In the Spotlight Interview: Founder of Clear Books Cloud Accounting Software
1. Hey Tim, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your company…
I started the company in 2008 as a one man band, working by myself from home to get the company started. The company now has over 40 employees and last year we moved to a new, larger office to continue our growth.
Our slogan is ‘Together we save time’ – which reflects the key elements of Clear Books. The ‘Together’ element reflects the fact we are community-driven – we’re part-owned by our customers and our online forum allows customers to ask questions and suggest and vote on new feature ideas, which shape our product roadmap. The time element is because this is where our customers tell us we help them the most – by saving them valuable time so they can focus on growing their business.
2. What inspired you to start Clear Books?
I was an ICAEW chartered accountant so had a knowledge and interest in accounting, but also had an interest in software development. My mother had her own small business, a theatre group, and she was using spreadsheets to do her accounts which seemed to me a time-consuming and manual way of doing things. I wanted to come up with a better way so created a basic cloud accounting software for her, and Clear Books developed from here.
3. What did you do prior to this?
Just before starting Clear Books I worked as an equity research analyst at Arbuthnot Securities (now Westhouse Securities) in London. Before that, I was working as an Audit Assistant Manager at KPMG and graduated from the University of Nottingham with a 2:1 in Mathematics.
4. Similarly to you I started Tax Twerk from home. Can you give our readers 1 main tip for growing their own business from home?
Save your previous startup capital and only move into office space if you have to. My wife wasn’t too keen on bumping into Clear Books’ first employee in our flat so that’s when Clear Books moved into a small serviced office.
5. What fuels you to keep going each day?
To learn more about what makes a business successful and to continue to grow Clear Books as a successful business with the help of our brilliant team supporting our many thousands of small business customers.
6. What has been your most memorable achievement with Clear Books so far?
After considering ways to generate extra funding to help the company grow, we decided to take the unusual step of creating our own crowdfunding platform. We re-registered as a plc and invited our customer base to invest in us, raising the target of £839,000 in one month. In 2014, we raised over £700,000 in a second round of cloud funding. We’re really proud of this achievement, as it allows us to grow thanks to the input of the people who really matter, our customers.
7. Now for my killer question… What makes Clear Books different to Xero?
We’re very proud to be a UK business, which means we are able to offer fantastic free support to our customers by phone, email and live chat.
We also place great emphasis on community, which combined with being UK based allows us to be flexible and responsive to our customers’ needs . Our online community forum allows customers to suggest and vote on ideas which can be quickly implemented by our UK team, meaning Clear Books is constantly improving and is always shaped by what its users (and shareholders) want to see.
8. What is the biggest change you would like make for small businesses in the next 5 years?
Clear Books has flourished because we’ve created a cloud accounting software alternative to Sage. Innovation and technological disruption are at the heart of what we’ve done over the past five years. Over the next five years we’ve got many big ideas to save small businesses more time to help them become more efficient and successful.