My journey to Airbase: A CPA’s criteria for evaluating accounting startups.
“If you talk to someone in a language they understand, that goes to their head. If you talk to them in their own day-to-day language, that goes to their heart.” — Nelson Mandela
My decision to become an accountant was easy. I’ve always loved numbers, and the ongoing demand for experienced accounting professionals appealed to me. The decision to leave accounting practice to work for a fintech start-up was more complex. That Nelson Mandela quote provides some insight into my motivation: Because I know the day-to-day language of accounting, I knew I could understand and communicate the problems accountants face every day, and actually make a difference.
After getting my accounting degree at USC, I spent two years in a Big 4 audit firm; four years as a senior accountant at the fast-growing, mid-stage tech startup AppDynamics; and three years as a business planning and development manager at the fast-growing, late-stage pre-IPO tech company Pivotal Software. The journey was rewarding, as I learned a lot and participated in the exciting journey of two IPOs.
Along the way, I noticed a lot of room for improvement in the systems that accountants rely on to get their jobs done. As an accounting software purchaser, I saw that salespeople avoided talking about accounting problems and often miscommunicated the value of their solution. Once a purchase was made, it was difficult to see my teams burdened by lengthy implementations and inevitable system debt growing with every monthly close. The irony was clear. Accounting teams use dated, clunky accounting software, while working for tech startups who develop cutting-edge technology and strive to remain at the forefront of innovation when it comes to building their own products. Why was accounting lagging behind? And could I be a part of the solution?
I started to research accounting and fintech Seed/Series A startups. It was important to me to use my accountant background at a software company that I believed was solving big and important problems. What I was looking for could be summed up in one word: Magic. Here are some of the things I found at Airbase that fit that one word:
1. (SaaS + B2B payments) = (Advanced Controls + Audit Readiness + Card payment + Bill Payments + Reimbursement payments) = Magic. There are some startups offering great SaaS solutions, while others were more geared towards fixing the world of broken B2B payments. As an accountant, I was looking for more than SaaS solutions that replaced a few spreadsheets or enhanced some existing modules and workflows within an ERP via APIs. I was looking for bold companies trying to revolutionize B2B payments and integrate SaaS workflows with B2B payments. Magic that I found with Airbase.
2. Consolidation = Magic. A platform that consolidates accounts payable/bill payments, corporate cards, and expense reimbursements saves accountants hours of repetitive work. When that platform can also pick up patterns of how you categorize and account for each expense in the GL, and, over time, put such activities on auto-pilot, the result is much more rewarding work, plus a reduced risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
3. Customer delight = Magic. Customer feedback was important to me, so I didn’t just talk to the software companies themselves when I was doing my research. I wanted to find a company that was rethinking the way their customers handled non-payroll spending and accounting workflows, while ultimately delighting them.
4. No code = Magic. Many finance and account teams suffer from IT dependency and are stuck with ERPs and pieces of software requiring bulky IT-supported configurations. I knew the value of a flexible platform that could form the base of a customizable, cloud-based solution and was pleased to see it in Airbase.
5. Thoughtful design = Magic. Many point solutions focus their designs on the needs and workflows of the employees, and not the finance and accounting teams. Airbase was the first that I saw to fully support both with intuitive design and easy use.
6. Domain expertise reflected in the product = Magic. As an accountant, I have a good sense of how deeply accountants were involved in the design of a software solution. It’s not enough just to offer accounting functionality; an accountant’s perspective has to be at the forefront of every element and built into every workflow.
Arriving at Airbase = Magic.
Now, as an Airbase Customer Success Manager, I’m pleased that I can bring my accounting background and commitment to great software solutions to my work every day. I look forward to speaking with you in our shared language about your accounting issues and how Airbase can help solve them.
Airbase offers a one platform solution to manage all non-payroll spend. It provides oversight and control over spending with real-time reporting and automatic syncing directly to your general ledger. Control all payments – physical cards, virtual cards, ACH, and checks – from one place. Close faster. Empower employees. Control spend.