Nigerian fintech startup Accounteer, which provides online accounting services for small businesses, is to open an office in Nairobi, Kenya next year after passing the 10,000 user mark.
Founded in 2015 by current chief executive officer (CEO) Merijn Campsteyn, Accounteer allows users to can create invoices, track expenses and register payments, among other things.
It recently launched ‘Accounting as a Service’, meaning it does not only provide accounting software but takes care of all of a business’ accounting activities.
“You’ll be teamed up with a dedicated accountant that will process all your expenses, banks statements, file your taxes and manage your payroll, all for a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house accountant,” Campsteyn told Disrupt Africa. “With our ‘Accounting as a Service’ you can be assured that your books are always up to date. As a business owner you’ll also have more time available to focus on what’s really important – growing your business.”
This positive impact has made its mark, with Accounteer now having over 10,000 active users in 75 different countries across the world. Its biggest markets are Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast, with Campsteyn saying the startup is preparing the opening of a second office in Nairobi, which is likely to take place in March 2019.
Accounteer’s, which makes money from subscriptions, has had a strong 2018. It won US$50,000 at the MEST Africa Challenge in June, and was also accepted onto the Itanna accelerator in Lagos. Last week it announced it had secured funding from early-stage investment platform Microtraction, to add to previous investment from Ventures Platform and MEST.
Campsteyn’s original plan was to start the company with two former colleagues at Deloitte, where he working working at the time. He was the first to quit his job and work full-time on Accounteer, but the others decided not to join. Campsteyn chose to push forward on his own, enlisting the support of Andela to take care of the technical development. The rest is history thanks for the significant need the startup spotted.
“We saw that while Africans are very creative and entrepreneurial many business owners struggle to grow. Access to capital remains difficult. The average SME is overpaying taxes. And many business owners don’t have the right data and insights to properly manage their operations. All these problems can be traced back to the lack of accurate and trustworthy financial accounts,” said Campsteyn.
“It’s a problem that the team at Accounteer decided to solve by offering accounting software that was built with the entrepreneur in mind. The software is easy to use and accessible even to those that don’t have a financial background. It was built specifically for the African market. The application can connect to local banks and digital services offering a level of automation international players can’t.”
Accounteer’s biggest competitor is still pen and paper.
“The majority of the businesses that do keep records – and there are a lot that don’t – only keep paper records. Then there is a group that manages their finances with the help of spreadsheets. It’s only a small percentage that uses dedicated accounting software. But it’s changing rapidly,” Campsteyn said.
“We feel more and more businesses want to run their operations more professionally. It’s a mindset that is changing where entrepreneurs don’t see accounting as something they must do, but as a valuable tool to manage their business. There’s also increased regulation and better follow-up from the governments that are forcing companies to become compliant.”
Accounteer has faced a few challenges, however. Regulation was one of the major issues when it started operations in Nigeria.
“It took us six months to register the company and open a bank account. We got a lot of support from Ventures Platform and DIYlaw, but even then the paperwork was a nightmare. Luckily we’re now past that stage and are able to operate our business,” said Campsteyn.
Another big challenge was the team.
“It’s not always easy to find the right people to work in a startup. At a startup, the job roles are not well defined. One moment you find yourself in tech, the next moment in sales, then support. There’s always something new happening,” he said.
“A lot of the problems we need to solve have never been solved before. As a startup, you need creative thinkers which are hands-on and drive the company forward. We’ve been fortunate to find the right profiles, and grow Accounteer to a strong ten-person team.”
One of the main lessons the startup learned the hard way was not trying to do all a once.
“When we first launched we had the idea of building a product for Africa and launched it in every country we could think of. We soon realised there were a lot of differences between the different regions. There are cultural differences to be taken into account in your sales process. And different markets have different needs in terms of functionality,” Campsteyn said.
“It’s impossible to satisfy all customer requests with a small team. Rather than providing little value to everyone – and not being able to differentiate ourselves – we decided to take a step back and focus on a single market, establish a solid base, and expand from there. Given we already had a team in Nigeria the logical step was to put our focus on the Nigerian market.”
But even a country can still be a too large market to target. Accounteer is now creating verticals around a single industry. One example of that is the retail market, for which it is currently building a specific feature set.
“We’re adding point of sale and inventory management functionality to our core product to cover the needs of this specific industry,” said Campsteyn. “For each industry we create a dedicated sales process. It’s an advice we can give to all starting entrepreneurs. Find your niche where you can make a difference and grow step-by-step.”