished.
Marc had an eye on Quaderno thanks to Hacker News and Stripe’s website about third party apps. When he heard that Quaderno is working on its own checkout, he decided to wait, even though he already started integrating with Taxamo. Eventually the waiting paid off.
It looked a lot better so I went with Quaderno instead.
Quaderno now calculates VAT at the checkout so Marc doesn’t need to ask customers where are they based and collect all data in spreadsheets
It’s a very easy way to handle the VAT mess that EU came up with.
Quaderno also sends an invoice automatically after every Stripe charge and handles refunds for startups that weren’t featured on BetaList after the payment.
We have a couple of orders for expedited reviews every day, so it’s quite a lot of invoices to create.
Previously, creating an invoice took several minutes and involved a lot of back and forth communication between BetaList and the customer.
It took maybe 5-10 minutes per invoice just because we didn’t have Stripe integration and we had to ask every customer for billing address and their VAT number via email. Then we had to wait for their response, sometimes we asked for more information, for instance when they forgot something. Then we had to validate whether the VAT number was correct and check again. We had to put details in the invoice manually, export it into a PDF and eventually we would send it to the customer.
Marc says that BetaList could have integrated the whole process if they wanted.
Moneybird does have an API, but still we would need our customers to put that data somewhere. I guess we could have developed it if we wanted to, but there just wasn’t time for that.
Quaderno now does all of that automatically without any actual work involved.
Just to setup and implement the code but that was relatively straightforward,
Quaderno has streamlined the process how BetaList handles new customers via checkout. By charging VAT by default, Marc doesn’t have to spend time figuring out how much VAT should be added on top of EU purchases. Every customer also gets a nicely designed invoice with all details they might need for their accounting.
Occasionally a customer might ask for an invoice because they might have missed an email. Then we just log in to Quaderno and resend the invoice - a link with the PDF attached which works great. The same goes for credit notes and refunds.
If the need arises, editing invoices is easy and straightforward.
When a customer wants your billing address on the invoice they can actually edit it themselves without us needing to do that for them. That saves a lot of work.
Customer’s history in Quaderno also comes in handy.
You can see when the payment was made and when the invoice was sent so you can double check, that’s really nice,
Design is another thing that comes into play when thinking about a perfect billing service.
Other services are a little bit of overwhelming,
I like how Quaderno keeps it simple and very straightforward. You have everything you need but you are not overwhelmed by too much data.
With all of this in mind, BetaList can now focus on what is the most important - featuring meaningful and ambitious startups that can make a great impact in the world.
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