How Visual Effects are Simplifying Financial Modeling | Podcast | Episode 006

How Visual Effects are Simplifying Financial Modeling | Podcast | Episode 006


In this episode, we chat with Jon Cowley who is the Founder of Whatifi.


Jon started his career in Visual effects before forming Whatifi, an intelligent forecasing tool that helps business leaders model and present strategic scenarios in a low-code easy to use environment.



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Contents


Please find the show notes below:


How did you get into Finance Tech following a Career In Visual Effects?

  • Jon: Short question, long answer.
  • So here we go.
  • I have twin boys that are eight.
  • So when they were born, my wife and I started asking a bunch of advice so you can appreciate us.
  • What if my wife goes back to work?
  • She doesn't wait a year or two or three, but the kids in day care, nanny, all of that sort of stuff there.
  • And thankfully, even though I'm in the visual effects and film industry, it is still a business.
  • So I am, while I'm not a 11 level 11 Excel guru, I'm like a seven or eight in there.
  • And what I'm capable of doing based on the complexity of what we're doing in the film industry.
  • So I built the model.
  • I think I ran into all sorts of challenges because I had so many different variables to run into, including what I thought was the biggest variable there, which was time being able to figure out the timing of these events.
  • So I built the monster, monster, Monster monster spreadsheet.
  • I wasn't sure it was correct because there were so many variables.
  • And then I put it in front of my wife and there was just that blank stare of nothingness, because that just wasn't the way that she thinks or visualizes things.
  • So I was kind of at that inflection point where it's like, Well, this isn't working for me.
  • So the personal finance solution and then my aha moment was kind of going back to the way that we work in the movie industry, right?
  • So the movie industry, whether we're talking about editing, right?
  • So anyone who's edited the video, including yourself, putting these videos together, you know that time is that underlying factor.
  • Time comes first.
  • Whereas the challenge I ran into with Excel is the calculation came first and then I was trying to figure out how to apply that to time.
  • The second aha moment was some of the software we use in visual effects, and I probably do a bit of a screenshot track, something down for that for you there.
  • And my aha moment was, well, why can't I build my financial model that way?
  • Why can't I build it visually with a house event and a mortgage event and a job event and these sort of things that are to why can't I put this in front of my wife?
  • Why can't it actually calculate?
  • So not just a visualization, but actually run calculations through those series of events?
  • And then the joy to what we do in the film industry is we expect change.
  • So while most folks, when they're trying to build a model and I'm going to say this from the from the position that I'm not an FPA expert.
  • So when I say most folks, people can disagree and maybe put in your comments down below, whatever it is, but most people start bottoms up where you're trying to get all these assumptions that are together.
  • They're the joy of the way that we work in entertainment.
  • There is we expect change.
  • So the workflows are designed knowing that this is going to change and this is going to change and this is going to change there.
  • So it's very robust and adaptable as opposed to the hard core model that someone has built over weeks and weeks and weeks.
  • And then if someone decides to make some [00:05:00] unexpected sort of change is a bit of a house of cards that's in there.
  • So that again, long answer, I promise you on that one long answer is the family issue.
  • Trying to figure out our path inspired a ha moment where why don't I bring that technology in?
  • We started personal finance, but a couple of years ago we sort of shifted more over to business where things seemed more opportunity for success.
  • And a better return on our investment.


You probably went through a lot of iterations right?

