This bonus episode features an interview and demo with Jotham Ty, founder and CEO of Gappify (https://www.gappify.com/), which builds "Bots for Accountants, By Accountants." Jotham shares what inspired him to build a bot for accountants, and in particular, industry accountants in midsize companies. He shares details on "Alan" (the bot) and gives us a live demo of Alan doing vendor onboarding for a company on NetSuite. The interview was recorded via Facebook Live on Friday, May 31.
- 00:16 - Welcome to the Cloud Accounting Podcast!
- 01:02 - Correction: Gappify is true automation (not fake bots)
- 03:09 - Jotham's background in the Big Four and then SOX compliance consulting
- 04:06 - What is Gappify Alan and what does it do?
- 07:13 - How does Alan work behind the scenes?
- 11:00 - The value proposition of Gappify for a midsize company
- 13:16 - About Gappify, including their participation in the AICPA startup accelerator
- 16:48 - Live demo of Gappify Alan
- 24:07 - Who is a good fit for Gappify as a customer?
- 25:29 - What does Gappify cost?
- 26:14 - Do you find challenges with customization?
- 28:41 - Are you still building a bot to pass the CPA exam?
- 32:36 - Do you think companies will stop customizing so much?
- 36:16 - How to get in touch with Jotham Ty and learn about Gappify (https://www.gappify.com/)
Get in Touch
David Leary: I still see some progress here on my browser tab.
Blake Oliver: I see a notification.
David Leary: Okay.
Blake Oliver: Yep, we're live.
David Leary: We're live. Okay.
Blake Oliver: All right!
David Leary: Perfect. Hello, everybody. We managed to get over the technical hurdles here, and we are all set up. Welcome, welcome, welcome! This is the special bonus edition, bonus episode. Our Facebook Live bonus episode, and our second one we've ever done. We [00:00:30] have a special guest, Jotham Ty. He's the founder of Gappify. This episode is sponsored by CPA.com, so, thanks for making that possible. We'll probably go maybe about 15-20 minutes just interviewing Jotham, and then, Jotham will actually do a demo of Gappify, and then we'll open the floor up to any Q&A. If you guys have Q&A along the way, please use the comments to the right, there, and we'll ... Blake and I will read those, and get those asked along the way. Without further ado, Blake, did you wanna give a little wave? Sometimes [00:01:00] people don't see our faces.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, hi, everybody! Blake, here. Thank you for joining us for this special bonus episode of The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I wanted to start off with a correction. I don't know, David, in 76 episodes, have we done a correction? I don't think so.
David Leary: That doesn't mean we haven't said anything wrong.
Blake Oliver: Right, but this time I made a big mistake, and that is actually the reason why we're having this Facebook Live today. Listeners of the show might recall previous coverage of Gappify, and [00:01:30] everybody, I think, who listens knows that I am a big fan of bots these days. I've been on somewhat of a one-person crusade in figuring out what exactly is going on with bots in the accounting profession, the accounting industry, and tech, and trying to figure out how much of this is really AI and how much of this is human.
Here's my correction is that I mistakenly lumped Gappify in with some other fake-bot coverage. Jotham reached [00:02:00] out and corrected me on that, or at least explained what's really going on. What happened is I was browsing through Gappify's website. I came across your website, Jotham, and I was learning all about Gappify Alan. Alan is what you guys call your technology, your bot, is that right?
Jotham Ty: Yeah, technically, we call it a process bot, but I'll elaborate later.
Blake Oliver: Exactly. Okay, great. I'm looking forward to hearing about that. I also saw that you had job postings for an accountant or accountants in [00:02:30] The Philippines. I made a connection, thinking, "Oh, this is another situation where we've got bots that are really human beings in The Philippines." You reached out, and you told me that that's actually for internal Gappify accounting, and that there are zero human beings involved in any of your, what do you call it, process-automation technology? Thank you for correcting that, and I apologize for lumping you in incorrectly with some other, perhaps, less-upfront [00:03:00] types of enterprises. Yeah, I'm looking forward to learning more about Gappify ... What do you think we should do, David?
David Leary: Let's learn about Jotham, first. My understanding is you're an accountant first, so what's some of your background?
Jotham Ty: I started my accounting career in 2002. I left KPMG in 2004 to start one of the first Sarbanes-Oxley compliance practices in the San Francisco Bay area. What that really means is I went around and [00:03:30] created flow charts, and documented controls, and tested controls for mid-market, and enterprise companies.
