It’s quite exciting to share the story of this Vancouver startup known by the name of Bench. They have raised $2.5m to date, have been growing 40% month over month, and are serving clients across North America. For entrepreneurs, having to do accounting is simply a pain. Running a startup is hard enough so one can see how accounting adds an extra unwanted layer. Getting hooked up with one of the expensive Big Four accounting firms isn’t realistic for startups so this is where Bench steps in. Their journey between the US and here has put them as one of the top companies to look out for in Vancouver.
1. Who are you? Tell us about your business/core idea and what inspired you to create it.
Jordan Menashy, co-founder and head of growth at Bench Accounting.
We’re a modern, online accounting firm that provides audit-proof bookkeeping services to entrepreneurs across Canada and the US. We pair clients with professional online accountants and great software to provide everything they need to get their books done.
We built Bench to remove the distraction of bookkeeping from the lives of entrepreneurs so they can focus on building the businesses they love.
2. Bench did some interesting things away from Vancouver, tell us about that experience and why you decide to move back.
Canada has it’s strength and weaknesses when it comes to launching startups. On one side we’ve got an incredible talent pool, an awesome standard of living, and great incentives from the government. On the flip-side, however, we have limited access to venture capital and powerful entrepreneur networks that you find in regions like NY and SF.
We decided we didn’t want to compromise so two years ago we moved part of the team to NYC and took part in the TechStars NY program. This plugged us into the American VC and startup community. Two years later we felt we had really built those bonds and decided to re-centralize in Vancouver to double-down on our team and community here.
3. How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Bench?
Vancouver draws talent. We’ve had team members join Bench from Russia, Toronto, NY, Australia – the list goes on – to be a part of this city. Startups come down to people and we’ve been fortunate enough to bring on some world class talent thanks to the draw of this city.
4. What kind of challenges has your team had to face and how have you mitigated them?
When building a startup, imaginations can run a little wild (ours certainly did). The possibilities really are limitless.
Execution is a whole different story.
When left to imagination, it’s easy to over-think problems that turn out not to exist and under-think the ones that do. The best habit we’ve gotten into, and I know this is cliche, is to be as “lean” and incremental as possible when it comes to solving problems. This means distilling grand ideas down into mundane baby steps and getting real feedback from clients and employees at every step. You learn fairly quickly that what ends up being the right solution is rarely the one you saw in the crystal ball.
5. What core problem are you specifically solving for Vancouverites?
Part of what makes Vancouver an awesome city is it’s entrepreneurial community. We don’t have the corporate backing of cities like Toronto. As a result, you have a lot of talented, passionate people launching businesses of their own.
Things like accounting and bookkeeping get in the way of that, so we built Bench to clear that work off their plate. We do their accounting work for them, and pour a ton of energy into developing technology that delivers this experience to them in the most streamlined and affordable manner.
This allows small business owners to get back to doing what they love. That’s our role in the entrepreneurial landscape, not just for Vancouver but North America as a whole.
6. What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
Tony Hsieh of Zappos – his obsession with delivering awesome service experiences to not only his customers, but also employees and suppliers, is an inspiration to us.
7. What Vancouver celebrity would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
Edward James Olmos – the actor who played Captain William “Bill” Adama in the Battlestar Galactica reboot filmed here in Vancouver. Unfortunately, I don’t know if his kick ass in-character leadership traits translate to real life. But hey, it’s worth a shot.
8. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
If you want to take on the next generation of entrepreneurs, become fluent in design, code, and commerce. Then specialize in one. Everything we do is at the intersection of these disciplines. Whether you do it yourself or lead others who do, this knowledge will prove invaluable if not necessary in the years to come.
*End of interview*
Jordan and his co-founder both graduated from the Sauder School of Business and are paving the path for future aspiring Vancouver entrepreneurs. I fully agree with his answers on the importance of execution, the importance of fluency in key skills, and the advantages of starting and keeping a company in Vancouver. Bench is an example of local companies that could become the next Hootsuite quite quickly. Also, with bigger companies like Amazon setting up shop in Vancouver soon, we’re quickly becoming one of the most exciting startup cities in not just Canada, but worldwide.
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit*