Episode 024: In this engaging conversation, we speak with Wouter Bourn, a thought leader in the finance transformation software industry. We discussed a range of topics related to CFO tech, CFO empowerment through technology, and the emergence of AI technology. Wouter shared his insights on the automation and workflow capabilities of technology, the increase in data volumes, and how AI can be applied to create meaningful insights. He also talked about the use of AI for prediction and forecast and for human-style communication.
Listen in as we explore how AI and automation are changing the way businesses approach financial operations, and how adopting tools like Glean AI can help businesses save money on their vendor payments. We also discuss the criteria for investing in data-driven tools, operational solutions, and FP&A solutions, as well as the importance of quick time-to-value and the need for strategic value. Bourne explains the potential of AI and automation in financial operations, touching on the concept of FP&A systems and how they can provide a forward-looking view of an organization.
We also delve into the human side of financial operations, discussing the potential of scenario modeling with data and how a CFO tech tool can go beyond the office of the CFO. We examine the challenges of benchmarking due to different businesses and accounting roles, and how the market is maturing to provide more transparency and optimization. Finally, we touch on the importance of tech tools for parents, such as Google Time and Google Family Link, and how they can help regulate children's use of technology. Don't miss this fascinating conversation with Wouter Born!
Audio Podcast Links
Where to find Wouter:
1. Glean AI - A finance software that offers invoice recognition and cost-saving recommendations. (URL: https://www.glean.ai/ )
2. Google Family Link - A parental control app that helps parents manage their child's device usage. (URL: https://families.google.com/familylink/ )
3. ChatGPT - Generative AI technology that helps with tasks such as language processing, communication, and predictions. (URL: https://openai.com/chatgpt )
4. Zapier - A tool that connects and automates tasks between different apps. (URL: https://zapier.com/ )
5. Microsoft Dynamics - A line of business management solutions including CRM and ERP software. (URL: https://dynamics.microsoft.com/ )
6. Notion - An all-in-one workspace for notes, tasks, wikis, and databases. (URL: https://www.notion.so/ )
7. Onplan - An FP&A solution that allows modeling within Google Sheets. (URL: https://onplan.co/ )
8. Bedrock AI - A company that uses large language models to scan financial filings and identify red flags. (URL: https://www.bedrock-ai.com/ )
9. 9. Noteable - A data visualisation and statistical analsysis tool that can be integrated with ChatGPT. (URL: https://noteable.io/ )
(0:00:00) - AI in Finance Transformation
(0:09:34) - Adopting AI Tools in Business
(0:20:06) - Strategic Investing in Impactful Solutions
(0:34:33) - Future Financial Reporting and FNA Systems
(0:40:42) - Human Skills in Decision Making
(0:55:16) - Google Family Link and Android Time
(0:00:00) - AI in Finance Transformation (10 Minutes)
We have an in-depth conversation with founder Bourne, a thought leader in the finance transformation software industry. We discuss topics related to CFO tech products, CFO empowerment through technology, and the emergence of AI technology. Bourne shares his perspective on the automation and workflow capabilities of technology, how data volumes have increased and the ways AI can be applied to create meaningful insights. He also talks about the use of AI for prediction and forecast, and for human-style communication. We explore how AI is being used in different areas of finance and how it can be used to go beyond what manual tasks can do.
(0:09:34) - Adopting AI Tools in Business (11 Minutes)
We explore how AI and automation are changing the way businesses approach financial operations. We discuss how point solutions such as Glean AI can help businesses save money on their vendor payments and how small investments in innovative tools can help achieve a vision. We also consider the risks associated with relying on AI technology for tasks that are traditionally handled by humans.
(0:20:06) - Strategic Investing in Impactful Solutions (14 Minutes)
We examine the criteria for investing in data-driven tools, operational solutions and FKNA solutions. We also discuss the importance of quick time-to-value and the need for strategic value. Finally, we consider the market opportunity and the importance of communicating value to the customer.
(0:34:33) - Future Financial Reporting and FNA Systems (6 Minutes)
We explore the potential of AI and automation in financial operations. We discuss the concept of FNA systems and how they can provide a forward-looking view of an organization. We also examine the possibilities of transforming traditional reporting methods into personalized, AI-driven dashboards and narratives. Finally, we consider the idea of using GPT to aid in decision-making.
(0:40:42) - Human Skills in Decision Making (15 Minutes)
We explore the human side of financial operations and discuss the potential of scenario modeling with data. We examine how a CFO tech tool can go beyond the office of the CFO and look at the consequences of certain decisions in real time. We examine the challenge of benchmarking due to different businesses and accounting roles, and how the market is maturing to provide more transparency and optimization. Finally, we look at the potential of niche products and how they can compete against bigger players.
(0:55:16) - Google Family Link and Android Time (1 Minutes)
We discuss the importance of tech tools for parents, such as Google Time and Google Family Link. We explore how these tools can help parents regulate their children's use of technology, and the potential benefits of using these tools. We also look at how these tools can help to ensure that children are using their devices safely and responsibly.
Transcript generated by Podium.page
0:00:00 - Wouter
What I mean with that is the pure automation jobs. You have three accountants and after the solution you can do with two. That's great, but there's a lot of technology already out there that's kind of doing that. I think the latest generation of innovation is adding some level of strategic value. I think if we look in this space, there will be very interesting applications of that kind. A few predictions I think We can work AI driven, although it's still complex. finance, you know. I think we have to be realistic as well. There is not one single algorithm that just helps your future.
