You did a Bachelor of Software Engineering after school. What inspired that choice?
I finished school in 1998, which was right in the middle of the .com bubble. I thought I would walk out of uni into a high paying IT job. It turns out reality didn’t meet expectations, as the bubble had burst before I finished my degree. On the positive side, I knew demand for software developers was only going to grow as time went on.
Afterwards you worked in roles with Macquarie Group and Greater Bank in software. How did that influence or inspire your start-up Finactly?
Back in 2006/07 I completed an MBA at Newcastle Uni and that’s where I developed a passion for finance. This led me to work at both Macquarie Group and Greater Bank. The domain knowledge I’ve gained working in both investment and retail banks has helped me immensely with my FinTech (financial technology) startup.
When and how did you come up with the idea for Finactly?
The inspiration for Finactly comes from a personal experience in 2010. My wife Suzie and I were living in Sydney at the time and as many Sydneysiders do, we escaped the city for a weekend away. The following week I found a suspicious transaction on my account. It had “Dubbo” in the description. Considering we travelled North, not West, I reported this to my bank as fraud. A day later I had worked out it was for fuel in Port Macquarie! I felt like a fool calling the bank to admit I made a mistake. Fast forward to 2017 and I came up with a solution to this problem. I could match the payment reference with the name, address and phone number of the business that made the transaction.
Who did you bring in to help you?
I have had many people help along the way. The crew from Slingshot are amazing and know startups inside out. Newcastle Uni and Jobs For NSW have assisted with desk space and an MVP Grant. I am fortunate to have a mentor and a few experienced advisors that I can turn to for advice. As for the product development, I have had two software engineering graduates work on the solution. Then there are the ever-generous local businesses that have answered our questions and trialled the service. It takes a community to raise a startup and Newcastle really delivers.
How did your minimum viable product change as you went along?
It completely changed! Initially I had intended to provide data to banks for them to display in their internet banking applications. However, this takes a considerable amount of time to implement and I needed to validate the business idea faster. So, we developed a web application to give everyone access, whether they work at a bank or any other business. This ended up being a big win, since we can now offer our service to bookkeepers and accountants.
What precisely does Finactly do?
We run Finactly.com which is a website where users can enter a payment reference and find out what business it is associated with. The data comes from a variety of sources and includes the option for users to suggest updates.
Who benefits/is the end user – the public, corporates?
The people affected the most by the problem of unexplained transactions are the ones that must reconcile business accounts. Accountants, bookkeepers and small business owners all feel this pain. It’s a real headache for businesses that we are happy to solve.
The people affected the most by the problem of unexplained transactions are the ones that must reconcile business accounts.Josh Leask
How have you monetised it?
We provide access to our website through a monthly subscription. If you spend more than 15 minutes a month looking up transactions, than you will save money using our service.
You participated in Slingshot – how did that assist your business?
Before we started Slingshot, it was just an idea and without the ICON Accelerator program I doubt it would ever have become a business. Accelerator is a very fitting term, as we’ve achieved in 9 months what would normally take years.
You’ve just been selected as one of 100 Fintech startups globally to join the Money 20/20 Startup Academy. What does that mean as far as business development and funding?
The Startup Academy is based in America and will give us an excellent platform to launch our product into that market, which has 28 million small businesses Vs 2 million in Australia. There is a much stronger culture in the US for venture capital funding and I will be meeting with a dozen of the largest venture capital firms as a part of the program.
What are your aspirations for the business within the next 12 months?
Reconciling business accounts can be a painful process. I’d like to help as many bookkeepers and accountants as possible to reduce the time they waste chasing up unexplained transactions and let them focus on more fulfilling work. If you are a local bookkeeper or accountant, please reach out to us for a free trial as I would love to give back to the community that has supported us to get where we are today.