How a Small Payroll Startup is Keeping Up With the Unicorns


 Lots of startups look to break into competitive industries, and the payroll space is no exception. Payroll startup OnPay is quietly making headway in a crowded field and starting to pass some better-known peers.

Recently, Rippling raised more than $140 million to join other Silicon Valley startups such as Zenefits and Gusto to reach the $1 billion unicorn valuation. Even though these industry leaders have been capturing headlines, OnPay, based in Atlanta, has quietly been racking up awards for the best payroll product. It is only a matter of time before this startup begins to garner more attention. By receiving best-in-class awards from The Motley Fool’s Blueprint, CPA Practice Advisor, and sharing the PCMag Editors’ Choice with Gusto, OnPay is proving it’s at the top of its class.

OnPay Makes Its Mark in the Industry

OnPay’s Founder, Jesse Burgess, brings a wealth of payroll experience to the startup he founded in 2009 as the extension of a traditional payroll company. After bootstrapping initially, OnPay has grown steadily to more than 50 employees, and it just raised its first $6 million to accelerate growth beyond 10,000 current clients.

As it moves into the spotlight, the secret of its success is simple: place the needs of its clients first, every step of the way. In an interview last year, Burgess described how OnPay’s client focus was born.

“When we launched our online product 10 years ago, we didn’t feel like we could leave any of our existing clients behind, so we simply felt like our payroll had to serve everyone.”

Rising to meet the needs of just about any client meant developing a product with unparalleled versatility. From cosmetic things like customizing the look of dashboards, to advanced details like setting up bespoke integrations with accounting software like Xero and Quickbooks, clients have the unique ability to do things their own way. That’s also meant launching a complete HR product and customizable payroll reporting that offer more flexibility than peers.

OnPay Suits a Wide Range of Businesses

The result is best summed up by PCMag’s recent review: “OnPay’s flexibility and depth make payroll processing understandable and fast. It’s an excellent choice for many small businesses—even those with advanced needs in both payroll and HR—and the user experience is top-notch.”

Keeping in line with Burgess’s goal of serving every business well, OnPay has also gone a little deeper into its payroll roots by offering special tax filings and deductions for industries like farms, nonprofits, restaurants, and churches. As a result, it earned endorsements from groups like Farm Credit Services and the American Dental Association. And OnPay has also shown its nimble side by being at the forefront of helping business owners apply for COVID-19 relief.

The Future Is Bright for OnPay

While OnPay has flown under the radar so far, it is clear that its underdog status is not going to last much longer. Thanks to its oversubscribed first round of venture funding, the company announced plans to grow to 75 employees by the end of the year, and it has already expanded from the small business market into the accounting vertical.

If OnPay stays on track and can scale its top-rated customer service as it grows, the Atlanta-based workhorse may soon be seeing as much success as its unicorn brethren. It has certainly done the work to earn a seat at the table alongside them.

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