0:00:38 - Adam
Hello and welcome to Tech for Finance, where we help finance professionals leverage technology to level up their lives. I'm your host, adam Shilton, and in this episode we're going to be chatting with Wouter Born. Founder and manager partner at Bourne Capital That has over two decades of experience in the finance transformation software industry and has worked with Fortune 500 clients building a detailed understanding of leading CFO tech products. Bourne is also a thought leader in this space, posting regularly about CFO empowerment, technology is a form of leverage and, more recently, the emergence of new AI technology. Bourne loves traveling around the world with his family cycling, swimming and skiing or snowboarding. And before we start today, just make sure if you like what you hear, please subscribe to Tech for Finance on your favorite podcast platform and on YouTube. But thanks for joining me today, val. It's really good to have you. I've been wanting you on for ages.
0:01:30 - Wouter
Awesome, i'm really excited to be here. Good.
0:01:35 - Adam
So we'll kick off with and we'll jumble up the questions a little bit, right, but I think I originally became aware of you through Paul Barnhurst.
I've got a call with Ernie, the Y guy tomorrow, actually, and I know he forms part of your sort of board of advisors as well, so I check in semi-frequently with them about what's going on in tech enough pay and A tech and all that sort of stuff.
But I suppose the first question, if we keep it topical, is probably a recent LinkedIn post that I saw from you And we don't have to mention the company if you don't want to mention them on the podcast but it referenced augmentation using AI. right, and I think it would be useful to get your perspective, because with the advent of chat, gpt and generative AI, people are thinking, oh my goodness, this is a skill I need to learn, i need to keep up with the times, i need to learn how to use chat, gpt and all these other platforms. But I think what some people don't realize is actually the companies that have already built software are making efforts to integrate this generative AI. So I don't know whether you can speak a little bit more about what you're sitting with, the way the companies you work with are all commencing, as opposed to creating stuff from scratch.
0:02:51 - Wouter
Sure, i think before we dive into this specific question, i think it's important to look a little back and see what does technology brought to the office of the CEO And I think AI is probably the next creation of that But compared to manual and maybe a long time ago accounting was really like on a piece of paper I think we gained a lot in automation workflow helping people to achieve certain things.
When we look back at what CFO tech brought to the accounting or, let's say, cfo office, i think first of all we look at automation. So it were repetitive manual policies that technology came in and automate. Another thing is data volumes are more than we can handle on piece of paper and today much more than we can handle in actual sheet as well. So it's a big diet recently increasingly well, and then systems are kind of silent. So another technology at science that we see a lot is in the British and more meaningful insights from it Probably lost, and that's when we're looking to the future, when we talk about prediction and forecast and those kind of things. I think when we look at the AI and I'm sure I missed something, but these are just some general categories that I think were technology kind of innovated that also to see about.
We look at AI. I think at some areas we don't even need it. I think AI today is even a little over applied and people are trying to okay AI and looking for a problem. Sometimes it doesn't have to be that intelligent, but you're doing it. It can be just rule-based or learning from a human procedure and build software that can make a certain process. So I think, first of all, i think AI has a couple of good use cases and I think especially prediction is something I can do really well. It's a big language, so someone has written something and you quickly want to do an analysis on it or take an action on it. It can do that really well. Especially the TPD is extremely strong here and very exciting to see how quick the problem goes. And then last probably, is human style communication. Ai can now talk like a human.
Even with voice APIs that can translate into a human voice, you can really actually communicate. Let the system communicate like a human without actually needing a human who do it. So I think from one side, you're looking at doing human tasks. The same You know like you can get a computer jump in there and part of their AI could be helpful. On the other side, i think as well, with AI we should be able to go beyond what even you know, and that's where we especially when you look at predictions and it's like what is the business going to do on the data that we have. So I think AI has a lot of power here.
But at the same time, when you look at the finance domain, you know financial data is very let's say, it's regulation based. It's typically quite comprehensive. You know it has sales, part of the organization, revenue and also cross sides. It can be a lot of external influencers that are external drives that are not in your database. So the question is how quickly AI will really dominate the finance function. I think when it comes to automation and those kind of things, that's probably where we'll see features like chatbots. I recently did LinkedIn post on this as well.
Like a chatbot is a very powerful example of AI, because you know they can handle questions that, things that a human, though, may be not even enough time for to answer all. And now your chatbot is patient, will answer everything that can. Another example, i think, of a good application of AI that we see today within finance is you know, we invest in one company called Glyn. They are doing a invoice recognition, basically, and with details on the invoice, they do lightening details and then recommend call sales. It's more, you know it's interpretation of complex data structure in the context, like a text file, and then capability for recommending okay, based on what other customers are paying, you could pay less for this specific vendor.
Or you know your configuration of this certain service is not optimal. You could do more research hours or instances, or you know like prebook things because basically you're usually at you. So that's. I think that's a simple, wide application already. Really, going back to your question, should we get nervous in finance function of like learning chat tpt. I think everyone should learn chat tpt because it's just a personal assistant that you can imagine. You know like setting up a recommendation letter.
Just give it the input feed of the bullet list and that's just a personal thing I recently did with your gpt, but also you know your your month-end closed memo or something you know. Feed it the data that you have let it write. We should all learn it. But I think the software will bring us AI in a very natural, gradual way, not not even in one go like all of a sudden. We see RoboSignal right now bit by bit will get more used to it.
0:08:47 - Adam
Have you got access to chat tpt plugins yet?
0:08:52 - Wouter
I'm using just Chats tpt, playing Chats tpt. So now I haven't done anything. And, of course, i'm looking and working with our portfolio companies and all applications with Chats, tpt And you know, almost every startup in the world is currently looking at it. You know, i think in the latest white combinator batch the biggest startup accelerator in the world I heard something like 70% of the companies were at least you know, inspired or using or doing some chat, tpt. So you know, i think it will be all around us really soon.