  • And so the typical and I know for your group, I'm not sure whether they're finance first and tech second or a combination, too, but we followed a lot of the traditional tech startup sort of things.
  • We built mockups, we built MVP's, if things minimal about products, did a lot of sort of design work there to try and figure out what this looks like, the user experience.
  • And we still have work to do, but the user experience is just as important, if not more important, than making sure that one plus one equals two.
  • And that going back to that time element, there is a it is I wouldn't say a completely fresh way of looking at things, but it is definitely.
  • And I totally understand because my probably seen the background with the guitars and the drums.
  • My background is in music production and sound recording, and it's the same when you're mixing a music track, You know, the sound comes first, tied together, you know.
  • So it was always in flux until the end of the track.
  • More traditional, I say traditional because financial modelling and that that predictive side of things is kind of more modern than what you do in a spreadsheet, right?
  • When you look at some of these more basic modeling tools, you can do scenario planning, but it's quite static.
  • So So you can you can set up a scenario to say, Look, here are my figures and then what's the event?
  • So how does this scenario change if this metric went up a percentage?
  • But what you are losing there is you're losing that concept of time because it will then apply that this is the percentage uplift according to an entire time frame over a year or two or whatever.
  • And again, you know, more more than me on that.
  • But that's where I see a bit of a differentiator between what I class as more of a standard modeling tool that plugs into Excel, for example, and something that, as you say, you can chunk it up and say, you know, we're predicting this amount of growth based on this year.
  • This is when we plan to employ more people, you know, and that's a variable that we need to add in at this stage.


Bringing people into the story

  • And so the the parent company is called what web, the software itself is called, if and that's very much about that.
  • And the reality is, again, can you do some of these things in Excel?
  • Absolutely.
  • Are they easy to do as a matter of opinion?
  • But what about the end customer?
  • The person that's at the end of the stack.
  • And I think what happens in some of this right now is you have the uber professional domain knowledge that builds this.
  • They just need to know what their three options are.
  • But for a good chunk of people that are sitting at the end of that stack, whether it's the CEO or the CEO or a founder or something like this, they need to understand the levers more and they need to be able to, on the fly, do a bunch of these sort of what if things and what if we raise money in January?
  • What if it's 700 K So the ability to see all those and dynamically do that on the fly.
  • One of the things I like to sort of value prop, the problem that I'm solving is not the ability for a finance person to do their job, although I think I can support that one.
  • I'm trying to also solve the ability for them to put the results into a framework and tell a story that their end clients can solve.
  • And I think some of the understandably, some of the resistance that we're seeing to some of these newer tools and I'm running to those as well, is if you come through the stack of the finance person that's [00:10:00] been using these current tools for so long, sometimes the end user gets forgotten about in that exercise there.
  • You're in a board meeting and the CEO says, Well, what if we do this?
  • And I think that's where it's broken and I think that's where there's opportunity to refine.
  • You're bring people into the story.
  • And this this is kind of a hot topic at the moment.
  • And and I don't know whether you listened to my interview with with Christian Frantz Hansen.
  • I check it out because that might inform some of the way you think about the way that you build moving onward.
  • So his company is the Business Partner Institute, and a lot of what they do is around finance, business, partnering and then creating impact, which often involves a lot of storytelling.
  • And if you speak to Christian, what he'll say is he's an introvert by nature.
  • But there comes a time where you've got no option but to present your findings, as it were.
  • And in a world where there's more and more automation, there's more bots, people need to be focusing on those skills to differentiate and tell those stories, to get buy in from the wider business as opposed to separating themselves.
  • Any tool that makes it easier to tell that story to non finance professionals is going to give you an advantage because presenting a spreadsheet with rows and columns with what a finance team that spends their life in spreadsheets is going to present, it's going to be drastically different to even somebody like me.
  • I have understanding of finance, but I don't have an intricate knowledge of modelling and I don't have that experience.
  • So if you were to present me with a spreadsheet with some scenarios on it, I'd probably come away.
  • A bit more lost than when I started, Right.
  • So to be able to come back and say, Right, well, actually, instead of let me go away and spend another couple of days building that scenario into this Excel model, it might not be an Excel model.
  • It could be another, as I say, more traditional forecasting tool to be able to say, Right, well, let's let's get it up on screen now, you know, and we're then going past the level.
  • So if we thought of it in terms of levels, you're most basic level would be presenting a spreadsheet, which doesn't tell much of a story.