I did that for several years. Spent a couple of years in industry, helped build an accounting team, and take it through its IPO, first 10-K, 10-Q filings, all that good stuff. Then a few years ago, we wanted to, or I wanted to take all the knowledge that I consumed - in, what is that, 15 years? I can't do the math right now - and create a comprehensive solution that can [00:04:00] finally get us accountants out of spreadsheets. That's how Gappify was born.
Blake Oliver: Tell us more about Gappify and Alan, and how are you helping to get accountants out of spreadsheets? What exactly does Alan do?
Jotham Ty: Alan is a process bot, or a process-automation bot ... By the way, the terminology, across the industry, is not consistent yet, so it definitely lends itself to a lot of confusion. For us, we're [00:04:30] more concerned about what it actually does. As a solution, we want to get skilled accountants, and really high-caliber accountants out of maintaining, and rolling forward spreadsheets. That's something that I saw over the years.
In fact, I managed accounting teams, where folks on my accounting team have asked me deliberately, "I don't want to do invoice processing anymore, I think we can do more," but back then, without automation, I had to say, "Well someone's gonna have to process those 400-500 [00:05:00] invoices, and we don't have an automation solution, so, sorry, you're gonna have to do it." That just kind of stuck with me for a while. I think there are just so many high-potential accountants out there. We can do much better than just maintaining spreadsheets. That's how we kind of ran with the idea.
David Leary: During that journey, did you have your employees try some of the off-the-shelf remote process-automation tools that are out there, or did they try to learn code themselves, your whole department? What was that [00:05:30] journey?
Jotham Ty: Yeah, I definitely can recall ... Well, this is 2010, so this is when the cloud was first emerging. I remember walking into my accounts-payable lead's desk and seeing stacks of paperwork with expense reports. I just said to myself, "There's got to be a better way of doing this." You can't just manually crunch pages, and pages of expense reports on Excel, and then entering them again into our accounting system, which at that time was Intacct. We set off on a journey to find an [00:06:00] expense-report solution. We ended up going with Coupa; that was when they were earlier.
It's still an uphill battle. We may have gotten that person away from processing expense reports manually. The severity of the problem is so huge in corporate accounting and, obviously, FloQast, in the closed-management area, knows a lot about that. Even with these cloud solutions available to us, it's still not enough. We asked our customers, "How much of your day do you spend on spreadsheets still?" They easily say, "Half of our days, even though we have AvaTax, even though we [00:06:30] have FloQast or Blackline," or whatever solution you have. That's where the name Gappify really comes in. We want to fill the gap in between these systems, and I think a process bot is the best way to do that.
Blake Oliver: I think you mentioned mid-market, like mid-sized companies. You guys are interesting, because Gappify's working primarily with corporate-accounting teams, automating the work of corporate-accounting teams. I know that one of the examples on your website is NetSuite, so NetSuite AP Automation. You've [00:07:00] also got accounts-receivable automation, collection follow-ups, escalations, over/under-payment inquiries, custom invoice preparation. How does that work exactly? What are you guys doing? Are you getting set up as a user in NetSuite, and then plugging that user account into your ... How does it work behind the scenes? I'm curious to know.
Jotham Ty: Yeah, so I'll just use an example you mentioned, AP Automation, earlier. For vendor [00:07:30] setups, it's one of our more popular process-bot tasks that we automate. By adding Alan as a user to your NetSuite environment-
Blake Oliver: Sorry, just to pause for a second, so, 'vendor setups' you mean I'm adding a new vendor into NetSuite?
Jotham Ty: Yes.
Blake Oliver: Okay, I need to collect all their information like address, tax ID number, all that stuff? Okay.
Jotham Ty: W-9. In today's world, you'd usually have someone in AP emailing these vendors, sending an Excel spreadsheet asking for that information. With our bot, Alan, you just add him as a user to NetSuite. We set rules. We [00:08:00] sit down with our customers, and say, "Hey, when do you want Alan to start picking this up?" Usually, they'll say, "Okay, well, we want to assign new vendors that Alan should work on." They'll check a box in NetSuite, and then we have a rule in the background that says, "Okay, if that box is checked, let's go out, and reach out to that vendor, and collect contact/bank/tax information." Not only that, but our customers tell us what kind of app validations they want to apply. In the US, [00:08:30] obviously Social-Security numbers or TINs are only nine digits long.
Blake Oliver: Right.
Jotham Ty: We can bake in those types of rules and logic.
