Our job at ValueStream is to dig deep to uncover new products that meaningfully challenge the status quo, but the average user of a new product doesn't have this level of motivation. Early-stage products are rarely as polished or functional as the incumbents they are attempting to supplant, so it's crucial for the differentiation to shine through.
Or as I like to say, the value proposition needs to reach out through the screen and slap a first-time user in the face.
As an early adopter, I will only devote my time to a new app if the company's vision is so clear to me that I know the effort I put in to adopting it now will not just result in a short-term benefit, but that it will be continuously (and even increasingly) beneficial to me over time.
It's for these reasons that I was excited to meet Dean Zarras, the founder of ClearFactr, about a year ago. When he first showed me an early version of ClearFactr, it took less than five minutes for my face to be slapped, metaphorically speaking.
ClearFactr is a SaaS spreadsheet purpose-built for financial forecasting, modeling, and analysis. Its goal is threefold: greatly increase your productivity, greatly enhance your understanding, and greatly reduce your errors.
My background is in consulting, hedge funds, and corporate finance, and so I've been a heavy user of spreadsheets for 15 years. During this time I have amassed a long list of tasks I wish could be performed with greater speed, and with lower chance of mistakes. And this is exactly what ClearFactr is setting out to achieve, by taking many of the commonly performed tasks related to analysis, organization, error checking, security, and so on, and making each as easy as a single click.
ClearFactr is launching its public beta this week. I encourage you to at least watch their two-minute overview video below, where I think you will see that their take on improving the traditional spreadsheet will soon have a hugely positive impact on the workflow of any analyst. If you agree, sign up for the free beta here.
Personally, what ClearFactr is building could have saved me two hours per day, and I'm just one of millions of analysts worldwide.
Make no mistake about it: these inefficiencies are collectively costing companies globally _billions of dollars annually, _in time wasted, suboptimal decision-making, and outright mistakes. It happens at every company, in every industry, and in roles across the entire organization, not just in the finance department.
Now Let's Talk About Some Real Examples...
Here are just two of numerous personal experiences where ClearFactr could have saved me time, money and headache:
How to optimize the capital raise planning process for a high-growth company:
In a previous role as a head of finance for a rapidly growing startup, I was tasked with building a "realistic" forecast for our business in preparation for a very large Series C financing. This project required collaboration with 10 other executives from across our company to ensure they were in agreement with the feasibility of our projections (particularly as they related to their own goals/targets). Incorporating so many opinions into a single model was complicated by the fact that many were inter-related, and so over the course of several weeks, I created and presented many dozens of scenarios to the other execs, consuming hundreds of hours collectively. Needless to say, this was highly disruptive to our executives' already jam-packed schedules.
BUT...if ClearFactr had existed, I would have used its one-click scenario comparisons to save a huge amount of time in organizing and comparing these dozens of scenarios. And I would have used ClearFactr's sharing functionality to permission everyone else on the team to very simply run their own scenarios to stress test the inputs that mattered to them.
Net impact: a savings of hundreds of collective exec hours; faster close of financing round, leading to faster time to market
How to prevent tens of millions USD of errors at a large technology contractor:
My first job after college was as a consultant at a Big Four accounting firm, and one of the first multi-million dollar projects I worked on was for a Fortune 100 technology contractor who engaged us to figure out why the profitability of a multi-billion, multi-year project wasn't as high as projected. We expected to find significant logical errors in the assumptions and inputs to the models they used to bid on this contract, but instead, most of the errors were due to poor spreadsheet construction (inconsistent formulas, incorrect references, incomplete sum ranges, and so on). And these were very time consuming errors to manually uncover.
ClearFactr, on the other hand, is perfectly suited to both prevent and detect these types of issues, and has several one-of-a-kind, patented features to make this easy. Not only could we have completed our project faster/cheaper, but this project shouldn't have even been necessary in the first place.
Net impact: Savings of $10M+; avoidance of embarrassment for the finance team that screwed up the original models
Help ClearFactr Help You: Join the Beta
I wrote a post last year about the three key reasons finance professionals should be investing in FinTech startups, and I think it's worth revising this to say that it doesn't just include your money but also your time. Betas are two-way streets: the company benefits from your feedback, but you benefit by pushing the company to build what would be of most value to you. And furthermore, they're a great way to find new angel/venture investment opportunities, and maybe even exciting employment opportunities.
If you have ever used a spreadsheet for any sort of numerical analysis, I encourage you to sign up for the beta-it takes less than one minute to start using ClearFactr. I know there's still some basic functionality missing as of today, but the pace with which the ClearFactr team is adding it is quite rapid (it gets much better every week).
And remember, ClearFactr isn't just for Wall Street analysts. It's for anyone who analyzes numbers in a spreadsheet, including:
- Marketing teams budgeting ad spend and analyzing ROI
- Sales operations analysts optimizing a sales team's efforts
- Sales reps estimating deal profitability during negotiations
- Business development professionals forecasting partnerships and acquisitions
- Auditors checking their clients' work for errors
- And so on...
If ClearFactr had started by just rebuilding spreadsheet software in the cloud, I would have had no excitement for this product whatsoever. But because they are solving not just one but dozens of issues I've had throughout my career as a finance professional, I'm excited to see this public beta finally launch and for you to have the opportunity to see it here first.