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March 2, 2020
From bank accounts and credit cards to accounting and bookkeeping software, bill pay and invoicing, payroll and benefits, and beyond, there is no shortage of finance tools and services aimed at startups and small businesses.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, we tapped the Zeni Finance team's 100+ years of collective experience and best practices working with technology startups and companies of all sizes — from early-stage startups to public companies like Apple and Whatsapp — to build our ideal finance stack for startups.
From the longstanding, tried-and-true providers to new upstarts, here are the finance and accounting tools we are using (and loving) on a day-to-day basis.
At Zeni, we live for creating simple solutions to complex problems. It's literally why we exist.
So, as you read this, know each of the tools and service providers we include below offer intelligent integrations and/or APIs that make tracking and maintaining financial records, keeping accounting software up-to-date, and moving money from one place to another as simple and straightforward as possible.
Bookkeeping and accounting software is the foundation of a startup's finance stack. Startups need to leverage an agile bookkeeping and accounting system that offers flexibility to grow with their business.
We conducted an extensive comparison of the best accounting software solutions for startups to determine Quickbooks Online (QBO) was the best overall startup and small business accounting software for a number of reasons:
Selecting a banking partner for your startup is not as straightforward as it may sound. Unlike the familiar process of opening a personal banking account at your local Chase or Wells Fargo branch, business accounts have different requirements for eligibility. And, depending on the type of business you have, finding a banking partner that is willing to work with you can be challenging.
Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is the leading banking solution for startups today, claiming that 50% of tech and life science startups bank with SVB in the U.S. With more than 35 years of experience working with small and large businesses of (nearly) every stage and type, SVB provides a range of financial services built specifically with tech founders and entrepreneurs in mind, including:
If you're looking for a light-weight business banking solution still tailored to the needs of startup founders, Mercury Bank is a popular choice.
A startup in its own right, Mercury Bank launched in 2019 and is hyper-focused on product design and user experience. The online-only banking option offers an easy-to-use platform, quick sign-up process and a suite of free or low-cost services for its customers.
Payroll and benefits can be complicated and easy to mess up, especially when you're managing a mix of full-time employees and contractors in the earliest days of building your business.
We find Gusto to be a great full-service payroll solution with a competitive benefits offering for startups with up to 50 employees. Gusto has become the go-to payroll and benefits for hundreds of startups, for good reasons:
For businesses of 50+ employees, or as you have more complex needs (e.g. employees/contractors across multiple states or operating multiple entities), we find Trinet to be a solid advanced payroll and benefits solution for startups.
Trinet is a leading Professional Employer Organization (PEO) for payroll and benefits, which allows small companies to offer robust payroll and competitive benefit packages to employees at a more affordable price-point. Beyond competitive benefit packages, Trinet brings a wealth of time- and money-saving value to the table for startups:
Startup founders and small business owners are often required to take on personal risk via personal guarantees or security deposits in order to open a corporate credit card — but not with Brex. Brex was created to remove common hurdles and offer startups access to robust corporate credit card services instantly, using the Mastercard network.
Brex sets your spending limit based on your current bank balance, and in most cases requires payment in full on a monthly basis. These are a few of many reasons startups have flocked to using Brex corporate credit cards:
The SVB Innovators Card is another good choice of credit card where founders benefit from no personal liability, and is designed to meet the specific needs of startups.
Part of Silicon Valley Bank's suite of products designed with startups in mind, the SVB Innovators Card operates similarly to Brex, setting your spending limit based on your cash balance and requiring month-end payments, on the Mastercard network. The SVB Innovator card also offers startup founders:
Collecting and processing payments is one of the most common and (frustratingly) complex finance management functions; so much so that many bookkeepers and accounting service providers opt out of providing this as part of its services.
Plooto's modern, easy-to-use platform automates bill payments, approvals and invoices, allowing businesses to streamline and fully digitize their accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivables (AR) functions. Growing in popularity due to its sleek UI, simple online invoicing and competitive pricing, founders are turning to Plooto more frequently for key features including:
As your company grows, staying on top of expenditures from across your organization becomes more and more complex, and capturing receipts for purchases of $75 or greater is critical for future audit purposes.
Expensify helps automate the entire receipt and expense management process from one simplified platform. While Expensify has recently expanded its offering to include an expense tracking-optimized bank card (we're not so familiar with this offering yet, and will update in the future if/when we have more to share), founders like Expensify for its core services done-right:
Managing equity can be a confusing, overwhelming task for founders unfamiliar with the various processes, paperwork and filings involved. It's equally daunting as it is important, so using a knowledgable, trusted service provider is key.
Carta is more or less the industry standard when it comes to equity management platform for startups, helping companies manage their cap tables, valuations, investments and equity plans — all digitally. Founders routinely turn to Carta to help manage every aspect of equity management, standout reasons include:
We'd be remiss to not include our own services in the overview of the ultimate finance stack for startups. Startups run into all kinds of challenges with their bookkeeping, accounting and business finances — in fact, we dig into some of the various challenges and startup bookkeeping mistakes in a blog post here.
At Zeni, we offer startups a team of finance experts working seamlessly with powerful artificial intelligence dedicated to managing every financial function for your business with speed and accuracy. Our best-in-class financial management service includes:
Disclosure: Zeni has partnerships with a number of the service providers included in this list, and we pass savings along to our customers who use the services with our discounted rates.