Blake Oliver: How are you reaching out for the information? Are you emailing the vendor?
Jotham Ty: Yes.
Blake Oliver: Okay.
Jotham Ty: It's an email from the Gappify system, or Alan. Then vendors can access the form through a web-based link. They don't need to register; they just go in and provide their information. We can do validations to make sure that the vendor is who they say they really are. Then, [00:09:00] once they complete their information, Alan can either update NetSuite with the information provided by the vendor, or tee it up to someone in accounting, or accounts payable to do additional reviews.
Blake Oliver: Got it. That's interesting. It's not something that in a small business you would think would take a long time, or be worth developing a whole automation tool for, but I imagine, with some of your customers, it can be a lot of vendors that they're adding.
Jotham Ty: Absolutely.
Blake Oliver: Interesting.
Jotham Ty: We've got some customers [00:09:30] who have a couple-hundred vendors, and others closer to a thousand. Definitely, it varies, but the level of manual work that's required is all the same [inaudible].
Blake Oliver: You guys can add new vendors, but also, can you update existing vendor records that way?
Jotham Ty: Yes.
Blake Oliver: That's really nice. David, that reminds me of how, with QuickBooks, when you needed to get my W-9 information for a payment you had made to me, you had an email go out, and I filled in a [00:10:00] form, and then it populated your accounts.
David Leary: Yeah, it's just built into QuickBooks, right [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: It's kind of amazing to me how little of that automation, and that's just one example, very niche-
Jotham Ty: That's actually just the beginning part, Blake, of the example. There's a lot more that goes on after that, in terms of managing your relationship with vendors; even with vendor on-boarding itself. We build in rules that say, "Okay, if the vendor is a cloud provider, tee up another form, or send a message to IT, and security to go through the due-diligence [00:10:30] process." We really string a lot of these if's ...
Blake Oliver: Mm-hmm.
Jotham Ty: There's no magical AI built into any of this. I want to make sure that's perfectly clear. It's us just figuring out what the decision tree is and programming our bot to be able to follow that.
Blake Oliver: Got it. That's why ... You're not using any humans in any part of this process. This is all completely algorithmic, or you've programmed rules and forms that connect these systems and make these processes happen.
Jotham Ty: Right.
David Leary: At [00:11:00] a high level, just because I'm relating it to ... A lot of our audience, right, is super-familiar; they use Zapier. They could do an on-boarding workflow. Every time I get a vendor, "If I add a new vendor in QuickBooks, or Xero, trigger this event in Zapier," and Zapier could kick off an email that hooks them up to a Google form to get that information to bring it back all the way into QuickBooks. People could build this themselves. I imagine, at large companies, they could have somebody on their staff go, and build stuff like this themselves.
If [00:11:30] I'm understanding you, the value prop is, "Hey, instead of having your IT department involved, and your whole accounting department taking a year and a half to learn how to automate, or build some custom process," they can almost, outsource is not the right word, but they could just hire you, and you provide it as a service. You're building remote process-automation as a service in a weird kind of way.
Jotham Ty: Exactly. Our future state definitely takes us to a point where we want accountants doing this [00:12:00] as a self-service. That's an important goal for us. I think this is where me, being from the profession, and the industry, we want to see accountants managing, configuring bots, in addition to strategy, and analytics. Right now, we have IT setting up a new chart of accounts for us, because we don't understand our ecosystem enough. Obviously, we're a long-
David Leary: When you say "we", you mean we, accountants in general, and their own companies, not "we," as in Gappify?
Jotham Ty: Exactly. [00:12:30] If you're at a large company, say a Fortune 500 company, and you want to create a new department, an accounting manager, sometimes, in certain organizations - a lot of organizations, I should say - can't do that on their own, because they don't know the impact of what that department addition will do to other systems. My argument is that we accountants should learn how to do that. We should be the one doing that. We shouldn't let IT do these types of things, because we have to understand the environment ourselves to know how the numbers flow through.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, I'm [00:13:00] with you on that one. When you have to wait for IT to create that chart of account, or that new account, that can take a long time. We just don't have time for that.
Jotham Ty: Exactly, and I don't think they want to do it either, Blake. I think it's mutually beneficial for everyone.
Blake Oliver: Are you able to show us, Jotham? We'd love to see what it looks like.
Jotham Ty: Yeah, I'll just show some examples here. These types of conversations are always fun for me. I don't get to do this much. As a startup founder, they're cracking the whip on me, so this is fun for [00:13:30] me.
