Many people have an accountant - perhaps you do - but what you may not realise is just how incredibly busy accountants are, running and managing their own practice. So we started Senta with a really simple concept: to build a great cloud service to help accountants run their practice.
We have found each accountant needs to keep track of 10 to 15,000 tasks every year. And each client service – VAT, payroll, tax returns and so on – has various deadlines and document requirements, many of them recurring. Even without the accounting, just running an accountancy practice takes a lot of time.
We want to give accountants a solution that will ease their admin burden and help them earn extra fees. So we’ve created Senta: an elegant cloud service with powerful features to schedule tasks & deadlines, help with marketing & CRM, and improve security and customer service.
Senta aims to help practices increase their productivity, boost their profits and deliver great customer service.
We have found that with many accountants offering fixed-price accounting, competition is fierce. Efficiency is essential to cut costs and increase revenue opportunities. With Senta, our aim is to enable accountants to spend more time finding new business and doing fee-paying work.
Our platform looks after an accountant's clients throughout their life-cycle. Senta automatically initiates all the services and jobs for a client, prompting practice staff or clients to complete tasks and provide information as required. Senta seeks approvals and sends emails and notifications as required. It keeps track of client deadlines, and schedules work in advance so that nothing is missed.
Senta keeps practices informed too. Practice staff receive notifications for everything they need to do, and it informs practice managers if anything is not going to plan. And a customisable dashboard lets everyone see the information that is most important to them.
Senta comes ready to go. When users sign up, they don't need to spend days or weeks configuring and setting up – jobs such as VAT, accounts and payroll are in the platform from the moment they sign up. Straight away, Senta will start giving them jobs to do. And we believe this is really important to accountancy practices. Most practices are small, 1-10 staff, and cannot afford the time and expense that server or PC-based software demands.
Everything in Senta can be configured simply and powerfully. Whether it's new forms, workflows, services, emails or deadlines, the practice can completely change the way Senta works for them.
There's no capital expenditure and no maintenance: they just sign up and start. And if we do our job right, we hope we'll keep those customers for life.
With the time-savings, efficiencies and increased revenue opportunities, accountancy firms could benefit hugely by using Senta.
Substantial accomplishments to date
We've funded ourselves while we designed and built the product. We've produced a software platform that runs in any browser on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Senta is deployed and ready to launch.
We joined WebStart Bristol's Summer 2014 incubator programme, researching the market and discovering what accountants need. We then started work on our minimum viable product (MVP) – design and user interface first, then concentrating on delivering a robust and scalable platform.
After gathering feedback on the MVP, we've refined and extended Senta ready for launch. This includes building our website, with self-service sign-up, and adding inline help, a support portal and knowledge base. We've also developed a roadmap for the product's development over the next few releases.
In preparation for launch, we've recruited two NEDs, who'll help us with corporate and financial matters. We've developed a strong brand and commercial plans for a high-growth business.
Senta has a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model that is very scalable, with good margins.
We would charge accountancy practices a monthly per-user charge of up to £29 per month (less if paid annually). Their clients use it free of charge, and larger practices will pay less per user. We would offer each practice a free, unlimited 30-day trial.
Senta users get every feature that is in the product, and would be given access automatically to every new feature that we develop. We want every user to get a better experience month by month and we believe this would help ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty – as well as boost word-of-mouth recommendations.
Our high margins mean that we can invest heavily in marketing and continued product development. This would drive rapid growth and ensure low churn.
Use of proceeds
Investment raised through Seedrs would be used to take us to a break-even, cash-positive position.
We would use investment for:
• marketing materials, such as webinars and explainer videos
• promotional activity
• continued product development
• support staff
We need to drive customers into our sales process but ensure they have a great product experience – right from the start of their trial period with Senta. We believe that support staff play a critical role in the successful conversion from trial to long-term client. That means giving clear, accurate, engaging advice and guidance to users about how to integrate Senta into their businesses.
We would invest in diverse promotional activities, such as pay-per-click (PPC) and content marketing, monitoring the ROI closely to identify the most profitable promotional channels.
We would accept over-funding, using additional funds to accelerate our marketing programme
Our target market is small accountancy firms, and we think they're going to make great customers. Accountants are smart people, who use technology as a core part of their work. They also have a big problem to solve: there are an overwhelming number of tasks and deadlines to keep track of in an accountancy practice, and we have a great solution for them.