The power of visualisation

  • Then when you do start getting into the business, partnering and the storytelling is right, well, how do we visualize that?
  • So are we creating a pivot table or are we creating a PowerPoint presentation with more imagery to make it more easy to digest?
  • But what you're suggesting there, and correct me if I'm wrong, is we're then going a step further.
  • And saying this isn't a tool that we need to to hold hold on to in a team and nobody else ever see what we're doing.
  • This is a tool where in real time we can build these scenarios and actually have people tweak it on the fly and come back to your point.
  • It's a great tagline, isn't it?
  • What if I? Why don't we try it?
  • Why don't we do it now?
  • I think that's in my customer discovery.
  • What's interesting and I know one of the questions you had in your sort of leading questions there for me is how I learned, How have I talked to what I did?
  • More so is I started from the end customer end user experience more.
  • I'm a start up myself running my own numbers, talking to other sort of companies.
  • I've worked my way back up into sort of the fractional CFOs and consultants there, and then I worked my way up the stack now into talking to more to traditional professionals on that one.
  • So coming at it from the end experience as opposed to from the blank Excel spreadsheet thing has given me a very different insight, I think, into how to do some of that.
  • It's also one of my challenges because I'm talking in a language that this group doesn't see, because I think this group doesn't necessarily see the problem because they're not the end receiver.
  • And I'm talking in absolutes here, and I know that's dangerous, but I think that's one of the challenges that's there.
  • I've also talked to folks that are in a consultancy sort of space where they've spent the time building the model.
  • They put it in front of their clients and the clients still don't do what they know they should be doing.
  • And one of my thesis is there is that it's not a fault in the model, it's a fault in the storytelling and the almost like the evidence based version of that one.
  • I think the buy in piece, getting that in consumer to buy into the plan is a big, big part of that one.
  • And if you can put this into a visual format and again, I would argue that 80% of the population is visual first and zeros and ones and numbers second there.
  • It needs to be in a language that they can buy into, that they can follow the journey, they can follow the logic and mentally poke holes in it, and then also say, no, that checks out, that checks that checks out.
  • And if you also give them a little bit of play so you make them feel like some of the decision making is their decision so they can go in and change your term churn from 10% to 11%, or they can go and say, no, I think my cost per click could be this or this.
  • As opposed to waiting for to go back to the cycle.
  • And I think the the cycle is also potentially one of the dangerous things in there.
  • I have the benefit and again, I'm fantastic at it that easy questions and long answers.
  • I have the benefit in this model too, where the my visual effects background, it is a multinational private equity backed company.
  • Points there, but just I think we are so used to a way of doing things.
  • And I'm not saying it's wrong, but I think there's some blinders on that there could be other ways of doing it.


Putting the story in the hands of your audience

  • Adam: And to come back to your point there about almost putting some of it in your audiences hands.
  • You've seen the film Inception, right?
  • But obviously, the entire premise of that film is that they are they're planting the seed of an idea in somebody's head for somebody to come to the realization by themselves.
  • So when we when we start talking about influence arguments.
  • Sometimes hold more weight.
  • If they come from the other side.
  • Do you see what I mean?
  • Because sometimes you spend forever and a day banging your head against a brick wall, trying to convince somebody that this is the right thing to do.
  • Actually planting a seed and allowing them to come to their own conclusions is often a less painful way of doing them.
  • Now there is a risk that you give people a bit of play in that they, in your mind, come to the wrong conclusions.
  • That is the risk.
  • But again, coming back to the business partnering piece.
  • Anything that you can equip yourself with that helps support the outcomes that are best for the business is is something that you need to invest time in, right?Jon: I can only kind of lean into sort of specifics.
  • So I'm working with a health care startup here in Vancouver.
  • The CEO is the numbers guy.
  • The CEO is the emergency room doctor, the brilliant visionary who wants to build software for the emergency room experience there based on all of his stuff.
  • And the CEO is banging his head against the wall, trying to get the CEO to look at the numbers and understand the business model.
  • He shared his spreadsheet with me, and it's this beautiful, monstrous sort of thing with everything in there.
  • And I can fully appreciate while the why the creative, brilliant visionary isn't looking at the numbers because of the language with which the story is being told right there.
  • So I'm working with him to try and put all this into a visual flow instead, with the hopes that that that collaboration is happening there and people are not talking in language that everyone can get


Who in the team are you seeing using these tools?

