When it comes to accounting, many entrepreneurs try to manage cash flow themselves or turn to traditional bookkeepers. This is a process that Seattle startup Mentio wants to automate, scale, and ultimately disrupt.
The Vancouver, B.C.-based company uses data to help small business owners stay on top of their books and predict cash flow patterns.
“Our long-term goal is to be a financial intelligence platform for small-sized businesses.” said CEO Monique Morden. “Our short-term goal is to help small business succeed through a dynamic cash flow prediction tool that helps them proactively manage their business.”
In addition to data predictions and cash flow monitoring, Mentio has on-demand experts that offer financial advice to customers. The company launched last year and has about 50 beta users. Morden and her co-founders Milan Mosny and Sean Wilson are currently participating in the Techstars Seattle accelerator.
We caught up with Morden for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We look into the future, showing small businesses the money coming and going out to ensure they succeed. If they are in a bind or wanting to grow, we connect them to small business lenders.”
Inspiration hit us when “It was more anti-inspiration: A hate for accounting but recognition of its power. Ask any small business owner if they like accounting — or anyone for that matter! Even Sean, our CA/CPA accounting guru, hates it. But studies show that 80 percent of small business failures are due to cash flow. Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t do cash flow projections because it’s hard, or because they don’t have the time, expertise or resources. We were inspired to give them an early warning system and a planning tool to make smart timely decisions.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We see Mentio evolving into a powerful financial intelligence engine helping millions of small businesses manage growth, including access to the expanding list of online lenders. With that vision, we will need both angel and VC money. Until now, we have done it through friends, family, and sweat equity. The next phase will require angels who like what we are doing. Eventually, to scale it majorly, we will need VCs — but that is a while out.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We are democratizing accounting for small businesses through a beautifully simple tool they keep in their pocket. By speaking their language and integrating with their lifestyle, they are enabled to manage their business by the numbers. Furthermore, we give them access to the red hot small business lending space, whether it’s for getting through a tough spot or kicking off a growth phase. At any time they can get the best deal from the multitude of small business lenders either by reaching out to Mentio or us reaching out to them. This puts them in the driver’s seat, where they belong.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Looking into the future: ‘Accounting looks backward. Mentio looks forward.’ We give projections to help business owners manage in the moment and into the near future. Often they fly blind, using their intuition and a lot of mental math. By helping them predict the future, they are empowered to shape it. Business owners have a lot of stress and worry. They always think they are missing something. We make sure they don’t.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Wow, you want just one? Probably not infusing the human touch sooner in the process. We were pretty hell bent on automating the process in the early days but might have got further if we had accepted a blend. Being rational number people, we discounted the impact of humans and that our users interacting with the software is a process.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “The team had a good debate on this question. In the end, Gates won out. You can’t help but admire what he built and continues to build. If you want inspiration for a developing a platform for business, he has done it and then some. Furthermore, we all respect him as a person, using his wealth to make huge impacts on the world by solving real problems impacting millions of people around the globe.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Usually involves beer, in any setting, and any type. We tried ping pong, but I am so bad that I was ruining everyone else’s game. I am hoping the future involves skiing at Whistler in the hunt for powder.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Diversity. As a team, we are pretty diverse and it works well for us. As a result, we are open to to a wide spectrum. We feel very strongly that Mentio is making the world a better place one small business at a time, because they are the backbone of the economy but are disadvantaged through limited resources. If you believe that and have a startup mentality, then come on by!”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “It’s really hard. Imagine the hardest thing you have ever done and multiply that by one million. And even then, it will still be harder. Beyond it being hard, the best advice is to learn fast. Open your mind, listen to your advisors, listen to your detractors, listen to your customers. Digest that information to learn fast and act fast. And then do it faster.”
Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the 11 startups participating in the Techstars Seattle incubator in the lead up to the Demo Day pitch event on Oct. 27. Techstars applications for its next class are now open.