‘The Operators’: Finance in startups with Duda CFO Stephanie Hsiung and Zeus Living’s Head of Finance Mark Kang

Welcome to this transcribed edition of The Operators. The Operators features insiders from companies like Airbnb, Brex, Calm, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Slack, Uber, WeWork, and Zeus Living sharing their stories and tips on how to break into fields like marketing and product management. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs on how to hire and manage experts from domains outside their own.

This week’s edition features two finance experts with experience from Calm, AdRoll, Morgan Stanley, Change.org, Zeus Living, and Duda. Listen in as they unpack how to build a career in finance at a tech startup and how founders should be thinking about hiring and managing this function.

Stephanie Hsiung is the CFO of Duda, a new and exciting enterprise website builder. Prior to taking the CFO role at Duda, Stephanie served as the VP of Finance at Calm, the leading meditation and mental wellness app and recent unicorn. She was also previously the VP of Finance at Change.org, and was at AdRoll before that.

Mark Kang is the Head of Finance at Zeus Living, which is one of the fastest-growing providers of furnished housing for business travelers. He brings experience from venture capital, banking at Morgan Stanley, where he managed IPOs, and also spent time at Barclays.

image1 6

Mark Kang, Neil Devanie, Stephanie Hsiung. Image via The Operators

Neil Devani and Tim Hsia created The Operators after seeing and hearing too many heady, philosophical podcasts about the future of tech, and not enough attention on the practical day-to-day work that makes it all happen.

Tim is the CEO & Founder of Media Mobilize, a media company and ad network, and a Venture Partner at Digital Garage. Tim is an early-stage investor in Workflow (acquired by Apple), Lime, FabFitFun, Oh My Green, Morning Brew, Girls Night In, The Hustle, Bright Cellars, and others.

Neil is an early-stage investor based in San Francisco with a focus on companies building stuff people need, solutions to very hard problems. Companies he’s invested in include Andela, Clearbit, Kudi, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Solugen, and Vicarious Surgical.

If you’re interested in starting or accelerating your marketing career, or how to hire and manage this function, you can’t miss this episode!

The show:

The Operators features insiders from companies like Airbnb, Brex, Calm, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Slack, Uber, WeWork, and Zeus Living sharing their stories and tips on how to break into fields like marketing and product management. They also share best practices for entrepreneurs on how to hire and manage experts from domains outside their own.

In this episode:

In Episode 6, we’re talking about finance. Neil interviews Stephanie Hsiung, the CFO of Duda, a new and exciting enterprise website builder, and Mark Kang, the Head of Finance at Zeus Living, one of the fastest-growing providers of furnished housing for business travelers.

Neil Devani: Hello and welcome to the Operators, where we talk to entrepreneurs and executives from leading technology companies like Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Calm about how to break into a new field, how to build a successful career, and how to hire and manage talent beyond your own expertise.

We skip over the lofty prognostications from venture capitalists and storytime with founders to dig into the nuts and bolts of how it all works. Hear from the people doing the real day to day work, the people who make it all happen, the people who know what it really takes… The Operators.

Today we’re talking to two finance experts with experience in investment banking and billion-dollar tech startups. I’m your host, Neil Devani and we’re coming to you from Digital Garage here in downtown San Francisco.

Joining me today is Stephanie Hsiung, CFO of Duda, an enterprise website builder, and formerly the VP of finance at Calm, the leading meditation and mental wellness app. She was also the VP of Finance at Change.org and AdRoll before that.

Also joining us is Mark Kang, Head of Finance at Zeus Living, a rising provider of furnished housing for business travels. They have 1400 homes under management in four major metro areas. Mark has experience as a venture capitalist as well and was previously a banker at Morgan Stanley and Barclays. Stephanie and Mark, thank you for joining us.

Stephanie Hsiung: Thank you for having us.

Mark Kang: Yes, thanks for having us.

Neil: To start, Mark, can you share your background and how you got to where you are today?