  • So when we look at the makeup of a of a finance team, right.
  • How do we move from operational finance into and into strategic leadership?
  • So I know you mentioned fractional CFOs.
  • There's a lot of talk about CFOs in general, but actually a lot of the power now is and I'm reluctant to say junior, but in in the team that form the background analysis, right?
  • Are you seeing a lot of sort of the back office team that aren't the CFO is using these tools to build, or are you finding that it's equally people that are starting selling, that's telling the stories that are sort of more senior and in those CFO positions that are getting more value from from this?Jon: I've had my success to date more from maybe there's another way of looking at it.
  • In software, there's a concept called category creation.
  • Like you're asking somebody to fundamentally change the way they work there.
  • So that category creation, when you're doing something so different and I think that I'm in that space where my approach is very, very different, there's going to be a very natural and understandable barrier to entry for people that are seasoned with their particular way of working for years and years and years.
  • So again, that's a long winded way of saying the CFOs, I think like, Well, I can do this, you know what I mean?
  • It's working.
  • It's part of my journey, working my way up the stack.
  • What I'm finding is I'm having my success right now with folks there that have some knowledge, but they're not the guru.
  • I'm not asking them to cut off the right hand and attach this new thing to it.
  • It's like, no, you people that are in the bottoms up piece there, whether it is the CEO, I keep kind of going back to startups because that's sort of my go to market.
  • Jon: I'm having some success when it's kind of coming from.
  • They're expecting someone to come in to a large organization and immediately switch to my tool to replace their current tools.
  • Not a chance, right, to complement their tools.
  • That's what we're building for.
  • So we are building Excel integrations, we're building other sort of things so people can still keep their current toolkit and add some stuff on.
  • So maybe it goes back to the, I can't remember what the quote is, But no one ever got fired for buying IBM, right?
  • It's there's that sort of piece that's safe there.
  • I'm not sure I answer your question there, Adam, or not, but it is I'm finding it's more people under the scenes there, people that are finding ways in startup tech, business, tech in general.
  • You need to find your early adopters.
  • And quite often that could be someone who's trying to work their way up the stack.
  • I think that's where we're going to have success working with people that aren't fully.
  • Integrity is the right word here, but let's just say engage to say it is fully engaged in the current methodologies and are willing to try something new.
  • Adam: And we're finding as well and spoke about it briefly with with Paul on the last point podcast is this concept of Centers of excellence versus hybrid roles.
  • And I think you touched on it there with your start ups being a good use case for the solution.
  • In a startup, you've not got a ton of staff, you know, so people wear more than one hat, so it's going to be really useful for them if they've got a quick and easy tool to do that scenario planning without having to having yet having had years and years of financial expertise.
  • Yeah, but likewise the Center of Excellence approach where you've got a business unit devoted to that, there's no reason to say that these tools won't be equally as useful right now.
  • I think what you're saying there is that it's just a little bit more difficult for organizations that are a bit more embedded with the way that they've always done things which, which which I totally understand.
  • And the answer is getting I know that probably scares the crap out of some folks, but the idea of actually scenario modeling that on the fly in the room there, that's my dream moment where you're in a Fortune 500 company and someone is indeed tweaking things and playing things on the fly.


How is the startup scene different to more established companies?

