Many, especially small businesses, wish that they could make the process of accounting and taxation a lot easier, or do away with it altogether. Score.org conducted a survey among 1000 small and medium sized businesses, which revealed that 47% of these business dislike the cost associated with accounting and 13% dislike the administrative headaches and time that this process takes
All this points towards the need for a faster, automated and more efficient accounting system. A need being fulfilled by advances in technology - namely artificial intelligence, blockchain and cloud computing. More and more data is being moved to the cloud, allowing accountants and businesses alike to streamline their workflow and focus on attaining new insights for their work rather than wasting time on mundane tasks.
Some areas in accountancy such as bookkeeping, data-entry, invoice management and payments were the low-hanging fruit and first to change.There are, however, many other areas that are ripe for the picking. Two in particular, analysis/intelligence and sales/onboarding/customer interaction, are of high interest.
At the Ascension Fintech Program, two startups Deeply and Nextax were focused exactly on these areas. Details of these two ventures, the accompanying market environment and their value proposition are mentioned below.
For both individuals and businesses, the tax season entails collecting tons of documents and sending lots of emails. On the accountants side, numerous man hours are spent sifting through emails and matching documents with the right file.
Needless to say, errors are a part of this process, leading to delays and frustrations on both sides. Zakaria Frooni, founder at Nextax aims to solve this problem by automating the entire process of document exchange and filling.
Nuance Communications in the United States, more of an SME rather than a startup, is a veteran in this area and provides workflow process automation solution through Nuance Imaging. Taxaroo is another startup focused on providing a customized solution for accountants. Canopy, another huge player, currently is at Series C with USD 72 MN in funding. There is a lot of competition, but the size of the market is huge and space for many players to exist.
Who’s behind Nextax?
Zakaria Frooni, a software engineer graduate from Concordia University, is filed with perseverance and motivation. During the Ascension program, he learned the business side of things such as marketing, validation and the customer experience, showcasing the multi-skilled and adaptive entrepreneur he is.
Filing taxes can be a challenge. To begin with, tax laws use complicated terminology that are hard to understand for the average individual. Apart from that, it is important to comprehend the nitty-gritty of of these laws that usually change from year to year. Most cannot afford an accountant, and thus resort to Google searches and Reddit posts to make sense of things.
Deeply's goal is to solve this problem by creating a chatbot that provides information to individual tax filers. They call themselves “automaters” and want to go beyond just chatbots, by using AI wherever possible. The big vision for Deeply's team is to move into the realm of startups such as Smacc and MindBridge, with funding of USD 3.8MN and 12.7 MN respectively, that are using AI to completely automate the auditing and taxation process.
This is why they have pivoted and modified their original product, so that it can be used for other language processing problems. A wise move given that behemoths like Liveperson, valued at USD 210 MN, are starting to face falling revenues.
Who’s behind Deeply?
Another team that formed at Desjardins' Coopérathon last year. Two students one from Applied Mathematics (Jonathan Guymont), and the other from Actuarial Sciences (Charles Desmeules), surprised with numerous manual tasks that corporations are involved in. Their goal – use artificial intelligence to make organizations more cost effective and efficient.
Where are they now?
Nextax is already in talks with certain tax accountants in the city, who would serve as beta-testers for his product. He is a multi-talented individual who can do many things, but is always open for discussions with those who want to join him.
Deeply’s team is doing a deep-dive into other natural language processing applications of their product, along with exploring upcoming opportunities for AI applications in business processes.
They are always looking to talk to business owners who have a similar vision, and want to create better and more efficient enterprises.