You’ve got a lot on your plate as a startup founder. Investor meetings, business development strategies, team management, networking events, and product development. And while it might not be the sexiest responsibility in the world, you’ve also got to manage your finances.
As your startup continues to scale, you have less free time on your calendar and more time spent on your precious weekends crunching numbers. But if any successful CEO has learned, one of the smartest things you can do is delegate, delegate, delegate.
Rather than carrying the weight of your startup's finances on your shoulders, it’s a good idea to invest in a financial operations team to handle the work. While you may not have the funds to hire an in-house team, other options do the job without the hefty ticket price tag.
In this article, we’ll look at two financial services catering to startups – Zeni (that’s us!) and Pilot. We’ll explore finance management features that matter most to founders and how Zeni and Pilot measure up, so you can decide the best fit for your startup.
Accounting Firms vs. Financial Operations Platform
Before we dive into our Zeni and Pilot comparison, it’s important that we explain the difference between an accounting firm and a financial operations platform.
Accounting firms offer a range of accounting and financial services. Their main objective is to handle your monthly bookkeeping, verify compliance with accounting standards and regulations, and provide financial advice. They often pair their expertise with third-party accounting software.
Financial operations platforms (or integrated accounting systems) centralize all financial management on a single platform. This includes integrating with all of your financial systems, providing real-time reporting and analytics on your finances, and offering collaboration and workflow management across all departments.
Why Should Startups Invest In A Financial Operations Platform?
Deciding between an accounting firm and financial operations platform will depend on your startup's needs. However, there are a few key benefits an autonomous platform can offer that a firm usually can’t.
- Integration & Collaboration – Everything’s in one place. No need to dig through emails, analyze numbers in Excel, or log in to different financial systems. With a single platform, you avoid fragmented finance data and repetitive tasks, which reduces manual effort and saves time and money.
- Real-time Insights – Access your financial data at any time. In the world of startups where every second matters, review your finances daily instead of monthly.
- Cost-saving – Streamlining your financial processes can save you big bucks in many ways. With an AI-driven platform, you automate repetitive tasks that usually involve manual labor, reduce critical errors due to automated calculations, and avoid ongoing expenses associated with hiring and training accounting professionals.
- Compliance & Security – No need to question if you’re staying compliant. A platform has built-in features to ensure you meet accounting standards and regulations (like GAAP). Likewise, the right platform keeps all of your data secured.
Zeni Vs. Pilot At A Glance
Zeni’s Finance Operations Platform
Zeni’s financial operations platform unifies your startup’s fragmented finance data into a single source of truth. The platform includes a personalized KPI dashboard, monthly AND daily bookkeeping, instant financial reporting any time you need it, fractional CFO services, accounts payable management, payroll management, tax services, and more.
Unlike most software platforms that run solo in the background with AI, Zeni’s AI improves the work of real finance experts who specialize in working with startups—the two function together to efficiently manage your booking and all your finance functions.
Pilot’s Back Office Financial Services
Pilot provides startups with basic accounting needs like monthly bookkeeping, tax preparation, and CFO services. They emphasize monthly financial statement reporting (P&L, balance sheet, cash flow) and monthly burn rate calculations, which are provided 2-3 weeks after month end.
Traditional accounting firms typically rely on humans to do most of the work. Pilot utilizes technology and an in-house finance team to integrate with the finance tools you’re already using. They also work with companies of all sizes.
Finance Features That Matter Most to Startups And How Zeni And Pilot Compare
1. Automated Bookkeeping
Time is money. Manual bookkeeping is time-consuming and often susceptible to human error. With automated bookkeeping, founders can direct their attention away from the number crunching and feel confident that their data is accurate.
- Zeni – Automates your accounting and bookkeeping by providing daily reports on a personalized finance KPI dashboard. This process speeds up the month end close so that you aren’t waiting 2-3 weeks after the end of the month for financial statements.
- Pilot – Integrates with your existing bookkeeping software to provide automated financial reports on a monthly basis only. Typically closing books takes 2-3 post-end-of-month to complete.
2. Support From Startup-Finance Experts
Being a finance expert is one thing, but having startup experience can drastically improve the quality of services. A finance expert with startup knowledge can dig into insights and provide guidance that is unique to the challenges of a startup.
- Zeni – Has a team of controller (CPA) level finance experts who approach bookkeeping from a startup perspective. When you work with Zeni, you are assigned a dedicated controller or fractional CFO (depending on your needs) with years of startup-specific expertise (pre-revenue and beyond) and, even more specifically, startups in the SaaS industry.
- Pilot – Provides an account manager as your daily point of contact. They also have a team of accountants (not a controller) to support that have worked closely with other startups. However, the company caters to both startups and large companies, leaving specialty expertise uncertain.
3. Real-Time, Accurate Insights
Real-time insights offer more than just quick access to your financial data. It allows your startup to make informed decisions faster, better identify trends and patterns, build deeper trust with investors, and mitigate risks.
- Zeni – Updates your finance dashboard daily with real-time critical metrics like your burn rate, runway, operating expenses, chart of accounts (COS), and cash flow. You don’t have to wait until the end of the month to see where you stand financially. A Zeni finance expert also closes your books monthly.
- Pilot – Doesn’t offer real-time insights. They operate on a traditional schedule, waiting to close your books until the end of the month and delivering reports 2-3+ weeks out.
4. Consolidated Financial Operations
Working in one place, rather than ten, can positively impact a startup’s tools, data, and functions. By centralizing all of your financial operations, you can speed up reporting, enable a holistic view of your financial health, reduce duplication, and free up resources.
- Zeni – Think of Zeni as a financial operations hub where every financial task related to your startup lives on a single dashboard. The Zeni Dashboard is where you’ll find much more than your daily bookkeeping and accounting. It is also home to your accounts payable processes, employee reimbursements, vendor management, and more.
- Pilot – Offers a dashboard that serves as a portal to categorize and monitor expenses, connect accounts, monitor subscriptions, and download monthly bookkeeping reports. It will also integrate with your other financial software. However, it does not support all your financial operations under one roof.
5. Big Picture Finance Strategy Support
A game-changing finance solution will offer startups additional features outside the day-to-day. This includes fractional CFO services, investor support and reporting, financial modeling, and fundraising support.
- Zeni – Offers a wide array of fractional CFO services to help you plan for the future. Zeni’s experienced fractional CFOs partner with you to build predictive financial models, analyze potential scenarios to influence growth, track milestones, budget, board meeting and fundraising support, and provide strategic advice whenever you need it.
- Pilot – Provides startups with strategic finance support through their CFO services, which include budgeting, financial planning, and building investor decks.
Visual Comparison Of Zeni And Pilot
This chart compares Zeni vs. Pilot head-to-head and shows much more than the most important features that we covered above.
Choosing The Right Solution To Transform Your Financial Operations
When deciding between an accounting firm or a financial operations platform, the most important thing you can do is ask yourself what features are most important to your startup.
Most growing businesses are looking for a competitive edge while saving money. When putting together your “must have” list, think of the following finance operations features: automated bookkeeping, finance and startup experience, real-time insights, consolidated platform, and big-picture support.
The future of finance is here. It’s time to invest in the right resources to propel your startup forward. Chat with us about it here.