  • To come back to your your work with startups then.
  • So startups obviously work at an incredibly fast pace compared to well, there are some larger organizations that are still growing quickly, right.
  • But there's a lot more quick decisions that need to be made in a startup compared to a larger organization.
  • So based on your work.
  • How would a start up business?
  • Use a planning tool differently to a more embedded businesses.
  • You're finding that it's similar just on a different scale.
  • Can you talk a bit more about that?Jon: If I'm understanding the question how they're using it right now.
  • So this kind of gets back into my thesis on how models should be could be built.
  • Be careful about that one, how models could be built.
  • And my thesis right now is that most models, especially when you get into the into larger organizations, it's very much a bottoms up approach where you're trying to think of all the levers, all the pieces, all the stuff in your aggregate aggregate aggregate and your work your way up to this, to this, the final Valhalla golden model there.
  • And if depending on how well the model has been built, someone comes in with a what if or a question or something there.
  • A It trickles beautifully through that.
  • Or B, it's a bit of a house of cards and you've got to go and rebuild a whole piece.
  • Case in point, one of my neighbors works for a fuel hydrogen fuel cell company here.
  • This is this is this is a large company.
  • This is not a startup.
  • But in that model there, I use the analogy of a Chinese initiative.
  • And they tried to update the model on the fly there?
  • And then the analysts spent all weekend rebuilding the model because that was a piece we hadn't thought of because of that sort of bottoms up approach there in that time kind of component.
  • So coming back to your question and the answer here, I think there's a world where you can start top down.
  • You can start with very basic assumptions there.
  • Remember my my analogy about how software is designed for change in the visual effects industry.
  • So build a very basic model there and then you can drill down and add flavor and color to some of these things as you need to.
  • So what's our revenue going to be?
  • It's going to be 5000 bucks a month.
  • I just made it up.
  • For a startup or a company in that very first pass there.
  • But that's probably like sacrilegious to anyone who's actually trying to funnel a large organization through that bottoms up approach.
  • But my thesis is you can put these placeholders in, but then you can refine and you can build it up so you can replace that part of the model on the fly very, very easily with some of those assumptions on round two or round three or even do that dynamically on the fly.
  • So what we're finding is the intimidation of the big model for companies that don't have a lot of domain expertise.
  • This is a very scary thing.
  • If you can give them something perceptually simpler to start with there and then add in complexity as you go and very quickly a complexity as you go.
  • You can round up the model and you can also make them part of that journey as well, like they're understanding the levers, right?
  • So when they have that 5000, but then they break it into a website, visitors to trial to pay to pro and different conversion rates and all this.
  • They can see how that 5000 is made.
  • But the curves.
  • And again, I'm paraphrasing here, but what we're saying is obviously an established organization is likely to [00:30:00] have more complexity.
  • And with a traditional approach, it's likely to take longer to build models because there's more variables.
  • If you're starting at the bottom and trying to work up to an end result.
  • Whereas in startup territory, there's potentially less variables that just happens faster.
  • So it's easier to start at the top and say this is the end goal.
  • Jon: But I'd also argue you need to think of like a decision tree to write in a traditional larger organization.
  • There's a lot of feeder information that works its way up and up and up and up to get there.
  • So I talk about a bottoms up sort of model.
  • You also have the marketing department putting their panel together and you've got the IT department putting their piece together, and all of these things are taking their weeks and weeks to kind of come together as well.
  • I think that can also be built more.
  • Morally and more quickly with the same sort of thought process that information funnels in and then calculations sort of funnel out.
  • And if you can automate that flow, if you can remove the barriers and I think if you can remove the need for absolutes in a model and instead support the ability for the marketing department to have six or seven variables in their assumptions there.
  • So instead of the marketing department giving you one singular budget and I know this sounds crazy, but they're giving you six, right?
  • And all six are coming along because they're having a few different assumptions in there.
  • There's your six there.
  • Our technology supports multiple, multiple, multiple, what ifs running there.
  • And then in your your big meeting there in the boardroom, you're looking at 82 different potential outcomes for the company.
  • But now you can kind of go in and say, all right, from the marketing stuff, thanks for our best case, worst case here.
  • We're going to lock in this particular piece here.
  • So if we lock in this decision or option here, that trickles through in those 82 scenarios now become 41 and you start to decision and work your way down the stack to some of your answers.
  • Again, very different way of thinking.


