Common Ledger makes business easy for accountants

Common Ledger are on a mission to make business easy for accountants around the world.

They are busy building a world where accountants and small businesses are free to choose which ever software works for them. Their simple solution means accounting’s manual processes are a thing of the past.

The team of seven are anything but a startup, looking at how they operate and the way they are approaching that mission.

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Common Ledger connects to all current and future accounting packages pulling a client’s financial data down in seconds and easing some of the pain of financial statements.  The accountant then uses the application to map the data into the correct format before outputting a file in the correct format into their firm’s practice management tools.

The two hour manual data entry process used to drive accountants crazy, but it now takes just a few clicks and as little as two minutes with the added bonus of real time access to the clients’ data at all times.  The software is licensed to accounting firms under a SaaS model.
The original idea came from co-founder Drew Broadley who sat down with his step-father and accountant to talk accounting.  He was wrestling with the brave new world and clients using multiple packages.  To his step-father’s delight Drew, a previous New Zealand Emerging Innovator, developed a basic solution to the problem.  Market research and further validation led to the birth of Common Ledger.

Accounting’s fundamental business model hasn’t changed in 100 years.  The multitude of accounting software being layered onto an age-old industry means accountants must deal with compounding complexity while maintaining normal processes.  The manual action of extracting data from these packages brings more time, cost and hassle for the same output – completed financial statements.

“Accountants have to keep up with them all,” Vince explains.

“We are big supporters of the competition in the accounting software industry and it’s great for small businesses to choose from so many fantastic products.  It’s not so great for accountants who battle an ever changing landscape.”

The team has come a long way, including growing in numbers, moving through the Lightning Lab’s business accelerator programme in their home town of Wellington and successfully completing a seed capital raise.

Drew was joined by international marketing expert Vince Warnock, Chartered Accountant Brendan Wu and in-house lawyer Carlos Chambers, as well as three talented software engineers.

Common Ledger’s team is perhaps its biggest strength.  “We were very intentional about putting together a group of individuals with the right skills and experience, who could execute” says Vince.

“We cover off the primary needs of a tech business: technology skills, general management, financial acumen and legal and business development.”

Talented directors Nick Lewis and Ben Kepes from the finance, accounting and technology sectors and high profile shareholders complete the picture.

The team are focussed on customers’ needs.  From the beginning they are collaborating with their users, the aptly named ‘Common Community’ of Australasian accountants and additional industry advisors who ensure the product design and build hits the mark.

Add-on tool developers also share the pain Common Ledger relieves.  Integrating with the agnostic platform enables them to unlock businesses using an increased range of accounting packages and enter emerging markets without investing heavily in adapting their product.

There are challenges and one that stands out above the rest is the nature of the the typically slow moving accounting industry. The team are realistic about it.

Understanding the industry and market have led them to make smart connections with users through professional accounting bodies and industry forums and publications.

Vince adds, “Our user feedback is clear that the benefits to accountants are big.”

That is not to say it won’t take time, but these entrepreneurs have built a solution that adds deep value to accountants around the world.

Common Ledger moves into Beta testing in September, expanding the offering from the current five accounting firms to 15 across New Zealand and Australia before a public launch in October.  Their focus for the next year is to enable Australasia’s accounting businesses to grow and thrive and to begin doing the same in the UK.

In a crowded world of accounting software, giving accountants and their clients freedom to choose will only increase in importance.

“That’s just the beginning,” says Vince coyly.

“We’re careful not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we are excited about the future and a big roadmap with exciting benefits for Common Ledger users.”

“Enabling the traditionally retrospective accounting industry to be forwards-looking is only the start.”

It seems Common Ledger has plenty in the pipeline.

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