0:09:31 - Adam
Yeah, i think that's where it gets really interesting. And that comes back to your point earlier about integrations. You know we're not just looking at, you know, a single tool for a single data set anymore. You know the nature of businesses, that there's more data than ever. It might not be all in the same place, so how do we link it all up? And so I've been experimenting with plugins and it's still only in beta at the moment, so it's not properly finished, so it's still a bit buggy.
Of course you can connect Zapier and you can connect, you know, other applications so that you can do the chat thing. You know it's really useful. So you know, if you want to say chat tpt, create a new database item in my notion database, you can connect it. From a personal productivity point of view That works really well because you can connect the two.
But the one that I've been experimenting with recently it's a bit for sidetrack, but it's a database application called Notable that you can use to basically produce visualizations using Python. Essentially You can connect that to chat tpt. So in theory you could have a CSV with pretty messy data or you could connect it to a different database, whether it's SQL or whatever, and you just ask chat, tpt, take the data from here and create some visualizations and Notable, for me, you know, and that's it, and immediately you've got a really good starting point that you can then sort of polish up. But it's sped up that entire process of you know, managing the data, thinking about what visualization to do. So it doesn't, in that instance, replace the human perspective, but it gives you a much quicker baseline that you can then evolve, and I think that's I don't know whether you're seeing something similar, but for me that's the real advantage at the moment.
0:11:05 - Wouter
Yeah, and then especially, in effect, that you can then give it instructions, like if someone comes out with what you don't really like to resell and say, hey, you know like we can look at that in that way and you can make it very personalized very quickly that way, and it's almost like talking to an assistant, someone actually giving you know an assignment to a junior analyst and say, hey, i'd like to please do it a little different and include that in that, and you just got immediately better results, just much faster than a human. Yeah, that's very exciting And the speed that's developing it is really impressive. So I think it's a great time to be alive.
0:11:46 - Adam
Yeah, absolutely, i feel like I'm living in a side finder, you know, at the moment, you know I feel like it's getting to that point, but, you know, anything that brings me closer to a four day working week is better, right. So I suppose, coming back on topic then, you know, relating to CFO Tav, and you know how businesses can start thinking about this sort of stuff. So I think what you said previously is, you know, it's not really something that everybody's got to drop everything and start thinking, right, well, i need to strip out all of my processes and find an AI tool. It's an evolution, i think is the words that you used there. So if people are interested in, you know, adopting new technology and doesn't need to be AI, but could be AI there'll kind of be a decision point where they look at it right, well, do we optimize our existing techs, you know, do we find something to plug in, you know, and so on, or do we go to market for something new?
Now, the difficulty going to market for something new and this comes back to that previous point about augmentation, ie existing applications just improving over time is that, especially, it's one of these new AI and startups. they're almost like an unknown entity and of course they might have funding like the sort of companies that you support, right. But if you were giving business advice, if they did want to invest in some of these really new tools that maybe were still, i guess, a bit higher risk than something that's been established for 20 years, what would your recommendations be? What would you recommend they look for during that selection process?
0:13:21 - Wouter
Well, i think you know AI is never an answer for a full financial back office interest.
I was looking at the specific pay points, certain point solutions that like the one I just mentioned like Glean AI, where you invoice a skinning and processing and basically tell you what to, of course, to say That's not a very risky thing, it's just one player and you probably say, hey, i paid too much to my vendors, I want to pay less. Can AI help me here? And it's a very simple business case. You can try it. It doesn't give you the right advice, you just stop it again. So I think you know, i would just say, well, you know, i just want a completely AI driven ERB.
That sounds a little risky. You know. Throw away whatever you have and bring in something else. That's probably also not where I would expect any patient to come from. I think there will be very specific jobs or pay points issues within the office of the CFO that will get replaced with point solution fixing that very specific thing. And that's probably in terms of businesses to invest. I would recommend to try really innovative things because it can really help serve a certain problem but also achieve a vision. You know, maybe that tool didn't exactly work but and try something else. That's probably better than just waiting for 10 years till the whole world uses a certain solution with AI and then be like the legacy tool to adapt to it.
0:14:55 - Adam
But don't try everything, though and these are some of the conversations that I have because now it's easier than ever to try before you buy, right? You know every part. Sure, there's a free trial. So my recommendation I don't know whether you agree do the long list, short list, trial list. You know, yeah, maybe do a search on 20, but then only get a trial of five, you know, maybe not even that amount, because you've got to think in terms of your time and effort invested, you know, and it comes back to the use case. I guess if it's a bigger problem to solve, then obviously spend more time on it, right? But decision fatigue is a real thing, you know, and we've all got no time as it is, so we just need to be careful. Like me, you know, my evenings disappear to trialing AI tools, you know, or not? just AI tools, just tech, because it's part of what I do, right? But I'd hate to calculate the amount of hours I've spent on the PXS, because it's probably a lot.
0:15:51 - Wouter
Now I'd say what I would recommend this is always to do small things. Never try to do a big revolution. Try to if there is something that could be improved. just do a small pilot with that and try it. You don't even need to try 10 tools, you can just look up some references, what other people are saying.
And in very specific tools like that let's say you have a certain treasury issue there are simply not 50 different centers, you're just one or two that jump out and you see on the website immediately whether they fit in your kind of mindset, like integrated with your system. First check, of course you have to use some quick books and then don't look for something that doesn't run in quick books. And then, if you find it and just see if there's an easy trial and just try it out oh, weird. And the cool thing about startups they're very eager and they should support you in getting you on board as a customer and you're willing to give them feedback and become a reference Start. it should be go above and beyond to help you prove their value with their solutions. I don't think it doesn't have to be that costly, neither risky tryouts. specific CBO tech solutions.
