According to statistics published by the Small Business Administration (SBA) in 2019, around 20 percent of startups fail in the first year itself. With challenges like fierce market competition, insufficient capital, lack of mentoring, bookkeeping, hiring and customer access, the startup world is the epitome of the survival of the fittest. Wouldn't it be great if entrepreneurs had an ally, someone they could fall back on at every step of their entrepreneurial journey? In the last one year, Intuit Circles has been doing just that!
Intuit Circles is a strategic startup ecosystem engagement initiative by Intuit, that aims at powering prosperity for startups. Intuit wants to leverage the power of technology, its platform and its journey as a self-disrupting 35-year old startup to solve some of their biggest needs: access to customers and global markets, mentorship, better financial management and a sense of community. The focus of the initiative is to maximise startups’ odds at success through a holistic partnership approach with the startup ecosystem players passionate about helping them grow.
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Recap into a year of successful partnerships
More than 2,000 startups have signed up for the Intuit Circles programme since it launched a year ago. Intuit has also partnered with over 15 ecosystem partners and influencers in India, including coworking spaces, startups cells run by state governments and top universities, incubators and accelerators.
Through this programme, startups become part of a growth network where they can:
- Grow at scale by building API integrations with the Intuit ecosystem and gaining access to over 4.6 M customers globally
- Get connected to mentors, who coach them on diverse themes like technology, Intuit methodologies of Customer-Driven Innovation (CDI) and Design for Delight (D4D) CDI/D4D and financial management.
- Leverage Intuit QuickBooks Online, Intuit's cloud accounting solution and get connected with accountants to get better at financial management.
Startups share their experiences
While there are several startups who have been part of the programme, YourStory spoke to four of them who have achieved significant growth through Intuit Circles in the last one year. From boosting their financial health to creating a growth network to enabling growth at scale, Intuit Circles has been there every step of the way.
Kount, founded by Bhargavi Vijayakumar and Ankit Parashar in 2019, is a virtual CFO for Indian SMEs. In Bhargavi's 12 years of professional career, she has observed from close quarters how business financials and cash position improved with timely financial insights. Ankit hails from a small town in India and believes a digital solution for small and medium businesses should be one with empathy and in line with their persona. The former's experience and the latter's passion led to the start of Kount, a platform which not only empowers SMB owners with actions from financial data, but also enables them to manage banking transactions, reconcile it for them and provides cash forecasts, all within a single dashboard.
As a young startup, they required someone who would help them get off the ground. "We are a startup focussed on helping in financial management for other businesses. Hence, Intuit plays an integral part to help us build the solution and to reach out to their users in India and globally,” says Bhargavi.
Intuit Circles provides Kount with feedback they receive from their users around financial management. "This is a great insight coming from a partner of Intuit’s stature," she says.
The Intuit Circles team also checks on Kount's development and progress at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey. The startup has built API integrations with QuickBooks Online for their solution, thus opening doors for banks and other partners, and built their credibility. When they faced a couple of teething challenges, the Intuit team was quick to handle their queries. “This immensely helped reduce our build time and go-to-market time of the solution,” says Bhargavi.
Founded in 2017 by Sumit Thakur and Yash Singh, Untapd is building a platform for inter-connected cars. The inspiration to start up rose from a personal experience when Sumit's parents were travelling in Sikkim and their vehicle got stuck down a drain. Since they were in a no-network zone, Sumit was completely unaware of their status, and it took him hours to get in touch. Around the same time, he was working on a vehicle collision avoidance project. Another time, when his father had a heart attack and was on the way to the hospital, he thought about how a green corridor would be extremely useful.
"Eighty percent of people die on the way to the hospital. The future lies in IoT, but there is still a lot of work to be done to build and achieve a near-perfect Smart City environment. We are going to play a major role in revolutionising the way we view vehicles on the road," says Sumit.
Located in Sikkim, Untapd had its share of challenges while starting up - access to tech resources, lack of mentorship, access to investors, and so on. When it comes to financial management, Sumit says it's extremely important and can make or break a company. Initially, they were using MS-Excel to create bills, which was time-consuming.
Through the Atal Incubation Centre - Sikkim Manipal University Technology Business Incubator they were able to use Intuit’s service which made billing and stock management seamless.
"The guidance provided by Intuit when we started with our Beta testing was very helpful. With Intuit, you have one major aspect which you need to worry less about - financial management,” he says.