Blake Oliver: So while you're loading up that demo, can I ask you just some metrics? Have you guys raised VC money?
Jotham Ty: We have not raised an institutional round. We're working with Morgan Stanley on that right now, but we have raised three pre-seed rounds. We have about 30-plus angel investors. I'm really proud that two-thirds of those investors are in the profession, so they understand the problems that we're trying to solve. We're really trying to rally the community around what we're doing.
Blake Oliver: Do you disclose how much you've raised far?
Jotham Ty: I [00:14:00] believe it is public. I should probably pause, and ... This is a moment where I should probably ask counsel whether that's okay. If it's public, it's definitely on Crunchbase.
Blake Oliver: All right, I'm looking it up now. How many employees do you have?
Jotham Ty: Less than 20.
Blake Oliver: Where is everybody located?
Jotham Ty: Most are located in Manila, so that's where we have our engineering QA customer support team. Then we have our management team, and we plan on growing here in New York, which is where I'm at right now.
Blake Oliver: Your [00:14:30] data, or your bot, where does Alan live?
Jotham Ty: In the cloud. [AWS] specifically.
Blake Oliver: In the US?
Jotham Ty: In the US, yeah. Oregon, specifically.
Blake Oliver: Got it. Client data is ... Are you on AWS, or do you share ...? Okay, got it.
Jotham Ty: Yep
Blake Oliver: Same as us. It feels like everybody's on AWS these days.
David Leary: I was gonna ask this before ... The AICPA has an incubator, and then you're part [00:15:00] of Morgan Stanley's incubator, as well. Can you kind of explain what those two processes are, what you're getting out of those as a startup, like, what the differences are?
Jotham Ty: A lot on both fronts. I think one of the toughest things about running a startup is you're competing with so many talented companies out there with far more capital than we have, so any chance we can get to work with the profession, i.e. the AICPA and CPA.com, and Morgan Stanley, it's just been incredible. [00:15:30]
I actually just got off a call with the AICPA before this one. They helped give me feedback on our upcoming pitch deck for our first institutional round. Just to get industry leaders to weigh in and give us advice ... I haven't raised institutional money before in my career, so I don't know about that process. Then, Morgan Stanley has actually kind of opened up my eyes as far as the work. We're great with numbers - obviously, I'm an accountant - but we suck at storytelling, and storytelling is [00:16:00] an important part to pitching so [cross talk].
Blake Oliver: It's arguably the most important part.
Jotham Ty: It is, it is. I've had my priorities all wrong all this time, so good thing we're getting some help with that!
Blake Oliver: Yeah, much less important to have a product that works than to be able to tell a convincing story, unfortunately ... The accountant in me does not like that. I see these startups raising money all the time with just an idea, and a hope, and a dream, and here [00:16:30] we are, creating something that actually works, and creates value for people today, and makes money today [cross talk]
Jotham Ty: Oh, you are striking a strong emotional chord.
David Leary: This is why accountants become accountants, and don't become novelists, right? It's fundamental.
Blake Oliver: Yep, or fundraisers, yep.
David Leary: Or fundraisers [cross talk] Jotham, if you want to go ahead, and do your sharing - share your screen?
Jotham Ty: All right, so just to tee it up, this is an example that we're actually working with a pretty [00:17:00] notable company on right now. They're looking to use Alan to manage their fixed assets. If you're a large company like they are, they actually have dedicated people that, at the end of each month, they send emails to people that own assets, new assets. In accounting, you can't start depreciating an asset until it's in service, so what you have are records like this. This is a fixed-asset record in NetSuite, in our internal environment - the test [00:17:30] environment - so there's no confidential data here.
Blake Oliver: Because this is going to go on the podcast, I'm just going to describe what I'm seeing here. I'm seeing a screen in Oracle NetSuite in the fixed-assets register. Looks like it's a Dell computer of some sort, or a server of some sort. We've got the original cost. All the information - residual value, accounting methods, straight line, asset lifetime, 36 - everything we need to do the depreciation, right? [00:18:00]
Jotham Ty: Except the confirmation from the owner of that asset that it's ready to depreciate.
Blake Oliver: By "owner," you mean whoever in the enterprise is responsible for it?
Jotham Ty: Exactly, so if you, Blake, were responsible for that asset, accounting would need to reach out to you, and ask you, "Are you using this expensive laptop right now?"
Blake Oliver: Okay, got it.