Mark: Sure. I spent the last 15 years and everything from accounting, I started my career as an auditor at Deloitte, got my CPA, and then from there I progressed into a valuation role in private equity, and then into banking for about 10 years. Towards the tail end of my banking career, I worked on some major IPOs as well as private placements, and eventually that led me into doing some venture capital investing.

And I met Kulveer, our CEO of Zeus, through a close mutual contact. I always knew that I wanted to get into some track that would ultimately lead me to a lead finance role. And so this was the perfect opportunity to come in and help a company grow.

Neil: Very cool. And what does the team look like now in terms of the finance organization?

Mark: Sure. So our team today, candidly, we run a pretty lean team, but we are definitely expanding our team. It’s me as head of finance, we have a controller, and under the controller we have three staff accountants. We also have a financial analyst under me.

And over the next couple of months we’re looking to hire a head of FP&A. But we expect our team to grow, you know, probably to 9 or 10 folks by the end of this year.

Neil: Very cool, very cool. And Stephanie, can you share the same about your background?

Stephanie: Sure, yes! I too started in public accounting. I was an auditor with KPMG here in San Francisco, so we did work with public and private technology companies.

From there, I went to a consulting practice, which is essentially a CFO-for-hire practice, working as consultant part-time for startup companies. After that I went to business school, and after business school, banking for several years, and then out of banking back into the startup world, as you mentioned at Change.org, then AdRoll, Calm, and now Duda.

Neil: Very cool. And from what I understand, Duda is a new role. So previously at a company like Calm or AdRoll, can you help the listeners understand what a team looks like at a company that size?

Stephanie: Yeah. So I was at AdRoll almost five years, and over that time my team expanded from 5 folks to north of 25. And the departments included accounting, which included treasury and other parts of controllership, FP&A, which was doing all of the planning and sales finance.

Think of them as folks that help set quotas, commission plans, and whatnot, for companies that have that. And then pricing and deal desk. So thinking about the pricing of the product, as well as the contracts and the terms you might want to enter into with your customers.

And then at Calm it was actually quite a lean team. So it was myself, one other individual, our director of finance, and an outsourced accounting group.


Neil: Got it, got it. That’s quite a few different things going on there. So for all of these different roles, one thing I like to do is have our guests share with the audience. What’s the best way to break into them?

And I understand in finance, there’s different things where maybe you have a different path to getting into accounting or controlling versus if you’re going to be an expert in FP&A, or something like sales or finance. What are some of the different ways that you’ve seen people start their career, specifically with, with these types of roles in startups?

Mark: Sure. So I actually think the vast majority of people start their careers in some type of accounting field or function. So, whether it’s starting in a big four public accounting firm or any audit firm in general, or you know, finding your way into an accounting or finance department at an operating company is probably the typical way I think most people make their way up into the accounting and finance world.

There are also folks who decide that they want to do something more along the lines of investment banking, maybe similar to my path, and eventually finding their way into an operating role. They could do banking than private equity or venture capital after that, and then decide ultimately that they want to be an operator and jump into that role.

Stephanie: Yeah, I would say book it into two camps. One would be folks that had some sort of professional service background, which would include one of the accounting firms, banking, consulting, etc.

The other camp is folks that have experience from larger maybe public companies working in these departments, but have an inclination to come to a startup company where things are a little bit more nimble, the responsibilities are a little bit broader, and teams are smaller. So you can go from either that route or the other. In my opinion, I’ve seen folks from both.

Image via Getty Images / dane_mark

Neil: Yeah, yeah. Have you seen or would you recommend for or against folks who are coming out of college with an accounting or finance degree to try and go straight into a startup? It sounds like it’s not very common. Maybe it’s not advisable, maybe it’s still something you might want to do?

Mark: I think that’s a great path actually, because it really depends who you’re working with and that that applies to every finance or accounting field. I view our industry as very much in an apprenticeship.

And I know that’s a very commonly used term to throw around, but I feel like you have to learn from the best in order to build the experience you need and build a defensible career. And so I think it’s really important, whether it’s starting at a startup or maybe even a public company or an accounting firm or an investment bank or some kind of consulting firm, I think it’s just really, experience is key. So go to a place where you find where you think you can get the best experience.

