Welcome to Money Matters, conversations about financial matters for startups with Roseann Heavey, partner at Noone Casey.
Tell me about the importance of growing with the story of the startup.
Well for example, we have a client we worked with for the past 18 months. They were in the early development stages of their software and cash flow was tight when we met. We reviewed the business model and cash flow projections as well as completing a strategic advisory session with them to fully understand the company and the company’s needs.
The client is now in the middle of the second funding round and have begun to take in revenue which has been essential in the company surviving. We were happy to hand hold our client through an early stage and through many difficult times. We were always on the other end of the phone , giving the independent advice required for the best interests of the company. We can now see the growth, and the potential in this company and the product is confirmed.
We are happy to have grown with the company and to be a small part of their start-up story. We see a lot of founders trusting those that are there from the very beginning.
I think that is what building companies is about. It’s working with people that will help you in times of real need. I don’t think our client would have reached where they are today if they didn’t have that support.
How do you decide what startup to work with?
We work with people that want to succeed. We work with companies where we see high potential even if they are at early stages of the business life cycle. Story and aspiration are part of it, but there is also personality, background, experience, product and pricing and the vision for creating revenue.
We look for founders that are asking themselves the right questions, what kind of market research they have done and whether they can deliver it in a clear way. Just sitting talking about the product isn’t enough. I’ll say yes, that’s great, but go off and do something, for example get your financials and market research in order and then we can talk.
We also ensure a client stays on track, to meet their goals. Sometimes clients need to understand a different perspective. Working with us ensures there is a structure to meetings and progress is measured appropriately.
Do founders approach you and say I need your advice and help, but I can’t afford to pay you? Does it feel strange?
Our model is such that for four to six months we’re happy to help them out with funding issues, financial issues and ensure the company is on the right track. We are more of a sounding board that clients can feel they can talk to at crucial decision making times. At the end of that period, If we feel the company is high potential and we can grow together we
usually continue to work together.
So what makes it work, is whether they are after developing a relationship with a trusted advisor rather than a discounted service?
Yes, exactly. Again, it comes back to the personalities of the founders, whether we can work together and whether they’re looking for good quality advice or are they just looking for a discount service which we don’t provide.
Business relationships are based on trust and that is
what we build with our clients. The client has to get something from the business relationship and essentially the business needs to grow for both us and the client to continue to work together.
How did you decide to develop that model?
This model has been working in the firm for over 20 years.One of the startups we supported was Storyful. Our relationship with Storyful developed into a long standing relationship that we still have today.
The culture of the firm is not to work on a discounted basis and that our clients value the work we do for them.We want to work with prosperous and high potential clients. All that is coupled with what has been happening in the startup sector in Dublin.
Our office is close to Grand Canal Dock, and we have witnessed first-hand the birth of the ambition in the area and the surge of tech startups. We couldn’t resist being part of the story.
What are some other situations you get involved with the startups you work with and how do you resolve them?
Some founders have compliance issues with the Revenue Commissioners or their financial teams are struggling with cashflow forecasts and Cap tables. We step in and resolve all of these issues but also set up processes and templates to ensure these issues are not met again.
Have you ever been asked a particularly difficult thing?
Clients will ask you your opinion all of the time. We are constantly working with the best interests of the client in mind so sometimes we will end up being the ones to deliver tough information, for example that a product line they are passionate about is not profitable or is loss making.
We commit to working with the client to make any necessary cuts in costs that will improve their bottom line and refocus the business.