Jotham Ty: In today's world, you have teams, again, that send emails manually to you and say, "Hey, Blake, are you using this laptop yet?" and, if you're not, do it again next [00:18:30] month. Take that times however many assets there are for larger companies and, all of a sudden, you have a task that you're spending 10-20 hours on each month. This is a perfect candidate where Alan can come in ... This is, again, rules-based. Alan can detect this transaction because he's a user in the system. In this particular example, we see that depreciation start, and end dates are blank.
Blake Oliver: Right.
Jotham Ty: No one's confirmed it yet.
David Leary: Jotham, when you say he can see that, is it [00:19:00] because you're making API calls into Oracle NetSuite, or are you just screen-scraping?
Jotham Ty: This is API calls, so that's actually how we're different from RPA solutions. That's a great point. Every 15 to 30 minutes, Alan will say, "Oh, hey, this one's blank, and it's the end of the month. Why don't we send an email to Blake?" This is what an example of that email would look like. We work, obviously, with [00:19:30] our customers to figure out the right presentation for these emails, but the whole point is to allow Blake to click on this web-based link.
Blake Oliver: I got an email that said, "Please confirm if this asset is in use." You clicked on the link; now we're on a web form that has the asset name, serial number, supplier, purchase date, and cost. The in-service date is blank, and it's highlighted.
Jotham Ty: That's what you have to complete.
Blake Oliver: Got it. The instructions say, "If your asset is now in use, please enter [00:20:00] the date you began using your asset, and if it's still inactive, please leave this field blank." You just filled it in with May 31st?
Jotham Ty: Yep. Now I'll click submit.
Blake Oliver: You're gonna click submit; okay, cool.
Jotham Ty: We do use a connector called Celigo, which a lot of folks in our industry are familiar with. Instead of us maintaining APIs with NetSuite, and hundreds of other applications, we use third party who specializes in that area to connect into those systems.
Blake Oliver: You are programming [00:20:30] specific use cases of Celigo to do this type of automation for accountants?
Jotham Ty: The automation happens on our side of the platform. Celigo just comes in to allow us to [cross talk] They call them hooks.
Blake Oliver: -the hooks, and all that. Got it, okay.
Jotham Ty: Exactly. All the logic is- all of Alan's logic is within the Gappify system.
Blake Oliver: Now we see a message that says, "Thank you for confirming. I've notified the accounting team of your submission."
Jotham Ty: In about five minutes, or when I hit refresh here, [00:21:00] and again this is a very simple example. It gets a little bit more complicated when you do different types of translations, and conversions, but that might be too detailed. If I click refresh, and this happens automatically by the way. I just ran it. I triggered it manually right now, because we don't want to wait 15 minutes for that.
David Leary: Yeah, it's the life of API calls, right? Sometimes, there's a little bit of a delay there for the accounting system to get the data ... The dates appear.
Blake Oliver: We're back in NetSuite looking at that fixed asset, and [00:21:30] I can see depreciation start date is now May 31st; end date is now May 30th of 2022.
Jotham Ty: This is the first step in fixed-asset management. There are additional steps that we orchestrate because of the start point. For this particular customer, what we're going to do also is, at the end of the quarter, confirm with you, Blake, if you still have that asset, and that you haven't trashed it, or lost it.
Blake Oliver: What happens if I don't [00:22:00] click the link in the email?
Jotham Ty: Alan can send reminders. Just a standard reminder functionality. We can set how many reminders accountants want to do. We do want to build a functionality that will shoot lasers at you to remind you to complete your forms, but that's something that's still in the works.
Blake Oliver: Got it. I can see this being super-useful in an organization where you've got ... Just look at laptops. Everybody's got one, and you [00:22:30] have to confirm that they are using it, and they're not, and when they stop using ... This could be a lot of work.
Jotham Ty: It is. Again, this goes back to the point of you have people that are going to school to be accountants, and, in some cases, CPAs are doing this type of mechanical work, and it drives me nuts. Accountants should be looking into the new lease guidance, for example. I forget the name of ASU, but that's more value-add work for accounting, not this mechanical emailing/data-entry [00:23:00] stuff.
David Leary: Can you show a little bit about ... This is kind of the end-user example of how it works, but a little bit under the hood, where ... I think, right now, basically, your team is configuring your tools, but your dream is to have an accountant, off the shelf, go to Gappify, and configure these tools themselves. Could you show us some of those ... Obviously, it's secretive, maybe not so secretive, but show how ... What some of those tools look like, and how you configure them?
