InDinero Co-founder Sees “Humungous” Market in Small Business Expense Tracking

8/11/10Follow @wroush

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“a few hundred grand” in the bank courtesy of angel investors, and hopes to raise a few hundred more after Demo Day, Mah says.

But that’s just the start of what the company will need if it is to grow as large as Mah hopes. “We’re going to hit a trillion dollars one day,” she predicts—meaning that the money tracked through inDinero’s system will eventually surpass a trillion dollars a year. That’s not as outlandish as it sounds, considering that a single inDinero customer, according to Mah, is already using the tool to track tens of millions of dollars per day.

“It’s a humungous market, many billions huge,” Mah says confidently. “If you look at it, Intuit has less than a 25 percent share among businesses for its QuickBooks product. And since our business targets the 90 percent of business owners or entrepreneurs who will never touch QuickBooks, we are destined to be a billion-dollar company.”

In a sense, Intuit’s failure to create a Mint-like alternative to the 12-year-old QuickBooks accounting package has created the opening for Mah’s startup (just as PayPal’s failure to innovate in online payments has created an opening for WePay, a 2009 Y Combinator startup that I profiled last month). Mah says that most of the small business owners she’s interviewed track expenses and revenues in one of two ways: either they have their own Excel spreadsheet, or they hand over everything to a bookkeeper running QuickBooks. “They don’t have the patience to learn QuickBooks themselves; it’s built for accounting professionals, it wasn’t meant for entrepreneurs,” Mah says. “So they try not to even give it the light of day.”

But even if entrepreneurs were willing to master QuickBooks, it wouldn’t give them immediate answers to key questions like how long a company can keep operating on its current cash hoard. At inDinero, by contrast, a “cash runway” gauge is one of the most prominent elements of the dashboard. The program projects income and spending based on past patterns, and when there’s less than a month’s worth of cash left, a simulated needle dips into the red zone.

Sample inDinero dashboardIn an upgrade coming this month, inDinero will add more forecasting features designed to help companies plan for the future. “It starts with us essentially guessing what [performance] will look like based on the past finances of your business,” Mah says. Then users can start tweaking the details. “You can think, okay, if I upgrade my servers, is that affordable? How about if I cut here or there to compensate for that, will my company survive? What if growth is slower or faster? I think that’s going to be really key, because to date every single financial application has been about the past.”

InDinero is also busy adding features such as an integration with FreshBooks, a popular Web-based invoicing service. Mah says her team has run up against its biggest technical challenges in three areas—connecting with all the different banks and other financial institutions where businesses put their money, building machine-learning tools to automate tasks like the categorization of expenses, and creating the forecasting software, which gets more accurate as users accumulate more data. But Mah says the five-employee company has just as much time into perfecting its user interface. “People compliment us more on our design than anything else,” she says. “There’s cool stuff under the hood, but most people don’t care about that as long as it works.”

That’s one realm where being part of Y Combinator—which typically asks for a 6 to 7 percent equity stake in its startups, in return for stipends, mentorship, and abundant networking opportunities—has really helped inDinero, Mah says. “We found a great designer through Y Combinator alumni, and we’ve had incredible connections to [financial software experts] who, if we’re successful, will probably have saved us millions of dollars,” Mah says. “Giving away x percent of our equity to Y Combinator for all that was an easy decision.”

For Xconomy readers interested in getting more information about inDinero’s latest features, including forecasting, Mah has set up a special e-mail address. Go to inDinero.com, sign up for an account, then send your inDinero login email address to xconomy@indinero.com.

After Mah gave me the full scoop on inDinero, I asked her to summarize the company’s mission on video. Here’s the result:

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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