There are 38,000 accountancy firms in the UK, with a total of 250,000 employees. The majority of these are small practices – one to ten people – and we're going to concentrate on this sector of the market first. We believe it's easy for a small practice to trial and buy SaaS.
65% of them don't have practice management software, so there's a great market for us in the UK alone.
But we don't have to stop there. We can configure the platform for other markets around the world and we intend to expand internationally once we've gained experience here.
In Europe, for example, there were approximately 580,000 accountancy firms in 2012 and we expect that figure to have grown in recent years. This represents a huge market close to home. We would also seek to enter other English-speaking markets, especially the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Senta is also ready for use in other verticals too. What makes Senta special for accountants is configuration, not code. We could take out the accounting-specific configuration and drop in new workflows, services, tasks and so on for different areas of professional practice. We've already had interest from legal practitioners who've seen the product.
There are many larger accountancy firms too, but the sales process will be longer and they are likely to need integration with legacy systems. However, we've been talking to potential partners who work with large firms, and our product would already be a good fit for them.
For the moment though, we're concentrating on our core market: small accountancy firms in the UK.
Characteristics of target market
We believe that small practices want help with three aspects of their business: practice efficiency, marketing and improved technology.
With firms moving to a fixed-price model, we have found practice efficiency is a hot topic in the profession. Our platform could make a significant difference to practices' efficiencies and costs, yet still improve their customer service.
Accountants are increasingly marketing-led, winning business from all over the country, and the light-touch CRM in Senta could help with that.
One of the major topics in the accounting market is cloud computing. We have found that many accountants are getting prepared for the cloud now, or are using software such as Xero and QuickBooks, so we believe that our timing is perfect. Cloud computing is sufficiently mature to gain accountants' trust, and of course many accountants' clients are already using the cloud for storage and computing.
We believe a cloud-based practice management platform, like Senta, should be at the heart of the modern practice.
Our overall strategy is to create strong brand awareness in the UK accounting market, through the publications they read and the leading websites they visit. Our efforts would be focused on testing a range of promotional channels so we can build a winning marketing machine. The cost of acquiring a customer is one of our key metrics, so we'll be monitoring the ROI on each channel.
Our main areas of focus would be:
• Press releases targeting relevant accountancy websites, publications and newsletters.
• Newsletter and article sponsorships online with leading accountancy websites.
Online and offline advertising
• PPC search ads on Google.
• PPC on Twitter & LinkedIn.
• Offline advertising in accountancy-related magazines and journals.
SEO / content marketing
• Blogging about matters relating to accountancy practice management and how our product can help with new challenges faced by accountants in their practices, such as profitability, time management, marketing and CRM, work/life balance, and so forth.
• Initially Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn feeds covering similar issues as the blogs above.
• Over time developing a deeper social media strategy to include more engaging social content.
Referral programmes and partnerships
• Accountants who may want to refer colleagues.
• Related businesses who deal with accountants.
• Advisers and consultants who may promote our platform.
• Integrations with other software products, which would bring incidental business.
Direct marketing online and offline.
We have found there are competitors in this market offering practice management systems, but most are stuck in the old-fashioned world of installed software. We have noticed that some suppliers are only now talking about moving to the cloud in the next few years.
We believe our cloud platform, our determination to provide an innovative and evolving product will help us succeed. And we would make it easy for people to buy into Senta: a free trial and premium support from the outset. Everything in our sales process is designed to reduce friction: no servers, no networks, no purchase order, no installation. Clients would quickly see the benefits and start to use Senta.
Senta is useful from the first minute. It would run practices pro-actively and would help them be more profitable. Rather than just record what they’re doing, Senta would do work for the practices.
We've not only designed a product which addresses their explicit needs, but draws upon our years of experience building and using Web2.0 systems. We believe the powerful Senta platform could help accountants in ways they had no idea was even possible, yet it uses a modern, intuitive, light-touch user experience that keeps the learning curve low. And this delight can only continue in the future as we look to incorporate truly advanced technologies like Machine Learning into the mix.
Here's why we'll succeed:
• We have a marketing plan that will identify and focus on the most effective marketing channels.
• We have built and deployed our platform in the cloud from day one
• We've designed Senta by interviewing and surveying accountants and discovering what their actual problems are.
• Clients start with a free trial period.
• No tech expertise is required to run Senta.
• We offer inclusive help and support.
• We're agnostic about integrations and not tied to a particular accounting platform.
• We're continually innovating and improving the Senta platform.
• There's no capital expenditure for our clients – just a simple monthly fee.