A new way of budgeting

  • And to anybody who's used to more traditional forms of budgeting, they they start panicking.
  • Sometimes when we have conversations like this because budgets are so painful.
  • So in a lot of instances, to get to one budget can take.
  • Months and.
  • You might still be working on the budget well into the start of your next financial year.
  • And again touched on this was Paul in the previous podcast with his interviews.
  • There has been discussions around the concept of how do we move beyond budgeting, which is kind of similar, similar to what you're saying there.
  • Obviously you're mentioning multiple budgets according to whatever scenario you find yourself in.
  • But it's not too much of a stretch to say, right.
  • Well, if we can build this information quickly, why can't we quickly move to this scenario?
  • Once, once we're there, we've already planned for it.
  • It just more closely aligns to this budget with these expectations than this budget and these expectations.
  • So it's a refreshing way to look at things.
  • But again, coming back to a time there.
  • An organization has got to be prepared to move at that speed.
  • Do you see what I mean?
  • So again, coming back to startup territory, it might be a bit easier if you were a leaner team, right?
  • But but larger organizations might be a bit.
  • Jon: Of a I would it's going to require a certain level of visionary and I'm going to have to be able to prove a certain level of use cases there.
  • But then I go back again to my experience in the film industry.
  • So the company that I'm working for doing visual effects, we are the largest provider of visual effects in North America for television, episodic, working and all this sort of piece.
  • They're massive company, 14 different offices.
  • And at any kind of given moment, we may have 40 different projects all running through this infrastructure.
  • And if you are only doing your audits, for lack of a better term, every month or every quarter, I consider those to be a post-mortem.
  • You mean you're looking at did you survive or not?
  • And what did you do right and what did you do wrong?
  • But given the sheer volume of stuff that's kind of going through an organization like that, we have systems there that are by the day.
  • We know how many people if a project awards tomorrow and they're going to give us footage on Tuesday, how many artists are we going to need to do the work?
  • What's the time frame?
  • All of this we built in real time flows there that give us sort of staffing and financial projections by the day.
  • So I know it can [00:35:00] be done.
  • It's just a way of sort of thinking about it and organizing the stuff that you're getting real time analytics into it.
  • So again, spreadsheets, I know there's some work being done on trying to get integrations into these and some of these other sort of tools, but you should be able to pull in real time data every single day and know every single day in this sort of simulation environment what's changed, Right?
  • So if your biggest client has disappeared on you on a Tuesday, you need to know the ramification Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
  • You actually need a notification that pops up in your CFO or CEO's inbox that says, hey, you know, we now are falling below this particular threshold.
  • Jon: I think the challenge is the complexity of these systems there and the need to hone in on these very specific numbers begets a long cycle, and it's in the long cycle that I think companies get themselves in trouble.
  • If I known then what I knew now, I would have done something different.
  • Let's make that answer now.
  • Give you the information to make that better answer now.
  • A bit of a rant there, but I know this is the benefit of of of not being a domain expert here in FPA, but seeing other models and then questioning that founders.
  • There's a beautiful book.
  • I'm trying to find the name of it here for everyone's interested.
  • It's called Super Founders What Data Reveals about billion Dollar Startups.
  • And the author is Ali Tam, and he's gone through and looked at all of these successful companies there and really analyze the properties of their founders that are there.
  • And there's a lot of narrative out there about what a successful founder is, and we all think it is this domain domain expert who's had 25 years experience in a given sort of vertical there.
  • They're this, this and this.
  • And the reality is a good chunk, if not 50%, are successful.
  • When someone with an entirely different line of thinking gets involved in another sort of space and starts asking some of those questions there, and why is this and why is this?
  • And I'm not saying I'm going to be 100% right, but I'm asking the questions.


What are some lesser known events that people might want to build into their scenarios?