Jotham Ty: It's configurable in our [00:23:30] back end, and we've coded it such that people like myself ... The UI is very messy right now, so it won't even make sense if I show it to you-
David Leary: Okay.
Jotham Ty: -but it's designed for people like myself to be able to turn on and off different switches to make what you saw happen. We have to clean that up, obviously, before we give accountants the access to do that. That's something we're working very quickly on, because we really want to get to the point where we don't have to do it for our customers. Customers can do it on their own. Right now, we do this is a free full service for [00:24:00] them when they subscribe to Gappify Alan. Obviously, from a cost standpoint, it's not going to be scalable in the long run.
Blake Oliver: Who is ideal for Gappify? What kind of companies are you working with, and who should be reaching out?
Jotham Ty: We say any company with more than a thousand employees. Usually, you have a team of 10 to 20 accountants at that point, maybe even more. Teams that do high-volume, repetitive [00:24:30] work are great candidates for Gappify Alan. Obviously, as you go up market, the value proposition grows.
Blake Oliver: What accounting systems, ERPs, do you work with that you support? I imagine they have to have those APIs in order for you to do any of this, right?
Jotham Ty: Yeah, so whatever ERP systems that Celigo works with, we can integrate with, even if they're not in their standard marketplace. We have a great partnership with them ... Or larger systems, like, older [00:25:00] versions of PeopleSoft even, there's a way for us to connect into it.
Blake Oliver: Got it. Okay, and Celigo, basically, they build all these integrations, so you don't have to worry about it. That makes so much sense [cross talk].
David Leary: Celigo's like an enterprise-level version of-
Blake Oliver: Like a Zapier, or-
David Leary: Zapier, essentially.
Blake Oliver: They just provide the API. They don't provide the automation, right?
Jotham Ty: Right. [crosstalk] PeopleSoft or [crosstalk] along those lines.
Blake Oliver: Got it. What can [00:25:30] a company expect to pay for Alan? Do they pay by the automation workflow? Is it just all in one, all-you-can-eat? How do you do it?
Jotham Ty: We sit down with our customers to figure out what pain point they want to resolve. Typically, the pricing is $8,500 dollars per year per bot. It's an annual subscription. Our vendor onboarding one, that's what we would specify as the list price for fixed-asset management. Depending on your volume, what [00:26:00] you saw here, could either be $8,500 dollars, or ... We definitely want to go into a situation where fast-growing companies, like, we can grow with them. Even if you're a smaller volume, we are flexible in providing some kind of introductory pricing.
David Leary: Do you find challenges with customization? What I mean by that is most Fortune 500 companies probably have to track their laptop hardware, as an example, but I imagine every single one of them have gone in, and added [00:26:30] custom fields to NetSuite, or ... Does that just become a nightmare as you try to scale this?
Jotham Ty: Yeah, it's definitely a nightmare today. Obviously, we have to be flexible. We're the startup here, and we're very grateful for any opportunity to sell into a large organization. We do have customers who have really extensive customization requirements. We work with them to make sure we can meet the requirements. Obviously, as we grow, we [00:27:00] have to standardize the implementations, and limit the amount of customizations, but, for now, given where we're at as a company, it definitely is a resource suck when you have to customize specific to an environment, specific to very rare use cases, but we've been flexible with that, historically.
Blake Oliver: That's the beauty of being in the mid-market space or in the enterprise is that because companies are willing to pay an [00:27:30] annual subscription starting at, what did you say? $8,500, something like that?
Jotham Ty: Mm-hmm.
Blake Oliver: It's doable, right? You can offer this really hands-on, customized setup, and support, which you could never do in the world of QuickBooks Online, where it has to be self-service. That's why Celigo, and Zapier, for instance, are so different. Where people are building their own Zaps, Celigo is more of a platform for companies like Gappify to build the connections or build [00:28:00] the automation for customers.
David Leary: That's the problem, I think, right now, in general, if I think about our listeners, right, or accountants, or bookkeepers that are kind of getting good at Zapier. If they build some custom automation workflow on top of Zapier for client A, it's almost impossible to move that. You can take notes, and remember everything you did, and then you can recreate that for client B, but you can't just replicate it over and over.
Blake Oliver: Scale it.
David Leary: You can't scale it, it just doesn't ... Zapier's just not set up that way. If I'm hearing [00:28:30] this correctly, once somebody builds this workflow for hardware tracking, in theory, off the shelf, I could pull it down, use it, and just tweak it a little bit [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: Hey, Jotham, we have a question from a viewer. Tate Henshaw asks, "How is the initiative coming where you guys built a bot to pass the CPA exam?"
