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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 3 years ago

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Technology entrepreneur Keith Stone says reinvesting profits into his company and encouraging employees to be entrepreneurial keeps CSI Enterprises growing fast.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Keith Stone wants his company to be a hotbed of innovation.

To do that, the Bonita Springs entrepreneur launched a fund that invests in startup payment technologies, some of them dreamed up by his own employees. In a Shark Tank-style competition, employees have an opportunity to win financial backing and get an ownership stake if the idea is good enough to spin off. Plus, the top three winners collect total prize money of $19,000.

Stone is the founder and CEO of CSI Enterprises, a fast-growing company that provides payment systems for corporations. The company's most recent incarnation started in 2000 when Stone came out of brief retirement after a successful career at GE Capital.

“Everybody wants to be a part of change,” reasons Stone. Besides, he says great ideas depend on employees on the front lines who help customers every day. The company currently has 72 employees.

CSI, which stands for Corporate Spending Innovations, is behind some of the most innovative technology in corporate payments. While Stone declines to cite annual revenues, he says CSI is posting 55% annual growth in sales, with nearly half of profits reinvested in the company. Stone says $7 billion worth of payments flow through the company's systems and it has 1,900 corporate customers who use the software for accounts payable. “The company is in hyper-growth mode,” Stone says.

For example, the company has partnered with MasterCard to offer clients single-use virtual credit cards. Called the globalVCard, accounts payable departments can use a virtual credit card number to pay a specific transaction, similar to issuing a check. Once the transaction is completed, the credit card number becomes invalid. CSI says one-time virtual credit card payments save companies from writing checks and improves security because of their one-time use.

In addition, CSI's software can integrate with about two-dozen corporate accounting systems such as Jonas Club Software. Jonas provides golf-course management software that is used by 2,300 clubs in 17 countries.

When Stone moved to Bonita Springs in 2000, forming another company wasn't part of his plan. “We moved here under the premise I wasn't going to work,” chuckles Stone, 53. “I thought I was done with my career.”

Stone, whose father Bob Stone was president of General Motors for Latin America, had just sold his fleet-management company to GE and settled in Bonita Springs. But he was restless: “My mind has got to go,” Stone says.

So in 2001, Stone started selling fuel cards to companies that managed large fleets of trucks and cars. Google was his third customer, using the company's fuel cards to gas up the cars that mapped every street for Google Street View. “They mapped the world using our fuel card,” Stone says.

The launch of the virtual credit card in 2011 thanks to cloud and mobile technology spurred much of the recent growth at CSI, giving the company a foothold in various industries from media to hospitality. “Virtual card is at the core of what we do,” says Stone, who is exploring opportunities to grow the business in Europe and Asia.

Not surprisingly, CSI gets a lot of attention from prospective investors. Stone, who owns the company outright, says at least two private equity firms contact him every day, but he's not interested in selling. “We're in a sexy space,” he smiles.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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