  • But but because I've been I've been having a bit of a nosey because I've been nerding out a little bit with with this.
  • So some of the examples and if you go to the website, what if I do, I know you'll see this straightaway, but of course you've got these visual workflow flows and you've got some milestones on your timeline that says what happens if there's a price increase here?
  • What happens to Product A and B, if we were to do this, how does it affect our target margin and so on and so forth.
  • Some of the other visuals you've got, you know what, if we add a new member of staff here and that sort of thing.
  • What are some of the lesser Known Triggers?
  • And again, there might not be any it might all just be standard stuff.
  • But, you know, new staff members, new product launches, entering new territories, that's pretty standard stuff, right?
  • But from your work, are there any more sort of neat?
  • I'm just interested to hear, are there any sort of more niche trigger points that people might think about building into that scenario that might not be instantly old price increase or price decrease?
  • Yeah, the one we're getting into a lot more is capacity.
  • So it's it's one thing to say, great, we're going to make $1,000,000.
  • But the question is how?
  • So one of the examples that we're building for right now is a use example, like a candle making company, right?
  • So they have their seasonality and their seasonal demand.
  • And again, can you do this in Excel?
  • Of course you can.
  • But is it kind of tied in with everything else there?
  • And part of the flow, it's not normally.
  • So you've got this this candle making company, we've got the seasonality and we know that Christmas is going to roll around [00:40:00] and the holidays and there's going to be a big run on candles.
  • So when does that whole phase kind of go?
  • But then also understanding the person that you have packing the boxes, how many boxes can they pack per day there?
  • And are you going to have a bottleneck in your flow at a particular stage because you haven't got enough people there hired?
  • And when you need to hire those people to monitor that piece?
  • And maybe the the secret here is even though I have a visual effects background, a little bit of a spoiler alert, I also have an engineering background.
  • So I did industrial engineering, which is really about systems and capacity and where do you put the slag heap and how many trips does the dump truck make?
  • I mean, and how do you minimize these 1%, 2% costs there for operational efficiency?
  • So some of this kind of falls into this kind of critical path piece there, but how do you model that out?
  • So imagine if you can have a model that has not only who do you need to hire and have you have enough sort of staff there, but it's tied into all those other assumptions that you're doing there as well.
  • And what if we launch a new product?
  • And the reason I ask the question is.
  • There are some systems and sometimes we have to bear in mind that not every business has got $1,000,000 to spend on software and that sort of stuff.
  • Of course, we're getting to the point now with AI and emerging technologies and that sort of stuff that you can build in external events.
  • So whether it be weather or something like that, that was the reason for the question is I'm always keen to understand are there things that we don't know about that we need to be bringing into our forecast?
  • I have a vision and this one is a little or how things could kind of work on things there too.
  • As I'm looking at some of my pricing models in the way that I'm bringing the software out.
  • There's one version of this where the software is more or less free for a lot of companies to kind of use there.
  • But the trade off in that piece is those companies are also offering up the anonymized data there to us.
  • So obviously there's lots of grey areas there about security and what's in there.
  • So so imagine a system where your information feeds this larger piece of information there, too.
  • So in a weird sort of way, I know every company just wants to protect their piece, but what if you could garner information from other similar types of cohorts of companies?
  • So why right now does a company have to go out?
  • Obviously, they have a track record, but maybe they're going in a new market and they're trying to figure out what the customer acquisition cost for X is currently, how to kind of go out and try and distill what that is.
  • Why can't you have an artificial intelligence type of approach here where based on large cohorts of information, some of the blanks are getting filled out for you or they're kind of put in in some of these tolerances there as a result there so that you have access to that.
  • Like we all go out to a website right now and you're trying to figure out what's the customer acquisition cost for health care, what's the customer acquisition cost for B to B?
  • And there's all these websites that have this.
  • But imagine that information was actually distilled in real time and available to you.
  • So it's a it's a different way of thinking.
  • It's an end game kind of concept there, but more of a. Cloud based collaborative system there where real time information funnels into these models as opposed to going out, researching something, clipping a number and placing in your model, let's funnel information into it.
  • I've got a dream.


What does the future look like in this space?