0:17:15 - Adam
And it's reminding me actually, because I think one of your links in post, if I remember correctly, you mentioned a site called There's an AI for that. It was you. That was amazing And we mentioned it before, but there's an AI, so that's basically an online database of every AI I'd saw you could ever imagine. My only recommendation is to bear in mind that some of them aren't actually launched yet. A lot of them are still waitlist products.
0:17:42 - Wouter
Yeah, but this is a site for more for the geeks, right? You don't have to. I don't think like a CFO or an FNA manager or anyone in finance domain looking for tech tools. You just kind of cry out at all these thousands of tools there. I think that I would always look from a pay point perspective, like we are still spending I don't know how many days on account reconciliation. just look for an account reconciliation tool. We're still struggling generating forecasts in the end of the month. Just go on it and see what pops up. We'll see that there are great solutions out there.
0:18:22 - Adam
There is a plugin mouth for there's an AI and chat tpt. So you can ask chat tpt, find me a tool for this purpose And it will automatically search. There's an AI, so that maybe smile when I saw it on the plugin database. So even that search we should become a lot easier right now So you're not going to have to Google and search through 10 or 20 web pages. Hopefully it should be a lot quicker. So I could talk about this for hours, but obviously we've only got five minutes of time today, so I just want to touch on something that you mentioned earlier about Glean, was it? how are we spending that? GL EAN?
0:19:04 - Wouter
G L D A N.
0:19:08 - Adam
So that points to something that we touched on in previous podcasts about multi-tenant infrastructure being able to deal with a lot of data to provide insight, and the example we've used previously is a concept of something like a GL as a service or an intelligent GL, whereby you spin up a new accounting software or accounting system And the system is intelligent enough to understand your industry and also, oh, here's a recommended GL structure or here's a recommended budget structure or whatever, because it's got that anonymized data in the background. I think it's interesting is more of these tools build that in, because, if I've understood correctly, what you're saying there with Glean is because it does have that anonymized data in the background. It's a net piece and a lead to essentially say, right, well, you know you peers or people in a similar position are paying this, so make sure you're not overpaying. I have understood that correctly.
0:20:01 - Wouter
Yeah, yeah, and are they?
0:20:06 - Adam
So when you look at the sort of businesses that you back and invest in, obviously it's always tricky right, and I've heard people speak previously saying you know we're not supported about the product, you know we just got to make sure that the founders heads in the game and that they're able to lead the company or all that sort of stuff. But I guess the short version of that question is with the tools that you're seeing, is the? does the investment seem to be behind those sorts of tools That are more data driven, that are doing created things there? Is it more in the operational space? Is it more in the FKNA space? I don't know whether you can talk a little bit more about what you're seeing and some of the more exciting stuff that you're investing in at the moment.
0:20:46 - Wouter
So if you look at what we're looking for and every FCOs is like list of five points and somewhere really found refers like what's to your point And you know we invest and see about that, That's already a narrow domain for one. In this event, I think most of all we're looking for a very specific thing that needs to hurt what you're saw. If you're fine dealing with it in an Excel sheet, then there is not a business case where you need to go really enterprise.
So we're, most of all, we're looking at something really generates impact if you, if you're. Second thing is, i think what's important in this world is kind of you know what.
I call earlier bad point solutions. You know not too big of a solution but I like simple parts. You know just something can be a complex. Well, you know just the solution itself can be a complex, but for the user doesn't be simple And that means also that it has to deliver a very quick time to value. Something requires six months of modeling before you get something out of it. That's not kind of the problem You're working now.
We're looking for something just to get back and I'm happy to throw some other examples of companies with facility 11 companies, but just for clean. You know, hey, i pay too much to my vendors or I could pay less to my vendors, and and within a couple of weeks we go you know kind of or onboarding platform. You, you have sell you already out of the tool. So that's another thing we're looking for. And and the last thing and that's more, more, more let's say my personal favorite as well we were looking for Cvo technicals.
That as some of those strategic value. What I mean with that is it is the pure automation jobs. You know, like you have three accountants and after the solution can do was to that's great And and but there's a lot of technology already out there. That is, that is kind of doing that. I think the latest generation of innovation is adding some level, strategic value. So green again. You know like they are. They are an an accounts payable tool, so they automate your accounts payable process, but they they doubly reduce, like add to your add to your bottom line, so we reduce your costs, and that's that's what I would consider strategic value.
Or like a certain FNA tool that is not just doing your annual budget, which of course is good, but you're already doing that in first place, something that could be like an, like a rolling forecast that we're doing before adding and just with one present button, kind of always, if your latest actuals, we apply your focus drivers on it.
And now, although that's happening already for a while as well, but a lot of companies are not doing that yet and by doing that you really enable CFO to become a one of the drivers in business value, not just a bean count there in a company. So we're also very much to that. And then there are all kind of things, of course, where we look at the game what kind of founders are we dealing with? How big is our ambition? how big is the market we go after. We do a fast and some third of all, for example in Cinder with an hour with the Y, and they offer counting platform for a commerce businesses where they basically say well, you know, in e-commerce, 90% of all e-commerce companies use either Amazon or Schumann or both, and they use Stripe and they have bank accounts and based on these kind of.
You know, you get your inventories from Amazon, you get your sales transactions through Stripe, you can reconcile with your bank accounts. You could probably do 99% of all accounting tasks robotized for such a business, and you know, i think that, and in case of like Cinder, then all kind of additional metrics to business that they wouldn't have had nor, so we're completely automating it You also create the strategic insights.
