“Low-light energy harvesting photovoltaics” may not be a term you use every day—but if you’ve ever used a solar-powered calculator, you’ve seen this technology in action. Based on the principles of photosynthesis, energy harvesting uses the low-level ambient light that surrounds us everywhere to generate power. And no one is doing more to develop this exciting field than solar cell manufacturer Ambient Photonics whose breakthrough technology is being applied across a range of IoT, smart devices, and other electronics.
Ambient Photonics is powered by people who are passionate about reducing carbon and our reliance on batteries. But such progress isn’t easy.
For Controller Nick Mehta, working for the Scotts Valley, California startup meant wearing a lot of different hats as he managed the company’s finance function solo. Thankfully, automating the company’s financial operations with BILL enabled him to spend less time on mundane accounting tasks and more time driving the company’s vision.
Before Mehta came on board, Ambient Photonics had a temporary bokkeeper who handled accounts payable (AP). “She was just overwhelmed with literally printing out checks, stapling them to invoices, having the owners sign them, and then remembering to do them once a week and making sure she got them all. It was quite a process,” Mehta recalls.
Mehta knew from past experience that an automated finance solution could streamline operations and allow him to maximize his productivity.
“I really didn't want to spend a lot of time writing out checks and licking envelopes and licking stamps. For one person, it would be too much to handle. I knew BILL would be a very quick and easy way to pay bills,” says Mehta.
BILL immediately eased the burden of AP for Mehta. His first move was to contact all of their vendors to let them know to send invoices directly to BILL.
“Sometimes you get so many emails, you tend to forget the ones down below and you might miss an invoice,” says Mehta. “But if they're all going to one centralized inbox in BILL, then you don't have to think about it. You just know that they're all going to be there.”
Mehta also started taking advantage of the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities of BILL: “The auto-populate tool in BILL is incredible. It’s really cool to be able to just scan a bill. BILL memorizes what you did last time and does it again, every time.”
“The auto-populate tool in BILL is incredible. It’s really cool to be able to just scan a bill. BILL memorizes what you did last time and does it again, every time.” — Nick Mehta, Controller, Ambient Photonics
Scheduling payments is also a breeze with BILL. Explains Mehta, “I love that you can manage your payment schedule with BILL, which lets you determine when you want to send out a particular payment. With BILL you can put in a date for when you want to send the payment—you don't have to remember it.”
All these efficiencies have resulted in time and cost savings for the company, which is important for a startup with limited budget for staff.
With BILL, Ambient Photonics no longer needs a full-time person to pay bills. “We probably eliminated 90% of AP time, just completely eliminated it,” says Mehta.
“We probably eliminated 90% of AP time, just completely eliminated it.” — Nick Mehta, Controller, Ambient Photonics
BILL has become indispensable for Mehta, who sends out 400 to 500 payments a month. “If I was doing that by check, I would not have time for doing anything else. I'd just be spending two days a week managing checks,” Mehta says.
The automated approval process with BILL has changed the way Ambient Photonics does business, for the better.
“The approval process with BILL is the best,” Mehta exclaims. “I set it up so the department has approved all of their invoices before they come to the CEO for final approval, and then eventually to me for payment. Every invoice has three eyes on it before it actually goes out, which is really cool.”
BILL also has duplicate invoice notification to prevent mistakes. “If you enter an invoice that's a duplicate, BILL will let you know, ‘Hey, this is a duplicate, are you sure you want to enter it?’” says Mehta.
BILL adds an additional level of security by sending out multiple notifications when a large payment is about to go through. “We just had a payment for $959,000 that we sent out yesterday, and I got an email, even after three levels of approvals,” Mehta says. “There's a lot of wire fraud going on right now, and BILL makes me feel comfortable that unauthorized payments likely won't go through.”
“There's a lot of wire fraud going on right now, and BILL makes me feel comfortable that unauthorized payments likely won't go through.”— Nick Mehta, Controller, Ambient Photonics
Approvals through BILL help the company to operate with a remote staff model and across many locations. “Having many locations, it just clutters up your inbox when you send approvals out through emails, and then all your paperwork is stuck in emails, which is crazy,” says Mehta.
“With BILL, everything is centralized and anyone can look online at any time in any location. They don't have to call Accounting and ask for the invoice or whatever, or do any research. They can just look it up themselves,” explains Mehta.
Purchase Order (PO) matching is another game-changing BILL feature. By cross-reference invoices against the purchase order and the receipt, Mehta uses it to prevent mistakes and possible fraud. The fact that BILL seamlessly integrates with their NetSuite platform is an added bonus.
“PO matching really helps us manage our manufacturing process because you always need to make sure that you received all the materials that you ordered,” says Mehta. “The matching with BILL and NetSuite has been really, really good in that regard.”
As a manufacturer, vendor relationships are critical for Ambient Photonics’ success. The company’s vendors run the gamut from large corporations to independent contractors. And their relationships are global: the company sent over $20 million in payments to Europe during the past year, and more than 50% of their transactions are international vendors.
“We've gotten probably 99.9% of our vendors on BILL. They love it because they're able to see that their invoice got approved and paid and it's on its way. BILL makes the vendor feel good that something is actually happening with their invoice, rather than wondering,” Mehta says.
Mehta continues: “Sometimes when a vendor sends an invoice, they don't hear back from the company for 30 days, they don't know what's going on with it. What I like about BILL is that the vendor can actually go into BILL and see the approval and payment status. It gives them a level of comfort.”
“What I like about BILL is that the vendor can actually go into BILL and see the approval and payment status. It gives them a level of comfort.” — Nick Mehta, Controller, Ambient Photonics
Building better relationships with vendors helped the company navigate the recent supply chain crunch. “Our supply chain was affected, and prices were going up. Our vendors were more nervous about getting paid,” recalls Mehta. “With BILL, they get notification that their payment is on the way. The whole communication makes the vendor feel more secure about receiving their payment.”
BILL also helps with payments in the other direction, with between 30% and 40% of their customers using BILL. “It's not like I had to send a lot of customers a notification saying, "Hey, please join BILL." They're already on there,” Mehta says.
With BILL handling the heavy lifting of AP, Mehta is free to spend time devoting his passion to the company’s mission.
“If I was spending a whole day writing out checks and licking envelopes and stamps, that would be 8 to 10 hours of just wasting time. BILL allows me to focus on the important stuff,” Mehta explains.
Much like the harvesting cells that Ambient Photonics produces, BILL operates quietly in the background, efficiently enabling productivity for Mehta and the finance team. As the company continues to expand, Ambient Photonics is bringing their technology to the masses—with extra energy provided by BILL.