2014: What a year.
In looking back at FloQast’s 2014, I forgot many of the major things we have accomplished. When you make major announcements as a company, people on the outside only hear about the conclusion, not about how we got to that point. I’m going to highlight some of the major goals we have achieved in the prior year and give you a little behind the scenes of how we got there:
We started 2014 with a beta product that we had brought to market in late-2013. We received a good response to the platform, even signing a few paying clients (all of which are still with us today, thank you!!!). We confirmed that there was a pain point – a serious need in accounting departments for a solution like FloQast. However, shortly after launch we quickly realized we had addressed the problem incorrectly with our beta product. It was just too cumbersome.
In February, smack in the middle of trying to raise money, we made the decision as a team to stop building our beta product. We decided we wanted to really focus on building a solution centered around how accountants are already working and that required heavy integration work. So, we scrapped the beta and ended up with a much better user experience. Mike was able to sell customers and investors with a mockup and a dream.
Raised a Seed Round of Funding
In June we were able to close our $1.3M seed round lead by Toba Capital, with contributions from multiple LA seed funds and Angel investors. Raising money is extremely hard, especially if you’ve never done it before. Explaining how accounting departments close the books isn’t the simplest concept nor is it the most entertaining, so for many investors the product didn’t make sense and we certainly don’t have that ‘cool’ factor to pique interest.
The biggest thing we had going for us was that for the people who were interested, they could validate our concept with CFO’s in their network. After talking to 100+ investors (thanks to Amplify.LA’s vast network) we finally found the perfect match in Toba. Their focus is on B2B products and their team is comprised of former entrepreneurs with experience bringing businesses like ours to market. It’s rare to find investors who truly bring more than just a check to the table and Toba has done just that.
Got an Office and Started Building our Team
Once we had an investment in place, the next step was to get some office space and build out the team. Most of our Amplify brethren thought we were crazy to leave ‘Silicon Beach’ for the San Fernando Valley. All we heard was it would be impossible to find tech talent. They were wrong – we were able to find an amazing office space (a house zoned for business) for crazy cheap and used our location to our advantage. If you’ve spent any time in LA you know how bad the traffic is and developers who make their home in the San Fernando Valley were more than happy to stop commuting to Silicon Beach. Say hello to 2 hours of additional free time per day!
Hiring is extremely hard, expensive and takes a lot of time. When you are building out a team, you have to make sure all of the pieces fit together. A year into hiring we finally have a solid process in place, but are still learning with every interview. Recruiter fees are expensive, we never imagined how large of a cost these would be for our business. If you are starting a business, make sure you have a good network. The best hires are people you have worked with previously.
Revamped Messaging and Logo
At the start of 2014 our tagline was ‘Your Assistant Controller in the Cloud’. We had a couple issues with this. First, we wanted to move away from using ‘the Cloud’, at this point most people know what the cloud is and it’s not really a selling point. The second issue was, ‘Your Assistant Controller’ sounded like we were trying to take people’s jobs. That’s not the case, our tool was made to help accountants work better and more efficiently. After an extremely valuable session with Zoom Marketing in San Francisco, FloQast became ‘The Fastest, Most Accurate Way to Close the Books.’
The logo also needed an update, especially since we were moving away from the Cloud messaging. I had an ‘A-Ha’ moment during a strategy session with Toba. Our board member Rob was discussing the hashtag feature in our app (#FQ is used to automate your reconciliation process), and thought we were on to something with it. I had been looking at my favorite logos, many of them did something cool with replacing lettering. I began sketching in my notebook #FloQast, after combining the # and the F, boom here we are.
Going to Market
In November, we unveiled our product to the market at the Intacct Advantage Conference in Orlando, FL. Intacct was our first ERP integration and we have now formalized our partnership to help their clients close the books faster. NetSuite was our 2nd integration and we are constantly growing the list of ERP’s as we continue to bring on new clients.
Once we released our product it was clear we had found product-market fit and we were off and running. Really we only had 2 months to sell our product in 2014 (1 and a half if you take out the year-end holidays), but in that time we onboarded multiple new clients, signed our first public company and signed our first 3 year contract. We have learned so much about the needs of accounting departments and we can’t wait to share our expertise with the accounting world.
Biggest lessons we have learned:
– Hiring is hard and recruiter fees are expensive
– Everything takes longer than you think
– Focus on the user experience
– Timing is everything
– Validation never stops
– Don’t outsource the important areas of your business (For us: Sales/Software development)
It’s always good at the end of the year to take a step back and look at what you have accomplished. Do we wish we could have released our new product faster? Of course. Do we think we could have done better in sales? Always. Did we end the year with a product and team we believe in? Absolutely.
We are extremely excited for the future of FloQast and we will continue to get better every day. We thank our clients and investors for believing in us and the product. In 2015, we will focus on building a great company and a great solution to keep improving accountants’ lives every day.