November 13, 2006

Benefitfocus shoots for $1 billion in revenue by '15

Dennis Quick  /  Charleston Regional Business Journal

Shawn Jenkins, president and chief executive officer of health care administrative software company Inc., remains confident about the pronouncement he made at the Oct. 19 ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the grand opening of the company's 65,000-square-foot Daniel Island facility. Jenkins said his company's goal is to achieve $1 billion in revenue in nine years.

He made that proclamation in front of dignitaries including Gov. Mark Sanford, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Chairman Edward Sellers and his Benefitfocus partners Mason Holland Jr. and Doug Moreland. Considering Benefitfocus' meteoric rise in the face of the nation's dot-com debacle, that goal appears obtainable.

What began six years ago in Mount Pleasant with Jenkins, Holland, Moreland and a handful of employees sharing office space at American Pensions Inc. before moving, due to steady growth, to a renovated Wal-Mart, is now a 300-employee operation with offices in Greenville and Columbia, plus satellite locations in eight other cities across the nation.

By landing contracts with major health insurance carriers such as BlueCross BlueShield, Benefitfocus has more than 89,000 corporate clients nationwide and abroad. Some 40 million employees around the world manage their company-provided health insurance through software produced by Benefitfocus, Jenkins said.

In addition to the young company's success, another sign pointing to the likelihood of Benefitfocus achieving its billion-dollar revenue goal is the nation's swelling health care market. In 1994, the United States spent about $1.2 trillion on health care. That figure is now at $2.2 trillion and will continue to rise over the next 10 years, Jenkins said. About 30% of those expenses are administrative paperwork costs Benefitfocus' software is designed to eliminate. With that in mind, $1 billion in Benefitfocus revenues by 2015 is a conservative projection, Jenkins said.

Economic impact

To achieve the billion-dollar revenue mark, Benefitfocus will need about 3,000 employees, the bulk of whom will work in the Charleston area, Jenkins said, adding that the company is already planning to hire 300 more employees during the next 24 to 36 months. As Benefitfocus' payroll increases, bringing to the Lowcountry more jobs paying average salaries of $65,000 per year, the local economy, from homebuilders to retailers, is due to benefit, Jenkins said. Additionally, Benefitfocus' success could spawn other knowledge-based businesses, such as software consultancies and other technology firms.

Meanwhile, the company will seek to form partnerships with existing companies and with startups, Jenkins said. "Benefitfocus will do for this community what Blackbaud has done," said Ernest Andrade, executive director of the Charleston Digital Corridor, a collection of some 80 high-tech companies including software companies Blackbaud Inc. and Benefitfocus. Former Blackbaud employees who left the company to form their own firms have been instrumental in the growth of the Digital Corridor, which began five years ago with 18 companies, Andrade said. As Benefitfocus grows, look for some of its employees to leave and start their own Digital Corridor companies, just as Blackbaud alumni have done, he said.

BlueCross BlueShield's Sellers sees a sunny future not only for Benefitfocus but for the entire state.