Neil: That makes sense. So if you can go to a startup, as long as there’s someone there, who you can learn from, who has the knowledge of finance and accounting, and how it’s applied, it could actually be a good opportunity.

Mark: Absolutely.

Neil: Very cool. Do you agree? Disagree?

Stephanie: Yeah. I’ve seen folks come in right out of college and try all kinds of roles at a startup. I think the nice thing about coming to a startup is, there’s usually an opportunity to move around to different departments and different functions, including finance.

So that kind of opportunity you may not see at more established companies which have career tracks and whatnot. That said I totally agree about the mentorship part. It really, you know, it depends more on who your manager is, and that relationship that you can build, and whether or not you feel like you’re getting a really good mentor out of that or not.

And I think that can happen at a startup. It can happen at other places as well. But the main thing that a startup provides you is a little bit more flexibility, but there’s a risk in that.

Neil: Yeah, I think that’s very true. When you’re at an executive level or management level, I imagine, your calendar is much more filled with meetings and those sorts of things.

Before you get to that level, when you’re looking at the different functions, again like accounting, controlling, FP&A, do they differ in terms of whether someone who’s introverted or extroverted might be better at one or the other, or someone who wants to be more working independently versus doing a lot of meetings? How do you think about that? If that’s different vertical to vertical?

Mark: There probably are differences in personality. I guess maybe another way to put it is, if you’re an introvert, I think you can still do great in the accounting and finance world. But being successful in a job requires you to work really well with not only your own, your immediate teammates, but also other departments within your company.

And so I do think that, whether it’s being an introvert or extrovert, I think doesn’t matter actually. It’s just how great of a partner are you to those that you work with? And so I think, you know, EQ is something that probably matters more than whether you’re introverted or extroverted.

Neil: Yeah, that’s, that’s a fair point.

Stephanie: Yeah. I tend to try to hire extroverts and when companies are smaller I think accounting or finance, the key thing is building those relationships. I find that it’s easier for folks who are a little bit more outgoing to reach out to folks and to be competent enough to communicate their thoughts and hold difficult conversations, especially in finance, as a budget holder.

That said, I think as startups get a little bit bigger, there’s obviously room for all kinds of personalities. The only reason I lean towards extroverts is because I think that inclination and desire to communicate and just be around other folks makes it easier.

Neil: Yeah, do you find that a core math ability or confidence is important? I know a lot of people, myself included, think that’s important. I also think, more than most, that anyone can be good at math if they have the right teacher and the right amount of patience.

We often just have bad experiences that make us believe we’re bad at something that then sticks with us thru life. But without going down that tangent, do you think that it’s a prerequisite now with Excel and everything, you don’t really need to be able to do the math yourself?

Stephanie: I guess I look less for specifically math skills, like show me how you calculate ABC. I look more for business intel, like savviness or, are you going to make good judgment calls? Do I believe that you can understand and frame business decisions and information that you’re getting in a way that people can digest?

I think that, aside from just pure mathematical computation ability, speaks a little bit more maybe to the EQ side, along with, you know, having that business context and awareness.

Mark: I couldn’t agree more. I think business acumen is incredibly important. Because sometimes a scenario or situation will come up, and I’ve already calculated in my head what the impact of this is, and I may not have it down to the precise decimal, but I know a range of the impact of something happening.

The business acumen and being able to lead teams and departments and help with decision making, helping them understand ROI. It doesn’t require you to be a human calculator, but it requires you to make good judgment calls.

Neil: Got it, got it. So in terms of building good judgment, let’s say I’ve taken my first role, or I made my first jump from a consultancy or a banking role, where things are a little bit more clearly laid out for me, and I’m now my first operating role. What are the kinds of things I should be thinking about or doing to build better judgement to be successful and accelerate my career?

Image via Getty Images / erhui1979

Mark: I’d say the first thing is to first absorb as much as you can about the organization. And I think a lot of competent people come in thinking that they know it all. I think it’s really important actually to first observe and absorb as much as you can about the organization.

