Bill Bartzak founded MD On-Line, Inc. in 1995. Today, the company is one of the fastest-growing technology firms in the country, having been named to Inc. magazine’s Inc 500 in 2004, the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, and the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 in New Jersey. Bartzak has a strong background of bootstrapped startup ventures in multiple industries.
SM: Bill, let’s start with your background. Where do you come from? What is the beginning of your personal story?
BB: I was born in Livingston, New Jersey. I had my first job when I was nine years old delivering newspapers, because my dad was in charge of circulation for the Star-Ledger. That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial experience. I started shoveling driveways when I was ten years old. I tried to make money in any way I could because I was driven to be successful.
When I was in college I started my first business. My father was still with the Star-Ledger, and they were giving gifts to anyone who subscribed to that paper or Time magazine. My business was to fulfill those gifts. I would buy the gifts and send them to the new subscribers. I later added t-shirt printing to that organization. I ended up selling that company.
SM: How did you finance your company?
BB: I did it from nothing. Hard work. Everything was bootstrapped. We did not have a lot of money growing up, so from a very early age I was always trying to find a way to make a dollar.
SM: What did you sell your first company for?
BB: I sold it for $30,000.
SM: What happened after that?
BB: My uncle was in the construction business. I decided I wanted to manufacture concrete pavers as a product. I could not raise the money, so I started installing concrete pavers instead. In the four years I had the business, we grew to be the largest installers of concrete pavers in the country. We did Liberty State Park, City Hall in Newark, and all the major jobs in the area. I sold that company in 1992 for $130,000.
SM: How could it have been the biggest player in its space and been sold for $130,000?
BB: It was a low-barrier-to-entry construction company. It was all about the next deal. It is a completely different industry from technology and all reliant on the next deal. The country at that time was in a recession.
That experience motivated me to set two criteria for entering a business. First, it had to be something that was recession-proof. Second, it had to be something dealing with technology. Several of my friends were working for pharmaceutical companies. Healthcare interested me. I knew it was recession-proof, and I knew that with computers being up and coming that it had a good future.
The attorney I had at the time introduced me to some folks who had a business in the practice management field. We developed a system to allow doctors to keep information on all their patients in their offices. When I was working there we were invited to a Medicare seminar to talk about electronic claims actions. That is when the idea of MD On-Line came to me.
Medicare New Jersey asked doctors to come to the seminar to learn about electronic claims. We were one of the companies that had electronic claims capabilities. There were 150 physicians’ offices represented in the room and about 20 vendors like us around the outskirts. While the doctors were being nice to the vendors, the reality was that nobody was selling any of their systems to the doctors for the sake of electronic claims.
I realized that this industry as a whole needed something that would work with all of the different types of practice management systems that exist to enable claims to be sent electronically. They needed a bridge of communication between the insurance companies and the doctors’ offices. That is when the idea of MD On-Line came to me. I started the company in 1995 by myself with no salary. It was another of my typical bootstrapped startups.