Innovation Spotlight: Botkeeper’s Army of Bots Keep Your Finances In Line
This is the eleventh article for the Innovation Spotlight series for the DCD Blog, where we interview some of the newest and most creative companies popping up in the Boston area. If you would like to be featured in our series, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewee: Louie Balasny, Managing Director
Here are Deep Core Data, our company motto is that most companies need computers, but all companies need people. Over at Botkeeper, they’re going one step further and creating a system where computers and people work side by side to manage the accounting and bookkeeping details for growing businesses. And they’re doing it, unsurprisingly, with bots.
You see, so much of bookkeeping is boring busy work that is always put off. Important busy work, but still the kind of small, menial tasks that humans hate to do. Bots, on the other hand, don’t get bored with things like data entry or number crunching; it’s their bread and butter. By automating those day to day tasks, a lot of time is freed up for a human user to manage the headier processes, which can lead to better results and faster turnaround time all around.
Louie Balasny, Managing Director of Botkeeper
“I think the opportunity to kind of bring a new spin on an old industry is really appealing,” says Louie Balasny, the Managing Director for Botkeeper. “Even though the industry we’re in is super not sexy, it is arguably the most critical component to running a business.”
Having a good accountant can make or break a company, especially when it comes to start-ups, but it’s not something that every company, especially start-ups, can afford. According to Balasny, not only is it Botkeeper’s mission to be the only bookkeeping solution that early stage companies and nonprofits think about, but they want to make price a non-issue as well. Ideally, they would like to be able to offer Botkeeper for free to brand new, super early startups.
How do they intend to do this? As it turns out, they actually have a 5 year plan. Their goal is to put one of their many bots (each with adorable names and faces) into every single early stage company in the country. Balasney feels that the cost reduction caused by using bots allows them to scale better than other bookkeeping companies. He feels that most traditional competitors eventually hit a plateau or milestone that they can’t get past because as they grow, they will need to hire on more people. But Botkeeper’s bots are essentially a product that plugs into existing platforms, which will enable them to scale throughout the country to help those who can’t currently afford good bookkeeping help.
Botkeeper launched quietly in the summer of 2015, and by January of 2016, they were ready to go to market. They’ve gained a lot of traction over the past year and a half, but they’re still looking to expand. Next on their radar: nonprofits. Balasny thinks that a lot of people want to get involved with nonprofits, but can be deterred by the fact that they’re very scrappy and sometimes have trouble getting good resources and good help. That’s where the Botkeeper model can really make an impact.
Balasny is sure that with Botkeeper’s scaling abilities, they could easily become a billion dollar company. “That sounds crazy,” he says, but the number of small businesses and startups out there will make it possible. He would really like to create a company that is equivalent to ADP, but for small business accounting.
For Botkeeper, it’s not about outperforming Quickbooks, Xero, or any of the the other accounting platforms out there; in fact, Botkeeper works with the software you already have. However, someone needs to manage those systems, and many times, business owners don’t have the time to manage the books themselves, or the funds to hire someone to do it for them.
Using a bot as a means of financial management is why Botkeeper is able to keep the prices down and deliver fast, accurate, around the clock service. But besides the blend of efficient robotic concierges and software integrations, Botkeeper has actual human accountants on hand. No matter what industry you belong to, there will always be nuances, one-off situations, or even just circumstances that are unique to the company that cannot be automated. Bots, diligent as they are, are simply not creative enough to handle some of the higher level tasks.
Megabot, the Chief Bot
“Finances are something that people consider a taboo topic, so to make the decision to hire an accountant or assign someone to do the bookkeeping is typically relationship driven,” says Balasny. “The blend of automation and humans helps create that relationship because some of it just still needs that human touch.”
One of Botkeeper’s primary goals is making sure that customers don’t run into hiccups in the software or any other issues that would trip them up. They are very focused on making sure that when a user logs on, they see what they need, when they need it. They want to make sure that users aren’t interrupted, and that Botkeeper is taking all the work off their plate, not making more for them.
So who is Balasny’s favorite bot? “Rosie Bot. She was our first bot and it’s funny to see some of the companies we work with that don’t pick up on the Jetsons reference. There are some similarities but a few people don’t get the show and then I feel old.”
Well, old or not, Balasny and the Botkeeper crew are finding ways to keep it fresh (do kids these days still say that?) and bring one of the most thankless but important jobs into the future. Good luck, bots. Or, as they might say, beep boop beep.