That that will give you a lot more data points in terms of making decisions that are helpful for the company. There’s a lot of pattern matching that can happen and drawing from previous experience.

But it’s really important to be flexible and adaptable in your thinking and you know, to really not think that you’re a know-it-all at first and to show some humility and learn from others too.

Stephanie: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think being inquisitive, obviously. Just not being shy to ask questions, don’t restrict yourself from asking the questions you think are important just because you’re not sure at your level.

If you should be asking these questions, if this is an area for you to dig into, take all of those insecurities, and put them aside. That will really help you progress.

Folks will appreciate your candidness and will want to help you and answer these questions. I think especially in a startup environment, there’s this idea that folks are evolving just like the company and the product is, and there’s that “all hands on deck” mentality in most startups.

So you know, it’s a safe place to be open and ask those questions, and that will accelerate your learning, will accelerate your growth, and put you on the map with folks in the company.

Neil: Yeah, that’s great advice. Are there things that you wish you knew before you got to where you are today? Things that were some harder learnings that you can share?

Stephanie: Mine would be, I think you kind of mentioned it as well, is like the level of precision in finance, trading that off versus timeliness, especially for critical decision making. Sometimes you don’t know everything, but you have to make a decision and you need to make your best judgment and best-educated guess, calculate things, rounding up and down, and making your best estimates as opposed to being completely precise.

And I think for some finance folks, that’s a bit of a shift of mentality, but it is something that’s really valuable when you move to startup companies are moving very quickly. Their expectation isn’t that you get everything right to the dollar and the penny, but that you make it easy for folks to make clear decisions on the whole.

Neil: Yeah. It kind of speaks to the judgment point you made early in terms of the savvy, knowing what needs to be precise, what does and where you can cut the corner and where you can’t. Yeah.

Mark: I love that answer. I think it’s important to be iterative. It’s important to be fast in your decision making. And at the same time you want to be careful. So I think for more important decisions, you obviously need to spend proportionately more time and analyze more. But I would say sometimes, it can be counterproductive to actually have analysis paralysis, right?

Neil: Yeah, you have to move at the end of the day. Are there common misunderstandings you think people outside of the finance organization often have, or people before they get into the career that you’d like to correct?

Mark: For people before they start a finance career?

Neil: Or someone who’s never going to be in finance but they’re just often interfacing with finance, that’s a good audience to speak to as well.

Mark: Okay. So here’s one. I think, oftentimes there can be misunderstanding about our objective, right? As a finance team, and especially because we do control spending and people have lots of great ideas, lots of ways to spend money.

It’s our job to say, actually at this moment in time, this is the most critical spend, in alignment with our partners and understanding the situations. So you know, you lots of great ideas come to us, but you know, unless you have infinite capital, there needs to be a priority in which you spend your money and you need to think about ROI of one spend versus another spend.

And so I think sometimes it’s hard for people outside of the finance organization who don’t have full context to be in agreement with you.

Stephanie: Yeah. I like to say like my role is, I’m not a CF No, I’m a CF Grow. My job is not to say no to folks arbitrarily or you know, just be stingy with the money, the objective really is to figure out which investments and resources to put to work to help the company accelerate its growth, to grow faster and to do so in a fiscally responsible way.

But it’s not to just say no. I totally get where you’re coming from, where sometimes people are apprehensive to even tell you exactly what their plans are because they think that your job is just to squash what their aspirations are in terms of investments and spend. But that’s not the case.

Mark: Or worse, they try to get around you, and figure out a way in which to slide under the radar. And that’s not ideal.

Stephanie: Yeah. And for new folks I’d say it can be a fun department to work with. I think that’s also sometimes a misconception that finance or accounting is really dull and they don’t have a good time. But the teams that I’ve been on and built, we laugh, we have fun, we’re loud, and we’re finance folks.

Mark: Totally. I would say finance is also a unique organization. It’s kind of like the people group, or HR teams, where they had their purview as the entire company.

You work with every single department. So I think it gives you a unique perspective on your company. It’s a great place to be.

