One of the biggest challenges for any business owner is finance and expense management, and how the two can be efficiently controlled. The role of the CFO becomes increasingly critical and complex as startups scale, and as founders of three startups, it was something brothers Swapnil Shinde and Snehal Shinde experienced first-hand across their all their entrepreneurial journeys.
Riding on their experience, the duo launched Zeni in July 2019. The platform is an AI-powered finance concierge for startups, providing intelligent bookkeeping, accounting, and CFO services. The platform has been running in stealth mode for over a year.
Along with the launch of the product, the startup has also announced its Series A funding of $13.5 million led by Saama Capital, with participation from Amit Singhal, Sierra Ventures, SVB Financial Group , Liquid 2 Ventures, Firebolt Ventures, Dragon Capital, and Twin Ventures, with additional prominent angel investors.
Since the launch
In the last year, Zeni has processed more than $300 million in transactions, and is on track to process a total of $1 billion in transactions in the next 12 months.
“There are so many financials you need to worry about, it starts with book-keeping, then bill payments, then financial projections, employee reimbursements, manage investment flows, tax filings, etc. It gets complicated as the startup scales,” says Swapnil.
The funds will be primarily used for product growth and development. Speaking on why they chose to startup, Swapnil explains the traditional way of bookkeeping gets too fragmented, human intensive, and error prone.
What does it do?
“Zeni aims to be single finance concierge, it is an AI-based CFO that manages all your financial functions. The platform integrates with startups’ bank accounts, credit cards, payroll providers, or expense management system section. It is like Zeni is running your finance department,” says Swapnil.
The platform is AI-powered, and uses automation and machine learning behind the scenes, and yet there is a human being that oversees all of the functions. “We give real-time insights every single day,” says Swapnil.
The duo felt it was important to build a robust and scalable AI-powered platform, so that all the functions that bookkeepers and accountants do every day gets automated. “Our previous startup had over 10 million customers across seven countries, and was strongly AI powered. We are a team that has done it before, just that instead of travel, we are doing it on the finance front,” says Snehal.
The total team size of Zeni is currently 40. Swapnil explains the problem that most companies face is a global one, and most of their companies use the platform across different parts of the world.
“The Zeni dashboard is something that any founder can use anytime to get real-time access to financial insights of the platform,” adds Swapnil.
The platform offers bill pay and invoicing, expense and receipt management, financial projections, budgeting, and FP&A support, payroll administration, real-time reporting on Zeni dashboard, monthly financial statements, and yearly taxes and R&D Credit.
Swapnil explains the dashboards help startup founders see the net revenue, run rate, and cash burn rate. “These three important metrics will give the founder a sense of the money required to run their startup every single month, and a runway of how long it can continue to work in the same way. The algorithms run this automatically.”
The platform also shows snapshots of bank accounts, operating expenses of how much money the startup is spending, credit cards, and some other insights.
“The AI-powered insights also provide business owners with snapshots of what kind of expenses were there in any given month, so that the founders can take actionable steps to control expenses or increase revenue,” explains Swapnil.
Market and future
There are multiple payroll management and HR tech platforms with finance management systems like greyTHR and ZingHR. Zeni, though, claims to be a fully integrated platform. Customers are charged a flat fee of between $299 and $499 basis their monthly expenses. Swapnil explains the pandemic also got the platform huge traction. “Since everyone is working remotely, Zeni is their remote finance team that managed everything for them.”
“We plan to add more features to our dashboard, and we will continue focus on robotic process automation for our growth in 2021,” says. Swapnil.