I’ve recently taken to scanning CrunchBase, a wiki-like database of technology startups and investments. Early last week, a young producer of enterprise finance software called inDinero caught my eye. The more I researched the company, the more I grew to appreciate not only their work, but the core ideas and people behind their success. Founders Jessica Mah and Andy Su, computer science majors from UC Berkeley, lead a small team of employees in an effort to provide both comprehensive and comprehendible financial information to small businesses. Imagine Mint.com, the popular internet-based, personal financial management tool, but scaled and tailored to the needs of small businesses without a dedicated finance department. These companies can use inDinero to synthesize, simplify, and make sense of their finances without getting caught up in needless accounting gibberish. inDinero frees small businesses from many of the headaches of ‘back office’ work, allowing them to focus their time, energy, and money on growth and improvement of core competencies. I have very high hopes for this company. Let me explain why.
- Added Value. inDinero provides real, tangible value. The primary motivation behind my decision to study Business Economics here at UCLA was a lifelong desire to own and operate my own company. A sizeable portion of this curriculum involves the study of accounting. While the cut-and-dry nature of accounting does not particularly invite excitement, I believe a solid understanding of the topic is integral to running a successful company. Businesses are incredibly diverse, but money exists as a common denominator to all of them. Accounting and finance is a language that every company must be fluent in. As a summer analyst at a large, multinational bank, I’ve come to understand the invaluable role finance plays in maximizing the potential success of any company – it provides the resources and tools necessary for growth and profit. Navigating the intricacies of this world, however, can be daunting. A lack of a strong understanding of accounting and finance can severely hinder operations. The real value of inDinero is its ability to separate the necessary from the unnecessary, boiling down the complexities of finance into its most basic, concentrated form. For a small fee, inDinero allows small companies to forgo many of the headaches of money management and focus their efforts on growth and improvement.
- Sustainable Revenue. InDinero uses a “software as a service” (SaaS) model for their product, and charges users a scalable monthly fee depending on their needs as a business. The beauty of this business model is its simplicity and sustainable strength. While I consider myself a bit of Google fanboy (full disclosure: I was part of their BOLD internship program last summer, and was a campus representative at UCLA), I fear that their undeniable success with a largely ad-driven platform has created an illusion around advertising as the sole driver of revenue for web-based services. This narrow perception of monetization often yields products that provide a valuable service but lack supporting revenue streams. inDinero’s decision to charge a fee in exchange for a service (how novel!) breaks this mold, and offers a huge upside in the form of potential, sustainable revenue. With some basic research and modeling, its readily apparent the market for services like inDinero’s is huge. Even if inDinero manages to capture a small fraction of this potential market, it will be able to generate substantial revenue with little marginal expense. Additionally, inDinero’s subscription model ensures sustainable revenue streams. By shifting the burden of growth away from the maximization of total users and towards a small number of paying clients, inDinero can focus their resources on improving their product rather than manipulating advertising impressions and click-throughs.
- Inspiring leadership. I believe that inDinero has the passionate, competent, and driven leadership required to flourish as a startup. It wasn’t until holding a leadership position myself that I realized the importance a leader played in determining the success of an organization. inDinero was founded and is currently led by two young UC Berkeley graduates, Andy Su and Jessica Mah. In researching the company, I stumbled upon and read through Jessica Mah’s blog. Not only did I find her work inspiring, but it convinced me she has the three qualities I believe are necessary for effectively leading a technology startup: general intelligence, creativity, and most importantly, initiative. She graduated high school as her peers were finishing their freshman year, and finished her computer science degree with the same lead. Jessica’s recognition of a niche for online, financial management tools for enterprises is a testament to her creative, outside-the-box thinking. Perhaps most critical to her success as a leader of inDinero, however, is her dedication and initiative. She has opinions and guts, and an all-too-rare willingness and confidence in her beliefs. This essential conviction provides the foundation necessary to weather the volatile storms of a startup company.