Neil: Do you find that you end up working with product managers or marketing a lot, since those are the folks who are doing these sorts of digging around what’s the ROI on a lot of things?

Mark: All the time. I’m interacting almost daily with our product and marketing folks. Not every single person, but things come up all the time that require discussion, and it’s great. It’s a really collaborative spirit I think, especially at my company where we try to work together and find the best solution.

Stephanie: Yeah. I think product, marketing, sales, to be honest, all groups I try to spend as much time with each of the groups because they all have needs, and there’s context there that it’s really valuable for the company regardless of the other group on the other side.

Neil: So, let’s switch gears a little bit. We’ve been talking about building a career and being successful in your career. If you’re speaking to an entrepreneur or to a founder who’s starting their first company, they’re acting right now as the bookkeeper, the controller, the accountant, the finance, everything, and they’re thinking about hiring someone, what should they be thinking about? What should they be looking for and their first finance hire or accounting?

Mark: I’ve been fortunate to work with companies at the seed stage, maybe five people in a room, to public companies, and I would say, to an entrepreneur who’s starting out, maybe earlier stage, it’s important to bring on a hire that’s based upon what you need.

Some companies, they’re not ready to launch their product for one or two more years. They’re not necessarily generating revenue. And at that time it doesn’t make sense to bring on a head of finance. I think in those cases, it’s totally acceptable to have an outsourced accounting firm do your books, or maybe it’s one in-house accountant who can help you with all the accounting tasks.

But I would say, when you get to the point where you are generating revenue and you do need a more robust financial model and you are talking to investors, it’s incredibly important to have somebody who knows what they’re talking about and who knows what they’re doing. With financial models and helping you with your fundraising. So I would say before you get to the position where you really need somebody hire in advance of that need if possible.

Stephanie: Yup. Can’t agree more. I think pre-revenue, you may not need someone in-house, but the point to me is, once you believe you need to start modeling the business, you want someone who owns the model, that knows what they’re doing.

I’d say traditionally, someone who’d be comfortable as director or above, that would be the level I would look for. Once I realized that I need a model that is ongoing and iterative and I want somebody to own that in house.

Mark: Hiring top-down is really important, and you want to make sure that you’re bringing in somebody who knows how to assess the situation appropriately. I think if you bring in somebody a little junior, candidly, they’re not going to have as much experience and they’re not really gonna know what’s necessary. And so I think bringing in somebody who can lead your organization effectively, especially for that department, we’ll know actually who do I need to hire and when.

Image via Getty Images / John M Lund Photography Inc

Neil: And would you move? I mean immediately, I imagine you’d move controlling and bookkeeping and accounting and everything under that person?

Mark: Yes, absolutely.

Neil: Yeah. That makes sense. So you’d hire someone senior, how would you recommend that person be managed? You know, how closely do you think that part needs to be managed? Should you give them free reign or be very hands-on?

Mark: Yeah, I would say let them, you know, don’t micromanage them, but at the same time, there needs to be a very close sync between the founder and your first senior finance hire. I would say it’s almost like daily, you want to be in step or in lockstep with them.

I’d say just for any employee, if they’re not meeting your expectations, I do think that you should shorten the leash a bit and be a little bit more attentive to what they’re working on and what they’re doing. And maybe sometimes they just need a little bit more information or guidance. But I think when you hire somebody good, you’ll realize that they’re just adding a ton of value immediately, and you won’t need to micromanage them.

Stephanie: Yeah, I totally agree that being attached at the hip with the CEO is really important for this initial hire to understand the business and to always be in lockstep with them in terms of the vision and the direction the company’s going. And then, if you’re hiring at that right level, you shouldn’t have to micromanage the actual tasks and day to day you guys are thinking about the direction of the company and prioritization.

Neil: Yeah, I meet with a lot of founders, and most often they’re coming from a product or product development backgrounds where they’re full-stack developers, or product managers, or something on that side of the table. Or they’re from the sales and BD side.

