The Most Inspiring Man in Accounting is an AI Superhero
October 8, 2018
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As kids, we all had very different answers when asked what we wanted to be. Some of us wanted to be animals, some princes and princesses. Others dreamed of oddly specific careers like ballerina-astronauts or doctor-movie stars.
Not Enrico Palmerino. He had no interest in any of these careers. “I always knew I wanted to be a CEO,” he says reminiscing. “My mom has a picture I drew of me in a black business suit and a business case and the label reading ‘CEO.’ That was my dream for my first six to eight years. I idolized business owners and professionals.”
Enrico’s drive to own his own company led him to start businesses at a very young age. “When I was a kid, I was selling candy bars at sports games and hot dogs in the supermarket,” he says, “I bought vending machines and placed them around town and earned money from this. Using that money, I started a landscaping business and employed my brother and cousins.”
With each new venture, Enrico was starting bigger and better businesses.
Growing into a CEO
Enrico was already earning money at a young age but was determined to improve his entrepreneurial skills. He enrolled in Babson College, one of the top entrepreneurship schools in the world with a triple major in Quantitative Methods, Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship, a stunning feat for anyone. At the ripe old age of 22, Enrico built his first real company, a global efficiency startup called ThinkLite.
“Thinklite automated how you analyze, design, and manufacture LED and induction lighting,” Enrico says, “It grew really quickly from a dorm room to making about $9 million in recurring revenue.”
The massive success of the company was encouraging, but also meant Enrico and his team struggled to keep up with their accounting. Although the business had healthy margins, they eventually ran into into a big problem.
That headache of building this great business, going back off a margin and then almost having it tank because of bad bookkeeping was really frustrating and something I wanted to make sure wouldn’t ever happen again
“We ran out of cash,” Enrico says, “We didn’t realize what our cash flow was at the time or how much our cash balance was because of delayed financials.”
After about a month of panicking, Thinklite was able to pull through and resume normal operations. The business went on to do very well and was eventually acquired, but Enrico never forgot the experience.
“That headache of building this great business, going back off a margin and then almost having it tank because of bad bookkeeping was really frustrating and something I wanted to make sure wouldn’t ever happen again,” he says, “That eventually led me to starting botkeeper in 2015 and here we are today. I built botkeeper to solve my own challenges.”
“The easiest way to think of botkeeper is as a robot bookkeeper,” Enrico explains, “It replaces the need for a full time bookkeeper in your company. It will pay your bills, invoice your clients, reconcile your bank accounts, produce your financial reports, classify expenses and revenue, administer bill pay workflows and payroll and do any calculations needed for this. It can be the last bookkeeper you’ll ever need to hire and very quickly become your entire accounting department.”
He’s well aware of the concern around AI making some jobs obsolete. But Enrico insists that accountants have nothing to fear from botkeeper . “We don’t try to replace advisory staff, CFOs or Directors of Finance who are doing more strategic work,” he says, “The way I like to think of it is we’ll get the data in and enter it accurately and you’ll do the advisory work”
Botkeeper leverages AI to make this all work smoothly. “The software accesses various data streams which it runs through different models and then analyses to build even more models which continuously learn off each other,” Enrico explains, “It spots patterns in the data and uses this to trigger actions based on present factors.”
It replaces the need for a full time bookkeeper in your company. It will pay your bills, invoice your clients, reconcile your bank accounts, produce your financial reports, classify expenses and revenue, administer bill pay workflows and payroll and do any calculations needed for this
It’s astounding the amount of machine learning botkeeper’s AI is capable of. But its functions – and limits – were planned years ago by Enrico and the team.
“People who really know AI know that it’s designed not just for present day events but also to tell you what to do next, based on expectations of future events,” he says, “But we don’t go that second step of advising on the future yet because we are dealing with client financial data. In my opinion, although we use it to understand situational awareness, it could be devastating if we allow the machine to think too much on its own.”
Enrico was so confident about botkeeper’s abilities that the company was its first test client. “Since creating the botkeeper, we’ve never had to hire a bookkeeper. We were the first test pilot and we literally trained it ourselves.”
The Future of Bookkeeping With Veem
Running a hugely successful company comes with a surprising share of challenges. The company faces ongoing challenges with hiring enough staff for its growing clientele.
Rapid growth also meant botkeeper struggled to find partner products that could handle all its clients and the amount of data being produced. The ongoing search for products that can keep up with botkeeper is what led Enrico to Veem.
“We realized it wasn’t scalable to do foreign currency conversions and wire transfers from every single bank our clients used. It’s an extremely inefficient model,” he explains, “Banks have different levels of security: some require approval, others don’t. Looking at the controls, processes and flexibility with some banks, handling our clients’ money this way isn’t great protocol.”
When botkeeper’s head of accounting heard about Veem, they were immediately intrigued.
Enrico considers Veem so essential to botkeeper that the company is working with us to have all payments and foreign currency conversions processed through the platform
“We started testing it out on a couple of our clients,” he says, “Now we have a court ordered mandate. Anytime a client issues a wire that we’ve taught our software to send them a notice recommending they send the wires through Veem.”
Enrico considers Veem so essential to botkeeper that the company is working with us to have all payments and foreign currency conversions processed through the platform. “We want to be as tightly integrated with them as possible so our clients can make approvals in our portal and have their funds immediately processed through Veem. It creates less friction,” he says.
“We have big plans to do more with Veem. The more we can align, the better,” he continues, “I really like Veem and if we can take things a step further for our clients and create this botkeeper financial hub from where we can interact as much as possible, that would be great.”
Exciting Times Ahead
Enrico’s experience running two very successful businesses means botkeeper will undoubtedly continue its remarkable growth. In addition to it’s rapidly growing client base, the company was recently announced as a winner of Red Herring’s 2018 Top 100 North America award in the Professional Services category.
But, Enrico is matter-of-fact about botkeeper’s future success.
“I see us having a couple thousand clients or more, with a few thousand companies running on botkeeper,” he says, “I believe we’ve become a major enabler of other accounting firms so next year, in an ideal world, we’ll keep expanding rapidly and doing a lot more with our accounting firms.”
“In five years, I’d love for botkeeper to be the dominant platform that runs under the hood of pretty much any other bookkeeping accounting firm or business,” he adds, “We’ll be able to claim that crazy statistic as the first company to ever do something like this. Ironically, I don’t think we’ll be a household name. I think we’re gonna be the best kept secret that no one knew was doing stuff in the background.”
In addition to it’s rapidly growing client base, the company was recently announced as a winner of Red Herring’s 2018 Top 100 North America award in the Professional Services category.
Enrico’s advice to future business owners is simple. “Don’t spend too much time talking about the idea. Just get out there and start executing it.”
He goes on to say, “I think, too often, people spend so much time with an idea, trying to plan it out and making sure everything is perfect to launch, when in reality nothing’s ever perfect in the beginning.”
“Just get out there, take action and start selling; that’s what provides the backbone to a business..”