But it's an example of vertical play because it's just e-commerce But but in general we look after really big markets or really big verticals. With a simple solution has an ability to become the true leader in that market. So it will become in the end of the route. It's simple right.
0:25:25 - Adam
Yeah, and I think you're absolutely right, and it's where a lot of these startups can sometimes go wrong, because the stats are scary with the amount of startups that don't go anywhere. Right, and they're generally very bright people that have got really good ideas, but they struggle at communicating the value. Yeah, for sure, marketing 101, explain, it is the 5-year-olds. And if you can't do that, then I think the question whether it's a simple enough concept to really understand right.
0:26:04 - Wouter
Yeah, I meet so many founders that have 3 customers and 5 products already and they're looking oh and then there are higher sales consultants to start selling.
I believe a good product, market fit and we're always looking for market fit means basically the founder itself can just tell a story And personally, when people come to him to buy a product, there doesn't have to be a complex sales cycle. That's for later, when you're still a company Initially, like you say, explain it like you would explain it to 5-year-olds. So it's all serious pain-point and we'll have a simple, no-brainer solution for it. That's what we're looking for. Anyone listening and fits in that category, please reach out.
0:26:53 - Adam
Oh yeah, and if I speak to anyone I'll definitely point them in your direction, that's for sure. So yeah, and that simplicity point kind of plays into. The simpler concept is, the easier it is then to invite people into a trial, right, and then the less hope you're going to need because people can self-server. You don't want to get to the point where, even if it's a simple concept, people sign up and immediately they hit a barrier that says I can't use this, so I need to phone somebody or call, get on the chat line, so it doesn't scale very easily in that instance, does it. So I totally agree with that.
And again, this is just more my curiosity than anything else. But with the tools that I use and have invested in previously, there's kind of a split. There's the tools to offer a trial, but there's never a preview option, right, so you have it for 14 days and if you don't want it then you don't use it. If you want it, then you pay for it, whereas there's also platforms now that offer you know it's free forever, providing that you only use this bit of capability. Instead, i mean instead of a trend of people going more freemium at the moment to try and build that lower user base or people getting more paid for it. Is it a real mix?
0:28:09 - Wouter
I think it depends on the product, what fits you. I, you know, historically I've been a founder. I was one of the C-Vote company Free, was you know something to freeze? it's always like you tell them there's no selling. I think people should they get selling out of your solution, they should pay for it. The question is more, how are you going to? you know what's the path to having a customer pay, Like, do you want to get a trial and let them try it out, or do you want to? because in the end, of free it's also kind of a trial where you let them, let's say, use a very limited part of your software but you already know that if they get the full failure out of it they will need the full package And in the end it's just a different kind of trial with a different moment of inferring. And I think, yeah, founders should do whatever fits best. But it's just amazing. It says something about a tool if you can try it out Free.
The typical enterprise C-Vote tech tools that require five months of specialist implementation. Consultants are not offering free trials. You know they can do a free POC. But I'm also meaning, like it's important, free trials would also be a self-service free, not a free trial with a lot of help. That's still not you know like it doesn't say how easy the tool is. I think it's important that between nowadays and depending on the size of your business that's any small or medium-sized business you could buy and see a vote tech solution. That can be with some guidance, with low wizard or some figure out, but figure it out yourself, because that means also you can maintain it yourself.
You don't need defender, does it always work? now You're going to have more complex modeling tools that just require requiring not to help from the fund next consulting company. But the kind of simple solutions that just fix that specific pain point should be yeah, you should be able to just go with a free long learning curve.
0:30:07 - Adam
Do you know what Adam Seguin is? No Flow cog.
0:30:13 - Wouter
Not heard? Yeah, i think. Yeah, you know. Excuse me for a second.
0:30:20 - Adam
The reason I mentioned it. It comes into that free new piece and for anyone that's listening, i'd recommend at least check out the website. But what he's been doing recently that I think is really really good is he's got some free online tools. So they're not behind the login wall I don't think you have to log in to use them, but they're like basic calculators. So his vertical is modeling for SaaS companies. So he's hit a vertical. So there, for all of his preset stuff has all of the SaaS APIs built into it, right, but as a conversation starter, he's got these really useful calculators for, you know, funding or ARR or all that sort of stuff that people can sort of try. So he's creating that value before people have even signed up, for end of saying, and I think that's an interesting marketing approach And, of course, that increases his credibility quite substantially.
So I've been very intrigued at what he's been going on And he's been doing all sorts of stuff for QuickBooks and ChatTpt as well. So I think it points back to a company that's following that incremental evolution approach that we talked about earlier. So you know, as I say, he's been on the podcast before, so people know about him already. But, yeah, i think he's the sort of business that seems to be doing it in the right way, whilst providing a ton of value, even when people aren't paying for his services. So yeah, one check out.
0:31:38 - Wouter
I think it's amazing And I think I did look through the solution. I think you've got a lot of finables Oh cool, see how many. Probably like three weeks at the moment. I know I was like I'm immediately sharp, but yeah, i like that approach, you know, to say okay, let's start with adding some value. But you know it's a challenge. You don't want people to stay Like if you're. You know, if you run a business, you need to make money and create value.
You know, you're not serving potentially two billion consumers, like WhatsApp would be doing, and never charge for it. And still, i'm an amazing exit And I think it's. He thought that you need to generate revenue to build value in your company. So it's important to have this, you know, conversion into like a natural flow of a great customer, great value, and build out a long, long-term customer relationship. Yeah, yeah.
