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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 13, 2018 3 months ago

Software 'excelerates' fraud detection

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A Naples businesswoman discovered a fraud detection software — only sold overseas — that transformed her company. Now she's the exclusive marketer of that software in the States.
by: Andrew Warfield Lee-Collier Editor

If necessity is the mother of invention, it is also the sister of entrepreneurism.

Barbara Steinberg was running her own firm filing Medicaid applications for the elderly, going into assisted living facilities and nursing homes, when she realized there had to be a way to efficiently compare years of financial records to determine eligibility.

“I had one guy whose full-time job was transposing paper bank statements onto a giant Excel spreadsheet so we could analyze all the transactions before we sent in the applications,” says Steinberg. “I said, ‘There has got to be a better way.’”

She searched the internet for software that would help automate the process, eventually discovering a Scotland-based company, Altia-ABM, and its Microsoft-based fraud detection software.

After using the software for a year as a customer, she decided accountants, law enforcement agencies and others could benefit from its automation capabilities. Altia-ABM had no distribution in the United States.

Much of Barbara Steinberg's marketing efforts is online via email and LinkedIn, although she has recently added conferences and trade shows.

“One of the reasons the company was difficult to find is they aren’t a marketing company, but a tech company,” says Steinberg. “They had been in business for 16 years and every police department in the U.K. was using their software, as well as a lot of government agencies, but not so much in the U.S.”

She pitched Altia-ABM to be its exclusive United States reseller. A deal was struck and Excelerate Technology was born.

“I actually started in September 2015 and worked at it part-time while working Medicaid applications,” says Steinberg, who operates in a business incubator on Kraft Road in Naples. Last August, she committed to the business full time.

Previously exclusive to law enforcement and government agencies in the United Kingdom, parts of Europe, Canada and Australia, Steinberg convinced Altia-ABM its product was applicable to other customers. That list includes accountants, insurance companies, legal firms and any profession that requires comprehensive analysis of complex data and financial records.

“I opened up some new markets for them,” says Steinberg. “Now I've got them in forensic accounting firms and valuation firms in addition to law enforcement, and now I have them in federal government agencies.”

The software costs $4,250 per year for a single workstation, and $10,250 for a network version accessible from multiple workstations, but only one user at a time.

Among her first clients was the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, which led to a customer in the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. 

“When we first did the demo for Collier County they said a project that would take two days manually our software did in two minutes,” says Steinberg. “They said this will save hundreds of hours. Sarasota said it paid for itself in the first use.”

Steinberg markets the software at conferences and trade shows, email and cold calling, through word-of-mouth and LinkedIn. She recently attended the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners convention in Las Vegas, where she garnered the attention of the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service, known as NCIS. Steinberg also recently formed a partnership with a consulting firm in Virginia with deep ties with investigative agencies in the federal government.

Another big win: The software will be used by the U.S. government in a lawsuit against the New York City Housing Authority over misappropriation of funds earmarked for the removal of lead paint and mold in apartments.

“There are almost 1,000 buildings affected, and they have to look through all the bank records of apartment owners to see where the money went. It's a huge job,” says Steinberg. “One of the things the software does is allows you to look at transactions between accounts at different banks, which is very difficult when you are looking at stacks of paper. We can merge any number of accounts together and press a button and automatically generate a report showing all interaccount transactions at multiple banks.”

And do they always get their man?

“I would say, yes,” Steinberg says.

Steinberg didn’t disclose revenue, but she did say that, after a year of establishing the company and building a client base, the point of critical mass is within view.

“Within the next year that will happen,” says Steinberg. “It’s taken awhile to get it going, but last year they wanted me to grow this into a million dollars, and then it takes off from there because it's recurring revenue. Once you get that base, it grows from there.”

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