Either way they’re not coming in with as deep experience on things like FP&A and accounting. So it’s one thing to not be putting numbers in the right places. It’s another to not have a grasp on when you actually are going to run out of cash. And if you invest your cash here or there, what’s the return on that going to be and make that planning.

For founders who are doing this for their first time, what kind of advice do you have on them managing something like that, where they’ve never done it before, they don’t really know how to do that. How quickly should they maybe get help from someone who may not be full time, but some sort of help?

Mark: As soon as possible. I would say it’s always good to have somebody who can really help you with the financial modeling and understanding runway, understanding burn. These things are incredibly important.

You never want to be in a position where you’re running out of money significantly faster than you thought you were because that can put you in a very bad situation. It can impact your valuation, it can impact your fundraise, etc.

So I think it’s really important to have somebody, even maybe even at the seed stage company, even if you’re not generating revenue, have somebody, even if it’s not a full time employee, have an advisor who actually knows what they’re doing to come in and give you advice, especially on an area that’s very complex like finance.

Stephanie: Yeah. I think in this day and age, with so many different outsource providers available at a relatively inexpensive cost, as soon as you hire your first employee, you now have payroll. So you need to take care of that.

And you can go to any of these firms and they can actually scale with you quite well from the seed through the A, maybe the B, as you start to develop your in house team alongside them so it’s not as cost-prohibitive to get the advice. And so I would say as soon as you start getting non-founder employees, and payroll, and whatnot becomes a regular item, you should start seeking some help.

Neil: To inverse the question, are there things that maybe a founder should feel free to take off their plate and not be as plugged in on and just expect this person, this first finance hire, to just handle, and not have to pay attention to? If so, what are the things that you don’t need to be as clued into as maybe something as important as when you’re gonna run out of cash or, or deeper FP&A questions?

Stephanie: I definitely think anything really to vendor management and payroll, we should be able to take that on as finance professionals, from the CEO, from the founders, and take care of that without them having to worry.

Mark: Yeah. I love how you said that, not having them worry. I think that’s the greatest service that you can provide to your boss as well as to your company is if you reduce worry. And you make their lives a lot easier. I definitely try to take that mantra.

Neil: Yeah. I think that’s true outside of work as well. When you can just have someone you’re like, they got it, it’s handled. I don’t have to worry about it. That’s huge.

So let’s switch gears again a little bit and ask some fun questions. Are there tools that you guys are using in the finance team or on the accounting side that you’re really excited about? New startups or even, you know, existing large companies that just really make your life easier?

Stephanie: I mean nowadays I think any sort of BI tool is really exciting to me, for insights. So be it Tableau to Looker, Chartio, Domo, any of those tools, they start to bleed into the finance world pretty quickly nowadays because they give you insights and help you make better decisions. I’m excited about that.

I really I think from an accounting perspective, I’ve been very curious about products like Xero that compete directly with Quickbooks for the very small early on companies. I think they are actually pretty intuitive and because they’re relatively new, the UI, and the interface is easier to understand for many folks.

Mark: Yeah, I definitely see a lot of great software products and tools that have been emerging over the past decade or so. And it’s great to see that new companies are coming in and taking advantage of big opportunities, whether it relates to company spend or how time is tracked.

We are excited to look into a different ERP, and there are lots of opportunities out there to enhance the tools that we use. So we use Looker internally for BI. But yeah, lots of great tools out there and it’s only getting better and better for companies.

Neil: How many things have moved outside of Excel, if anything, or is Excel really still the mainstay for what it used to be, from 5, 10 years ago?

Mark: So, a lot of things have moved outside of Excel, and I think that that’s the goal, is to get away from manual processes. But I think the reality is, Excel is still an incredibly useful tool for a lot of companies.

And you know, it’s almost a rite of passage in the finance world to still have very solid Excel training. And it helps actually, even with the tools that you use you know, whether it be a FP&A tool like, you know Anaplan or Adaptive Insights or something. I think that knowledge still transfers and is still highly relevant.