0:32:36 - Adam
I was on. I was on the look at cause all the other day as well, and I think that they're sort of a current number where they're based. No, actually, i do know the founders in London, so near me here in the UK, but they've now got us US branch, i think, and they've been actually doing very innovative things from a blog post creation perspective in terms of you know, top of the funnel lead. So they're pushing, you know, thousands of blog posts that are really useful, instructional stuff. you know to fix early stage. you know interest generation fees. So it's interesting to see how the approaches vary. It's not calculators and sort of tools in the same way that Adam's doing, but it is still valuable content.
0:33:21 - Wouter
Now and then. you know, i think that's that's what I recommend our portfolio funders will, you know, be out there, share soluble information, things people can learn from. It's a great way to do Nia and promote your products Do something nice you know, at the same time, because I was doing a great job. You know I read like they're pretty good well competitive to one of their companies.
But in general, I think they're a perfect example of the third generation FNA tool and managing the company in a way you would do it in 2023, in terms of, you know, a triple funnel building. Yeah, so I read your friend here, Yeah.
0:34:03 - Adam
So so, so come on then let's have a chat about the stuff that you get in excited about at the moment. You know and again could be anything we talk a lot about AI, but from your perspective, i'm always keen to look at that. You know, what are we seeing that people need to be aware of? coming, coming down the pipeline that people may not be aware of? you know what? what? what sort of stuff's getting you excited at the moment?
0:34:26 - Wouter
Yeah. So you know I'm in in in general I I'm very involved in a market, you know I. I just believe FNA is kind of mixer you'll be your and a good FNA system is like kind of the second infrastructure or component where we just, you know, in your EOP, you know everything would happen. Your FNA should actually anytime know, okay, how is my business processing, and have like an immediate prediction of like a case for progressing like this erection using my drivers and some external drivers. This is where we go eat And it gives like the forward look to an organization And I think, if we look in this space there there will be very interesting applications of of AI, you know like a few predictions, i think, become more AI driven, although it's still complex for finance, you know, I think we have realistic as well.
There is not one single algorithm that just tells you the future. Is it so comprehensive? There are so much different drivers, whether they're internal or external, or you know internal data that kind of tell you something about you know about the future of your company. But I think in terms of a hybrid approach, like a good FNA system interacts with the CRM, where all your sales activity is in, with an HR system where all your headcounts mutations are happening And basically any point in time will give you a fresh feel on the next nine months or three months, whatever your timeline. Is that you? it's usually your model If you look at innovations in that aspect of thing. You know we look at reporting because in the end I think no one really reports on your people.
You do. you need, like your, your mountain statements, but by the time you you have to do it, it's old. everyone knew already the data, so it's not a real management. I think if you get at this FNA system, you have this forward view, which is much more interesting for reporting because it's much more okay. are we going to make our target enough? Are we doing enough to to get there?
I think there, if we look at reporting, traditionally reporting were some big Excel sheets with a lot of rows and a lot of columns, and today we see a lot of dashboards, great, a lot of charts, but that's also not, i think, neither like like massive financial statements is not what a user want and a bunch of eye charts explaining your financials is also not what what finance wants or or can understand.
There is this disconnect between other things, and this is actually the startup I I co-founded and we accidentally found 18 was all about this performance report. we call it And then we ended up with a blend of financial, real financial statements very support for PNL and you know, but then with an actual budget, with Perkins call ring and then maybe some breakdown charts and we really say something about the data and combining that with a, with a real narrative what happened in business. And that's where I with a narrative I don't mean like something you can get out of your numbers because everyone can see Hey, your, your sales is down because product ABC didn't perform well. I think a real donation is like a better came into the market and and sales is down. You have signing back.
No, the the the typical business reasons. If you kind of have that data together, so you you have like an, the correct counting way of representing it. You have to write initializations that really give you some deeper insights and you have the real narratives. Think about what reporting could mean in in next years. It could be personalized, it could become a studio or the GPT, basically telling you what's really relevant, summarizing that, you know, by foicing the AI picked up and in the video you would see some charts that would be relevant for you as a user. Not for everyone, you know, it's not the general. We tell a story your business, how you do compared to competitors, how you're doing compared to your peers in in, let's say, our responsible for the Netherlands and the Netherlands.
it's the good example. How is Germany doing you know, and benchmark that. So I I think when, when you have full the data together and you have a light prediction of basically your very latest sales numbers, you can just say, okay, this is what we expect to do. I think, the next way, the next iteration, how are you going to consume that data? Will it still be in traditional way or will it come much more natural or more Q and A like based, you know, like a church GPT? again, just ask like, hey, what, what I need to take this into decision? You know, tell me, tell me the information that's such relevance. I think we're, we're going to see some amazing new innovation here in space. I've been you know it's exciting.
You ask me whether it's exciting or I can keep going.
0:39:33 - Adam
And maybe you can. You can name drop a couple of the cool tools that you're seeing at the end of the session, you know, just to give people those sort of fields for the sort of newer stuff that's coming out. So maybe we can go back there. But before I forget, it kind of reminds me of a conversation that I had on the podcast with John Thunderever, a company called what if I, what if I? I think it's what if Iio, or something like that, and they do a pretty intuitive modeling tool And his story is he wasn't really ever looking it from a to a multiple perspective.
I don't think it started from his personal experience of him basically budgeting with his wife, you know. So he's got a background in visual effects. So he's saying, right, well, what if it was just easy for me to visualize, when something happens in the future, what that then means, you know, in terms of scenario planning. So he's been building a business with that. But I enjoyed my conversation with him because in having that flexibility it means that you know we're not locked into a, you know, one budget or one scenario. We can be more fluid based on what is happening at that moment in time. So it could be that we've got 30 different scenarios, but does it matter? No, not really, because you just click a button and it changes the forecast and the plan to see what it means.
