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Sal Abdulla on the ERP Gap for Startups

Sal Abdulla, Founder and CEO of Nixsheets, discusses a new era of accounting tools, where ERPs let startups down, and thoughts about the strategic value of a modern accounting function.

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Episode Summary

In this era where there’s a better SaaS tool for every workflow, ERP solutions are ripe for innovation.

Many organizations leverage a distributed EPR model that they’ve cobbled together using various point solutions coupled with spreadsheets to fill additional gaps between the systems. What they’re often lacking is a solution that ties all of these accounting workflows together.

One solution for this is Nixsheets, a workflow and automation platform for accounting teams that have outgrown ERPs like QuickBooks but don’t want the headache that comes with a more enterprise-focused NetSuite implementation. This platform promises to reduce data integrity issues, support a super-fast month-end close, reduce manual work, and lower costs.

In this episode of The Role Forward, Joe Michalowski welcomes Sal Abdulla, the founder and CEO of Nixsheets. Joe and Sal get into the transformation of the finance industry and the ongoing challenges for accounting teams. They talk about common ERP limitations, NetSuite nightmares, how accounting workflows should be simplified, and new finance and accounting tools.

Featured Guest

Sal Abdulla

Founder and CEO, Nixsheets

Sal started his career working in politics and spent two years working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. In his mid-twenties, he got an opportunity to join a startup overseas, where he became the head of finance. Then he came back to the States, did a stint for a year at a nonprofit, and finally made his way into SaaS. Today Sal is the founder and CEO of Nixsheets, an accounting automation platform.

Key Themes from the Episode
  • The transformation of finance is accelerating and the ERP is ripe for innovation.
  • Spreadsheets are great as ad hoc tools — not as databases.
  • The future accountant is part systems administrator and part accounting expert.

Episode Highlights from Sal Abdulla

6:50 — Front-end and Back-end Workflows

“Back-end workflows consist of information that’s already made its way into the accounting system, like an invoice that you send to a customer that’s going to hit deferred revenue and needs to be amortized over a period of time. Another example would be prepaid software expenditures — fixed assets. The oldest information is already in the general ledger, but it needs to be further manipulated, and you need to maintain detailed schedules for all of these different classes of assets and liabilities. […]

The Front-end tool bridges the gaps and automation between individual point solutions and the accounting system. So we mentioned the Back-end sitting on the back of the accounting system; the Front-end workflows are kind of, ‘How do I get information from Stripe into QuickBooks?’ or ‘How do I get information from Salesforce into QuickBooks?’ […]

We’re trying to build a universal sub-ledger that ties around both the Front-end and the Back-end of your GL and handles any workflow.”

17:00 — The Vision of Nixsheets

“We’re a tool that is designed to envelop a GL and allow you to do way more in terms of automation. And so, we are agnostic as to whether you eventually decide to jump on to a NetSuite or Intact, but we will advocate for the fact that we think you can delay that with our tool quite a bit. We think you can easily go past 50, 60, or 70 million dollars in ARR and still stay on QuickBooks using our tool. […]

Where we are going with this — it’s less to do about stretching QuickBooks or whether you need QuickBooks or NetSuite and more to do with how we think accounting is going to be done in the future.”

22:15 — Drawbacks of a System Like NetSuite

“I think anyone who’s used a tool like that quickly realizes its limitations. At the end of the day, all these general ledgers were designed as basic debit and credit ledgers. And so, they were designed to ingest accounting data in a very specific format and present it in a very specific format. They’ve built on top of that and, over time, they’ve been able to add features and capabilities, but the limitation is inherent in the overall architecture of these systems.

You find limitations all the time, whether it’s a limitation to your business model, like ‘How do I splice in?’ In order for me to understand the unit economics of a SaaS business — it’s completely different from understanding the unit economics of a marketplace or e-commerce business. And so you really can’t handle all these different use cases with a system like NetSuite.”

Full Transcript