Jotham Ty: Yeah, so we actually- we believe we can do it, but it was not the right message. I'm going to come on this show and admit that that's [00:29:00] not consistent with where we want to take this company. I think just like a lot of startups who want to do the most exotic- take on the biggest moonshot projects, and that's how we felt at that particular time.
We, again, believe we have built the foundation to be able to do that, but our greater concern right now is just providing automation that works today that we can build off of tomorrow. It's not to look acceptable to Silicon Valley VCs. [00:29:30] I would have to admit, earlier on, we wanted to fit in just like most people. I will say right now we have abandoned that effort. It's not important to us. What's more important to us is getting accountants away from manual-spreadsheet work.
David Leary: Yeah, it's a very sexy story, but what do any of us get if there's a bot that could pass the CPA exam? But everybody wins if there's one less person that has to be stuck in a spreadsheet tomorrow.
Blake Oliver: What I love about what you've shown us, Jotham, and I [00:30:00] now understand ... Thank you for coming on the show, and showing us Gappify, and what Alan can do, because I now understand it so much better. What I love about it is that you are using technology available today to create value from process-automation in a simple way.
I know it's complicated behind the scenes, but you're not saying that we are using machine-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence, which, unfortunately, in the startup [00:30:30] world, has become kind of just a marketing tool. Very few people are actually doing it in a way that creates value. This is something that a company can implement today, and see value from, and time savings from. I'm sure you will be looking to add in those AI components as they become more sophisticated and can really help.
Jotham Ty: I really see this as the required steppingstone to get into AI, because if [00:31:00] this work is being done manually right now, we don't have data consistency across multiple systems, even within individual customer accounts. I like to use an example of when you process an invoice, one AP accountant can say, "Today's date is the invoice date," and another AP accountant can say, "Well, it's the date on the invoice." You don't even have consistency in that process, so how can you possibly generate, or have enough data to support the AI, and the learning that's required? We think automation is the first step. [00:31:30]
Blake Oliver: Yeah. Same thing here at FloQast. Our latest product is a matching engine that helps automate reconciliations. We are using a form of artificial intelligence, if you can call it that. It's like nested "If-then" statements, though, when you actually get down to it. It's really quite simple, but it acts intelligently. We didn't even have to use any complicated machine learning to match 80 percent of transactions automatically. You [00:32:00] can do it with very simple rule sets.
Jotham Ty: I'd like to think, Blake, that that's actually better for our companies, because we work with accountants, where trust is very important to us. I can't trust Auntie AI to do my work correctly. I would rather know how the [crosstalk]-
Blake Oliver: How it's working.
Jotham Ty: -it's working, right.
Blake Oliver: That's the problem with machine learning, and the whole "black box" of AI is we don't know. We really don't know how it's coming to its conclusions.
Jotham Ty: I [00:32:30] would not feel comfortable signing off on financial statements, where a big portion of my financials were driven by AI that I don't understand.
Blake Oliver: That's a great point.
David Leary: Jotham, do you predict that companies will start to stop customizing much, and kind of standardize? Where I'm coming from that, if I remember back in the decade-plus ago at Intuit, Oracle wound up buying them. There was a company that was out there... This is pre cloud, Siebel Systems, right? Intuit was using Siebel Systems, and apparently, it got to a point where Intuit customized it so much, they weren't able to take on any [00:33:00] new upgrades. I think Intuit is using Salesforce now, and blah, blah, blah. It's all cloud. Ultimately, Intuit was selling some products, and had sales be like, "How much customization does each company really need?"
I think companies can convince themselves that they're special, and they think they have these needs that maybe is the same across the board. As your accounting departments shift towards more automation, are they gonna have to just give up? If they start pushing back, like, "Unless there's true value being [00:33:30] presented by this extra custom field, we don't want it because it breaks automation, slows automation down, makes our systems incompatible with other systems," et cetera, et cetera ...
Jotham Ty: Yeah, I agree. I think there has to be a very thoughtful process to evaluate customization requests. We, as the software providers, shouldn't be taking the charge on that. It should be the internal accounting teams that have some kind of decision tree to say, "Hey this type of customization doesn't happen that much. Let's not move forward with it because, in the long run, it'll just- we'll just waste more money maintaining [00:34:00] it." Unfortunately, that's more of a manual discipline that you have to instill upon yourself. You can't automate that, or maybe you can automate that logic ... You got me thinking [cross talk]
Blake Oliver: Hey, Jotham, before we go, do you want to stop sharing? I just realized you're still sharing your screen.