But the other thing that was quite interesting in that conversation was the the human side of it. You know because because when you think about, you know people are good at being people, they're good at providing insight, they're good at intuition and all of those sort of softer skills that are really crucial, especially alluding to a point earlier about that. You know that strategic decision piece. You know we need to use our human skills from a strategic point of view to make sure that business is pointed in the right direction.
But there are times, whether it's monthly board meeting or whether it's regular, where people get in a room and they think, right, well, let's, let's do some planning, let's have a chat about what is best for our business. And, coming back to the point that you made there, if we've got, instead of a dashboard and interrupt tool, you know whether it's something that we're chatting with during the meeting or you know whether it's just something that we're checking in, altering the scenarios slightly. You've got a real time conversation based on data that allows you to have a lot more of a productive meeting whereby you actually come out that thinking right, well, we've modeled the scenarios already. We're not waiting on anybody to go away and do modeling and tapes. You know two weeks to do that.
0:41:49 - Wouter
We've done it in the room, you know so so I'm sure And that's exactly what I think where scenario modeling should move to, you know it's. It's not like you need a list of 100 different scenarios. You just have a certain decision or a certain strategic direction you would take and you just model out on the fly the scenarios that are new. But are we going to fundraise yet or not? You know, that depends on, let's see, what it does.
You know, if we have capital, we invested there and they should be very interactively, be able to kind of model those kind of things in your scenarios. And you know, i think in the end a good CFO tech tool is is goes way beyond the office of the CFO. It's more because of financial data in there, the CEO, company or other chief chiefs you know they or for their department, they should be able to just understand the consequences of certain decisions on the fly without the need of open control.
And then you know you can model everything out for two weeks first. I think that's an evolution we see today. It's it's really. You know, i see that more and more and great at P8 tools actually embed those kinds of things where you can just on the fly change some drivers very agile planning.
0:43:06 - Adam
Then even further forwards, and there's probably tools that do this already. You know, in the example you gave about the OCR and the invoice piece saying, look, you're paying too much based on the data that we have in the industry. It's the same if you're doing modeling as well. So in the future, if you've got your data, but then you've got a ton of anonymized data supporting that, that says, well, this is the benchmark you need to be working against, based on similar stuff that's happening. That's going to help inform that piece isn't it?
0:43:35 - Wouter
A lot of startups have this vision of like, hey, get a lot of the database data and then, you know, generate a lot of benchmark. The challenge why we haven't seen it so much broadly applied? Well, first of all, businesses are very different. you know, like it, to really benchmark you need, just like, a same kind of category of businesses And then you have also the counting. you know there are different gaps or different roles, there are different ways how accounting is applied, so it's not always that easy to fully benchmark and you need a certain data volume. a lot of startups when create the idea but have the volume, yes, can't really apply that idea. But I think while the market more matures, this will, you know. I think it's good for it. You know, in the end we all care about the final user. you know it's good for the companies that buy these solutions If there is more benchmarking and transparency around those kind of things, because that way you can just optimize your business and run it in a possible way. So, but buyer needs to thousands are amazing.
0:44:43 - Adam
And it would be interesting to see how that evolves as well, because, as we've seen with the Microsoft Open AI relationship, that one move by Microsoft could put a ton of startups out of business. Right, And this comes back to the value proposition as well, doesn't it? And how much of a community you've been able to build a product. So Notion is an example Microsoft are launching. I don't know whether they've launched it already, but basically they're equivalent of Notion, which is tasks, and they've had databases, all of that sort of stuff.
I think Notion will be alright because they've almost got kind of like a cult following. You know people who build businesses around Notion templates for client out loud, So I think those sorts of businesses are safe. But when it comes to the database, you know you take a massive multi-tenant infrastructure such as Microsoft Dynamics, you know, or the Sage AWS setup or whatever it happens to be. They've already got the advantage because they've already got a massive data set to work with. So it'd be interesting to see how the smaller players are able to carve out their own niche with potentially a smaller amount of data, and maybe the answer is to niche down, as we've been saying. You know, so don't know.
0:45:49 - Wouter
Yeah, I think the opportunity, if you look at Microsoft recently has always left enough room for partners to build at all from child you know, like if you look at their death dynamics or their blood slavers, they have a CRM system but then there is tons of you know. You get back to getting kind of solutions. Where we're looking for we're not looking for dynamics as advanced, we're looking for a certain tool that can satisfy 300,000 dynamics customers. I'm like I can really solve one specific issue and I think in terms of trying to solve the too big of a problem, you run the risk of these mega vendors will dive on it.
But if your solution is like, if you look at the total finance function, reducing spend minutes is a small part of the total, you know it's a very impactful and can be great. if you nail it down, it is likely that Microsoft will bring out an old permit in that area. So you know, i think I was still bad for companies that are put out of business by one of these mega vendors offering I'd say the same thing cheaper, better. But most businesses are on the safe side because they're building on platform that one of these vendors has put in place.
0:47:19 - Adam
Yeah, that's it, and it's interesting actually, and people often assume that if a mega vendor brings out new bit of capability, that it's going to be better than the equivalent startup, but it's not. You know. To go back, well, sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. To go back to the OCRPs, for example, and just use an example Sage in tax does an example ERP, for example, i believe OCR is built into their development timeline. Yeah, and but to what extent? Yeah, you know OCR.
Yes, i mean at a very basic level. It's reading an invoice, so it doesn't have to be manually keyed. But that's very different to what we were discussing earlier, whereby you've got that analytics in the background and you've got more insight from that. Likewise, is it an AP automation tool that's going to enable them to connect to their bank account? Who knows? But would you see what I mean? So, even if those mega vendors are playing in the same space, that doesn't mean that there isn't the opportunity for smaller ISV or independent solution vendors to come in and do something better. As I say, it just depends on Yeah, so it just lasts here, and how big of the problem is that you're solving?