Stephanie: Yeah, I’d say Excel. The only thing I see folks using quite frequently now that maybe not saying 10, 15 years ago would be Google Sheets, which is essentially a version of Excel, but it allows for the collaboration component that makes, you know, Excel sort of tough.

And it’s not really a platform for shared workspace. You can’t both be working on the model at the same time. So I see that happening quite a lot before graduating to an Anaplan or an Adaptive or Host. You know, Excel is great, but I can’t share it. So let me try Google Sheets. Same formula, same logic. So Excel skills still translate, but now I can share it with folks and we can be collaborative.

Neil: Yeah. I do love the ability to collaborate. I don’t know when Google Sheets came out, it’s gotta be at least 10 years ago now, but I still don’t have the same shortcut skills that I do in Excel. That’s never going to get to the same level.

Mark: Yeah. To Stephanie’s point, I love using Google Sheets to share and collaborate with other departments, but I still find, though, that the more complex modeling needs to be done in Excel.

Image via Getty Images / DragonImages

Neil: Great. Are there any media that you guys liked that you recommend in terms of, I don’t think there’s gonna be any songs about finance, there’s a little rap music about finance, in a way. But any books, or movies, or anything that you’ve read or consumed or TV shows that you really liked either just because they’re entertaining, you enjoy, or because they’re informative?

Mark: Wow. I would say, this is not a finance book per se, but I’d really like “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.”

Neil: Yeah, that’s a popular response.

Mark: Yeah. It’s such a practical story. I mean, all the stories contained in that book are presumably true, and it’s such a great insight that you know, that’s provided. So I really enjoyed reading that. I know that Stephanie, you have another answer.

Stephanie: I mean, the most recent book I read was “Blitz Scaling”, which I think a lot of folks have read, and I actually find quite valuable as well. From a finance perspective, it’s written by a VC and you have so much interaction with investors, so it’s good to get inside the head of one and understand better how they think about building companies and what makes companies massively successful.

On top of that, I just like reading, versions of the trade. So TechCrunch, the Information, other types of news articles that are really specific to startups or just the VC community in general. Cool.

Neil: Cool. And then last question for you. If you could imagine a tool or a product that you could use at work that would accomplish something for you. What would be something that you want, that doesn’t exist today, that would just solve a problem? What’s the problem? What would it do?

Mark: So, I would say, our accounts payable is not that easy to manage. And we have hundreds of vendors, and lots of folks internally, that approve and require spending as part of their daily job. I don’t want to throw any big names under the bus.

Neil: Feel free. This is a good place to throw some bombs.

Mark: I think the solution we’re using now, which is a very big name, is not a robust enough solution. I actually think there’s a ton of opportunity in the finance and accounting world to build software that is more effective than what’s out there today.

Why did it take so long for even something like TripActions, for corporate travel, to come along that’s better? I mean corporate credit cards; I just can’t believe that the solutions out there today are not perfect. And we’ve tried multiple ones.

And so I would say, you know, it’s important that they keep advancing the ball and helping their customers. I think they’ll get there. The one we’re using today is the best of the available options, I think. But yeah, it’s still not perfect.

Stephanie: Yeah. I think spend, the tools around that can always get improved. I think on the revenue side, we have great tools for rev rec, especially for SaaS products, for larger companies that are quite expensive.

Neil: Can you unpack rev rec real quick, just for anyone who doesn’t know?

Stephanie: Rev rec is revenue recognition. So the timing of when a customer pays you versus when you can recognize that as revenue for your business based on some accounting logic in roles. And there are great large companies like Zuora and Recurly and all that out there to help assist larger companies.

But as a smaller, cash-conscious startup, I think it’s still hard to find a product like that, that’s available to you at a price point that makes sense. And it can be a much lighter version of it, but I don’t see that out there right now. It would be great, I think, for a lot of newer companies who aren’t quite ready to graduate into one of the bigger software products.

Neil: There we go. So, for our founders listening, they’ll have some product ideas they can build here. Great. Well, Mark and Stephanie, thank you for joining us. This has been an episode of the Operators talking about finance.

Mark and Stephanie: Thanks for having us.