Sqrl Is a ‘Digital Hunter-Gatherer’ for Accounting Firms
In January 2013, the three co-founders of Columbus, Ohio-based online accounting firm Upsourced Accounting faced a challenge that is not unique among many small business owners: how to be more efficient.
Launched by Ryan Watson, Ryan Baker, and Craig Baldwin in January 2012, Upsourced Accounting performs many of the same services as other accounting operations – management accounting, payroll, and tax – but does so exclusively on the Cloud. But even as clients and revenues started rolling in, the team was still struggling with how to reach the level of efficiency and, as an extension, profitability they expected.
“The primary culprit was the hours of back and forth e-mails we’d send to our clients, requesting, following up on, and gathering the documents we needed to perform their accounting work," Watson, co-founder and principal of Upsourced Accounting, told AccountingWEB. "We were losing half of our day playing air traffic control with our clients."
So the three former accountants decided to build a solution: a web application designed to structure and simplify communication for accountants and other professional knowledge workers. Enter Sqrl (pronounced “squirrel”), which the trio is touting as a “digital hunter-gatherer.”
Sqrl is a request engine that automates and manages routine communication and requests, eliminating the need to ever follow up with a client, according to Watson.
But before a single line of Sqrl’s code was written, the team first reached out to about fifty accounting firms to see if they were experiencing the same inefficiency problem as Upsourced Accounting and what solutions they were using.
“What came back was overwhelming feedback that, yes, our fellow accountants did in fact have our same problem,” said Watson, who is also CEO of Sqrl. “What’s more, they were all asking to use [our solution] when we were finished. At that moment, Sqrl stopped being just an internal tool for our accounting firm and became a broadly applicable product we would ultimately market to the industry at large.”
Approximately 200 accounting and professional service firms signed up to use the tool before it was launched publicly on January 29, Watson said. Since it was launched last week, an additional 300 individuals and firms have begun adopting and implementing Sqrl, he added.
Sqrl also recently raised $550,000 in seed funding, led by Cincinnati-based CincyTech, as well as Hyde Park Venture Partners and Vine Street Ventures.
“Raising that venture funding is critical to our success,” Watson said. “It provides our team with the operating capital to truly focus on making an amazing and fun-to-use product without having to prematurely focus on revenue. All of our investors are product people, and they know, like we know, that our number one priority is delivering a killer product. So that’s what we’re doing.”
CincyTech Principal Justin Thompson said in a written statement, “We believe the team has created an eloquent solution to the problem [of capturing and filing documents] and are well-capitalized to test their solution in the marketplace.”
But how does Sqrl work?