0:48:29 - Wouter
Now, for sure, i think that if you just take clean, for example, and then all of your pieces of some kind of brochure in there, so that's not the problem they're solving. This is the vendor, this is the date, this is the amount you need. This might be your FAT, but if you look at an, for example, in the TWS invoice, it has three pages of completely unsorted, unstructured line-out-in-details with minutes here and hours there.
No way, and it appears it's not their job to kind of tell you whether that's the good setup or not. And that's where C-Votec's vendor I think I just love the example of Glean because they kind of did that really smart. This is also not something that's quickly going to be copied, because there's quite a bit of R&D here. It's pretty unique and it's also a huge pro-enginer I think that they're ready to scale up this company without a lot of threats. Either one of them or another started trying to do something similar.
0:49:38 - Adam
Very good, so give us a couple more. So you mentioned Glean and the other one was at Cinder with a Y that you mentioned. Yeah, you got a Cmolotov and you check out.
0:49:47 - Wouter
So I think another one we invested in a number of FPA solutions, with one that jumps out is Fullplan. Fullplan is, if you look at the amount of, let's say, third generation, and with third generation I mean every FPA solution that is a gem more than five years old, that is typically lower equals than, let's say, the second generation where in a plan, and that's insights and third generation or theory, sap, ibm maybe, and the third generation. So if we look at the third generation, we are receiving a lot of different kind of solutions. But there is this big headlock relation with Excel. There is some companies that would like to keep working on Excel. Others say now we need to replace it because Excel is giving us too much trouble. But everyone knows that if you're skilled in Excel it's probably the quickest solution. You can just figure out what you're, you know, you can quickly just make a calculation on the fly and do exactly the one.
Well, fullplan. This is one out of the, let's say, 40 third generation FPA tools out there, but they're the only one doing this within Google Sheets. Okay, they basically build a whole solution. It's totally database-driven and there is all kind of logic putting on the background. But there, you know, you can actually model within Google Sheets so you can keep having all the benefits of, let's say, an online platform But, at the same time, the flexibility of being able to model inside Google Sheets. Now, this is a company. There's no AI enforced. There doesn't have to be. You know, i think maybe later.
You know, they will keep innovating, but for now they're just offering a modeling tool and a planning tool with the capability of doing this in Excel form and as an Excel language with, while offering a full multi-dimensional planning environment with all the benefits of doing this like, say, in the system in terms of overnouncing all the trials and, you know, data security and all that kind of things. So that's another one we're excited about. Also, i want to like to pick out I think I just love what they're doing. They're not really like for us the definition CFO tech is selling to the CFO. This is more selling to potential investors, but it's real accounting tech. It's a company called Network AI What they're doing and they already had this years before GGBT, because I think they started selling four or five years ago on this.
They have a large language model that allows to scan the thinking filing or any other kind of list of annual reports for public companies. Those are 200, 300 page filings with a lot of text in there. Within a second they can tell you every red flag has seen that report. That's just a number because every, let's say, analysts can quickly see it and it's still behind or whatever. That's the typical thing that a hatchman would do for any investor in public securities. but they will be able to scan 200 page filings of text and just tell you, watch out, this is what they're saying in that small food node and that's very relevant.
They've done it with Chatchi Pt. probably not because Chatchi Pt is a very generic framework They are using recently we had a very interesting discussion around this because they are using Chatchi Pt for a more conversational part, where it's really good. but understanding the nature of the thinking filing, which is very specific, as a very specific format, why accounting rules for that is such a specific task that Chatchi Pt will not be able to do and probably not be able to do soon needed. A great example here is Chatchi Pt passed the board exam. It passed the Harvard MBA exam, but it did not pass a CPA exam. It tells us there is still something that cannot be done, and that's very where I think there will always be fit for purpose large language models next to Chatchi Pt, which is looking from the whole internet.
We also need models that learn from one specific data set to find real value. I think what I like about Bedrock AI is that the amount of solid. They just create within 30 seconds is just tremendous. It's huge. There's no way. It's really where AI does it a thousand times or a million times better than you. Very good.
0:54:34 - Adam
So we're coming up to time about. One last quick question just before you head off is I always ask people what their favorite Apple gadget is. So for me it's Notion, because I use it on my phone, my tablet and it's my brain basically in one place. So do you have like an app on your phone or a bit of software that you can't live without?
0:54:55 - Wouter
So I'm a big Android user And you know I really like just the way my timeline, my news, like every day. I just swipe to a right and I just see personalized news feed with everything that's relevant to me. That's just the most news thing I ever bought on my phone. That's just indigo. I just love it.
0:55:15 - Adam
Amazing, We've not had that before. So yeah, the Android time. it was probably Google timeline, isn't it? It's hooked up to your Google accounts.
0:55:21 - Wouter
Yeah, yeah, i don't even know, because it's so integrated, it's not really an app to just talk to the right. and there's one other app and I can recommend every parent in the world is Google family link. Family link Time like this on the phone of your kids what apps to use and what not apps to use went. Shut it down. We give them a little extra time. It's like the best app ever for parents. It's from recognition.
0:55:44 - Adam
Family link. Amazing. All right, mark, so well, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on And yeah, no, we really appreciate it's been a great chance. I'll let you go off, But no thanks so much.
0:55:56 - Wouter
Okay, that's great to do, Thanks.
0:55:59 - Adam
No worries, thanks, mark.
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