Bon-Cuisine is a food-tech startup, helping corporates and institutions manage their cafeteria through technology and processes. While technology helps save time and efforts at the cafeteria through digitising the menu selection and transactions, pre-defined processes help run the cafeteria operations in a frictionless and efficient manner. "This avoids unnecessary chaos and improves the dining experience. At the same time, café admins can keep close vigil of the cafeteria through a real-time dashboard without getting into the operations hassle" says founder Vikash Chandra who ventured into the startup journey in late 2018.
Being a first-time entrepreneur, Chandra and his team faced challenges like getting the right resources to start up, understanding compliance, accounting and other business complexities. However, the most critical one was to understand what not to do.
"As a startup, ideas keep popping up and it is a challenge to stick to one big thing rather than doing multiple small things." This is where Intuit Circles stepped in as a critical pillar for Bon-Cuisine’s success. "No matter how great and amazing the idea or the product is, if your finances have not been managed well, the chances of being successful are bleak," says Vikash.
The startup has opted for QuickBooks Online and Accountant Connect, which have helped boost their financial health. Vikash says that the difference between other accounting software and QuickBooks is that it helps integrate all bank accounts and credit cards in one place. It also helps to track expenses and sales, create customised reports, P&L, invoices, and more. "Since all vital metrics appear in one place and we don’t have to juggle with too many references, we can take the right decision at the right time and stay on top of the business’s financial health."
The mentorship provided to Bon-Cuisine in the field of company compliance and accounting proved to be useful for them in creating a growth network.
Since the association with Intuit Circles, Vikash has witnessed a significant improvement in the business. "Being a first-time entrepreneur, I did not have access to the right contacts and sources. Intuit Circles bridged the gap and connected me to amazing experts in different fields who helped me understand the ecosystem and re-do my decision at times."
Founded in 2015 by Rakesh Tergundi, Meera D and Vishal Saxena, Mobijini helps companies multiply their sales and streamline their operations with easy-to-use mobile apps. Their product OrderJini is integrated with a number of ERP, accounting and e-commerce applications, so customers can use powerful mobile apps without replacing their core systems. The product helps automate field sales and order management, point of sale and inventory visibility, online e-commerce and employee management.
As a product company, they faced several initial challenges such as the long cycle of investment, limited returns, product-market fit, timely payments and so on. Rakesh says that being a company with a long-term view to build a sustainable business with a large set of clients, financial management is extremely important for them. They always wanted to establish a formal relationship with key software partners where they have integrations, and that's where Intuit Circles came in. The programme helps them interact and collaborate with other startups that are addressing various problems, often for the same customer segment as theirs.
"The engagements have tremendously helped in product development and positioning as we have guidance from Intuit’s experts," says Rakesh.
Mobijini has integrated with QuickBooks Online which has enabled growth at scale.
“While trying to solve problems for customers, we realised very early on that our success would depend upon our integration with the ecosystem.” The initial results from their India efforts are promising. "We just signed on a sales partner in Thailand for sales in that region. With the momentum QuickBooks has, we are optimistic about our SaaS revenues for the following year."
Rakesh says that any company interested in collaborating with SMEs to solve their problems and looking to be mentored, would find the programme worthwhile. "India needs product companies that can solve problems faced by Indian businesses. It’s important that any solution is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the ecosystem and being part of groups like Intuit Circles will help in collaboration," he says.
Startups speak, Intuit listens
Intuit Circles has been constantly listening to the startup ecosystem in India and evolving with the learnings to improve the offering. These include feedback from startups, co-working spaces, accelerators, incubators, startup communities and other organisations (including the government and universities) who are passionate about helping startups succeed.
So, what can startups who plan to join the programme in 2020 look forward to? Intuit is committed to serving and growing the ecosystem through the Intuit Circles program leveraging the power of technology and its platform. It is currently piloting a first-of-its-kind virtual community that brings startups and ecosystem partners (accelerators, incubators, investors, accountants, mentors, experts and more) on a single platform. This will allow them to make meaningful connections, learn from and grow with each other. The community, in turn, will help Intuit solve for ecosystem challenges and unlock new opportunities at scale that would otherwise not have been possible.
Further to reports from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in partnership with McKinsey, on how India’s digital economy in 2025 is a 1 trillion-dollar opportunity, Indian startups will play a major role in pushing the next wave of the digital economy. Towards this, they are also enabling idea-stage entrepreneurs to build their solution leveraging Intuit’s APIs and QuickBooks accounting platform as the foundation. This will help startups get to market faster, save time and money, and focus on what they do best for their customers.
Leveraging their learnings in India, Intuit Circles wants to keep growing the community of startups in India in the coming year. They also have plans to explore the global landscape and market potential to continue to use their scale and scope to power startup prosperity.
If you are a startup looking to get financially successful or have a product solution that can integrate with QuickBooks Online, click here to apply for the programme.