  • Adam: Absolutely.
  • And it's the right dream because we are already seeing, not in your space, but different software vendors move into this territory.
  • So SaaS is nothing new, right?
  • Multi tenant infrastructure.
  • Url login.
  • You've got a piece of that that server where your software its, right.
  • But now we're getting to the point with security and advancements in blockchain and all of those sorts of things whereby you can access data completely anonymized, but it could still be useful.
  • And one of the terms that I've heard recently is the concept of an intelligent GL in inverted commas, so an account structure.
  • So it's similar to what you're saying there.
  • Can we jack into an environment where a lot of the information is already available based on data that already exists?
  • In an intelligent GL, it is using AI and scraping data to present the best set up of, say, a back in finance system based on what works in a in a similar industry.
  • So it's not a million miles [00:45:00] away.
  • Still a little bit of a way off for it to be accurate and for it to be accessible to people.
  • But we're getting there, you know, and it's exciting to see what's what's going to happen.
  • And yeah, is a little bit scary at the same time that technology can do so much.
  • You know, I think it gets into and this is the shift that has to happen a little bit.
  • There is I use the term metadata or context.
  • We have to get to a place that when we see the number 500 somewhere, there's more information about that than just 500.
  • Now, is that 500 days?
  • Is it $500?
  • Is it 500 cats, 500 customers?
  • So really starting to create richer data around the numbers as opposed to and I know I'm going after Excel here and it's probably one of the most dangerous things to do.
  • But right now those are cell in a spreadsheet that says 500.
  • And next to that is a label that says cats, right?
  • But if that's mislabeled, that was actually meant to be dogs, right?
  • Like the whole system sort of falls apart there.
  • The fact of that sort of storytelling piece.
  • But if there was information embedded into that 500 that you had all the information about what that 500 is, then you open up a world of possibilities and what you can do with that, knowing what that 500 actually is and taking that a step further and back to the sort of node based decision tree type software we're building, if you could also keep track of how that 500 was created.
  • You know, our founder will send me a spreadsheet there and I'll click through all their formulas.
  • And it's a beautiful I follow this, follow this, and then suddenly there's a cell that's just like copied and pasted a number in there and everything breaks down because I don't know how that number was generated, but if you had the metadata associated with it and how that number is generated, use in PowerPoints.
  • We're talking about completely integrated data know, and I'd agree.
  • Is there anything else that you think's on the horizon?Jon: I think I'm hitting on all the topics I think it's about.
  • Simplifying things.
  • So it's it's about building complexity in the systems and then trying to simplify access to it.
  • I anyone who uses Canva right, to do any of their sort of graphic design work, I love to use that as an analogy where I think tech needs to go.
  • Anyone can drop into Canada and anyone can build a brochure or this or that without having to read the manual or to do anything.
  • But there are some limits you can only get so far with that one.
  • If you want to do something highly customized, you can't.
  • Or you can drop into Photoshop and you can try to figure out how to use Photoshop there, and in Photoshop you can do anything.
  • I think there is a world of opportunity to create the canva of financial modeling and projections and all of this.
  • They're horseshoes and hand grenades.
  • Will it be close enough?
  • Is the number going to be perfect?
  • I mean, are we going to be off by a percentage or two?
  • In some cases?
  • That's a really, really big deal.
  • The numbers need to be perfect, but I think there's a world where we can start thinking of this more as the canva of financial model and getting people to answers more quickly there.
  • So I'm not sure that's necessary.
  • Question Adam, But that's the piece that I see is is the approach more than we all know, that one plus one equals two.
  • That's that's not the problem here.


What app or software could you not live without?

  • Jon: This might seem a little bit weird, but it's actually notion.sa
  • So notion is a I don't want to say it's a notes collection.
  • It's really a whole ecosystem for documentation and tracking things.
  • There it is cloud based.
  • It's a it's a unicorn company right now.
  • You can create pages, templates.
  • I have all of my developers and all of their scheduling in there.
  • Any thought idea I have, I put it in there [00:50:00] and it's part of this ecosystem of documentation there.
  • People can come in and edit on it.
  • It's basically to my menus passing the whole Microsoft system there for real time collaboration and keeping track of things.
  • Maybe the second one I put in there really quickly would be Loom, from there and the ability to very quickly do a video of anything, whether I'm talking to my developers, any time I build a model, I'll do a Zoom video afterwards where I'm recording the screen and that I'm posting that up there for people to watch the video before they get to get into the model.
  • I use Loom.
  • I'm using it right now.
  • It's not perfect But the thing I like about it going on a bit of a tangent here is it's got a filter.
  • So me, I'm terrible.I add in lots of errors and ums and all of that sort of stuff is it will take out the filler words.
  • It doesn't help for the repeats, but the ums and the ahs.
  • It does a good job of getting out.
  • So yeah, I love Loom and the automatic gif images and the share links and it's yeah, we're good.
  • And it comes back to your point about simplicity, right?
  • You know, anybody can sign up with Loom, you know, and immediately record a video and share it within the space of 2 minutes.

For the full software demonstration, make sure to find the video on YouTube here.


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©2022 by Adam Shilton. Privacy Policy - Terms of Use

©2022 by Adam Shilton. Privacy Policy - Terms of Use