Vontoo started out as a voice-messaging tool, blasting targeted lists of people with prerecorded pitches from the likes of Greg Oden, the No. 1 pick in the National Basketball Assn.'s 2007 draft, who "called" Portland Trailblazer season ticket holders to re-up for another year.
But as times have grown tougher, the 25-employee company has morphed into a service for bill collectors. Dustin Sapp, 30, and Robert Compton, 52, co-founders of Indianapolis-based Vontoo, had already launched and sold a successful business—NoInk, a digital information service for the medical-device industry—before they began their new company in 2005 with $1.5 million from angel investors.
Prices range from $15 for 100 message minutes to $1,000 for 10,000 message minutes. Lately, the founders have discovered their automated phone calls are an effective collection tool. More than a third of Vontoo's clients today use it to get customers to pay past-due bills, and Sapp expects the share to grow. (Celebrity voices aren't used for these calls; companies typically record a company exec or someone in customer service.)
Since turning to Vontoo, one client has cut its own collection staff by more than 50% while realizing a 60% jump in collections.
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