Chris, thanks for joining me.


Can you tell us a bit about your accounting background before you went on to start Tallie?

And at the time you left, did the opportunity just present itself and you couldn't ignore it, or at that time were you actively seeking a path out of public accounting?

Thanks Ari. It’s a pleasure joining you.

I’m an accountant at heart. I started my career at Arthur Andersen and spent the better part of 15 years in various accounting roles. I really enjoyed the work and the people.

Right before founding Tallie, I was the CFO of a public technology company. Norwest Ventures brought a bunch of CFO’s together for a roundtable discussion and expense reporting was a topic. We discussed how much better software solutions would be if they really understood how accountants work. The light bulb went off and I made the leap.
So you had already made the switch from public to private. Before diving into startups and the future of accounting tech, I have to ask about that because that path is so common, and I'm sure many of the readers here are deciding for themselves what's right for them.

What do you think makes someone happier in public vs. private? Is it just a personal preference?
Does a CFO of a large company have the same benefits typically associated with the move to private (i.e. more consistent/less hours, less travel, etc)?

For people reading this who are still in public accounting, I sympathize. The decision to leave is a difficult one. The people and work experience are absolutely top notch. I've never met anyone who said that they regretted the years they spent in public accounting. That said, if you're ready for a good work/life balance it's easy to find a job in industry that fits the bill and you'll probably get a a nice pay bump as well. 

If your goal is to be a CFO, I would suggest tempering expectations. Those jobs don't come up that often and they are hotly contested. Once you get the big chair, you should expect to continue to work hard. During the Sarbanes Oxley era there was a great Q&A; section in CFO Magazine that I'll never forget. The interviewer asked a high-profile CFO what it was like to have his job. He smartly replied "No Golf. No Tennis. No Hair." It really captured the mood at the time.

Chris, I've found that many of the hottest accounting startups are serving the needs of small business. As if they are solving needs that are too difficult for the business owner, but cheaper and easier than hiring a firm or bookkeeper to handle. 

Is this an accurate picture of the current marketplace, or are companies like Tallie, aiming to also provide value to traditional firms as well?
I think we're seeing change take place across our industry. Startups are able to do more themselves because of the new solutions being brought to market. Small firms and bookkeepers are taking advantage of data entry automation and are moving from hourly to "value" billing and traditional firms are starting to enter the market in a big way.

In sum, we're looking at a once-in-a-lifetime disruption whereby technology is upending the role of accountants. Transactional data entry will largely be replaced by automation over the next few years and this is creating a world of opportunity for both new and existing firms.
That sounds really exciting.

What are a couple of areas in accounting where a void could be filled or could be improved, but the tech isn't here yet?
Improvements in data entry automation and system integrations are continuing to accelerate. From here, we can see a relatively clear path to the end of data entry. Concurrently, a lot is being done to anticipate relationships between data. This will not only assist in the categorization of data but will also help call out items that require review.

Once these pieces come together the accounting function will have substantially shifted from transactional bookkeeping to operational management.
So what will a first year responsibility's look like for someone coming out of college, without the data entry. Where can they add value?

Also, as much as I despised data entry, I believe it actually laid down a lot of the foundation to better understanding what I'm looking at and working with.
In general, I think we're going to see accountants spend less time behind their desks and more time being active in the business. The value add will come from spending more time working with core operating functions. Since most CFOs are operationally oriented, the change in responsibilities will make good sense in the long term as well.