Jotham Ty: My apologies.
Blake Oliver: No worries, no worries. David, one of the great things about cloud-ERP systems, and cloud accounting, in general, is that it ... Basically, the way it's setup, the [00:34:30] vendors can't allow for a lot of customization, because then it becomes impossible to do upgrade cycles at the frequency that you need across your entire user base, and just roll stuff out. If you're on NetSuite, yes, you can add custom fields, and do some other customizations. They're not really customizations, they're more configurations. It's configuration versus customization. You're not going to be able to completely customize NetSuite, ever.
Jotham Ty: Well, you could run NetSuite SuiteScripts, and we do have a lot of customers that like to take advantage of that to take customizations further, but I [00:35:00] agree, you should just work within the framework of your configuration.
Blake Oliver: I should say, you can't customize the database, right? That's what really screws up a lot of upgrades in ERP.
Jotham Ty: Yep.
Blake Oliver: Well, great. David, do you have any other questions? If not, I'd love Jotham to share how the people can find out about Gappify, and get in touch, and reach out.
David Leary: It was in another article, but I think I saw you just sent a tweet today, Blake, about accountants aren't gonna be replaced by AI; they're [00:35:30] gonna be replaced by accountants that know how to use AI.
Blake Oliver: Know how to use AI, yeah.
David Leary: Is that the tweet?
Blake Oliver: That's how I started my career in accounting was building my own practice that was using cloud tools to just be more efficient. The good news is that we don't have enough people becoming accountants, even with the increase in people getting accounting degrees. There's just not enough CPAs, and CMAs, and what not. If you're the sort of person who can leverage technology like what Jotham is- what you're building at Gappify, then you're gonna be fine, at least that's my hope. [00:36:00]
Jotham Ty: I 100-percent agree with that.
Blake Oliver: Somebody's got to run the robots.
David Leary: We'll just pop in and see if there's any last chances at questions ... Anybody that's watching, if you have one, type that in. While you're doing that, we'd love to find out, if I'm a controller of a Fortune 500 firm, how do I get Gappify?
Jotham Ty: Gappify.com, obviously, is one place, and we do have demo forms, if you go to our website. [00:36:30] I'd like to work within the community. I like to keep myself open to everyone. We have absolutely nothing to hide. I love hearing stories out there about how organizations are trying to improve their automation environments. Whether it's interest in our bot, or just if you're talking about process, or trends, feel free to reach out to me. My email is email@example.com.
David Leary: Where are you gonna be this summer? Are you hitting any [00:37:00] accounting conferences?
Jotham Ty: Great question. I'm gonna be at the AICPA Engage, because, as you noted earlier, we're a cohort of the AICPA and CPA.com program. We're actually unveiling our new marketing campaign called V2 Accountant. I'll just give you the quick CliffNote version. We're going to ask accountants to take a pledge to become better than spreadsheets, and, hopefully, through people [00:37:30] expressing that openly, and in numbers, hopefully, it just generates some kind of a movement to get our profession there.
Blake Oliver: I love it [crosstalk]
David Leary: It's the ActiveX old marketing campaign. I'm sure Microsoft's gonna love you.
Jotham Ty: I suck at marketing. I'm an accountant, but we're going to give it a shot anyway.
Blake Oliver: I'll be at Engage as well, so maybe we can meet up, and I can share some of my marketing tips I've learned over the last few years.
Jotham Ty: That would be awesome. Yeah, we are not experts, let's just put it that way.
David Leary: Awesome, thanks for coming on. There's [00:38:00] no more questions coming in. I do appreciate this taking some time. I know you're not the perfect match for the cloud accountant user base, like, we don't have a lot of Fortune 500 people listening to our podcast, and tuning in, but I think the lessons, and the process you're going through with Fortune 500 firms, and these big huge products is the same thing. It comes down market to the QuickBooks, and Xeros, and Sages of the world for sure.
Jotham Ty: Great, thanks for having me on. This was fun.
Blake Oliver: Thanks, Jotham. [00:38:30]
Jotham Ty: All right, guys.
Blake Oliver: See you soon.
David Leary: You want to wrap it up, Blake? All right-
Blake Oliver: Yep, bye everybody.
David Leary: Bye everybody.
Jotham Ty: Bye.