MineralTree, the end-to-end Accounts Payable Automation FinTech, is attempting to help businesses modernize their workflow. BC Krishna, Founder and CEO, discusses how MineralTree is accomplishing its mission of “changing the way companies think about making payments” and also its plans for the years ahead.
Tell us more about MineralTree, including what makes your company and your vision unique?
MineralTree is leading a paradigm shift in Accounts Payable with a SaaS solution that streamlines the entire process, starting when an invoice is received and ending after the payment is made. MineralTree differentiates itself as a single solution that securely automates every component of the Accounts Payable process, while many competing automation offerings are limited to individual steps within the process.
MineralTree believes that the benefits of one cohesive and automated AP process extend well beyond simplifying any combination of individual components within that process, and enables teams to operate 60% more efficiently, improve relationships with vendors, and reap the benefits of increased security and improved short-term cash flow. It is tailored to midmarket companies and integrates directly with their bank accounts and the most widely used ERPs, including QuickBooks, NetSuite, Sage Intacct, and Microsoft Dynamics GP.
What has been the key to MineralTree’s success up until now and what have been the challenges you’ve faced along the way?
MineralTree’s key to success is its ability to integrate seamlessly into the existing workflows of its customers. With minimal effort, MineralTree customers are able to drastically improve the efficiency of their Accounts Payable processes while erasing the pain points that have been plaguing accounting managers since the dawn of time. With so many different ERPs and accounting systems on the market today, integrating with as many as possible to simplify life for all businesses remains a challenge that MineralTree is focused on addressing.
Accounts Payable and Payment Automation has increasingly risen up the corporate agenda. In your opinion, are there any enduring misconceptions that corporates and/or Financial Institutions have in regards to this area and what are the associated health warnings?
In spite of the clear benefits of automating the processes within Accounts Payable, many businesses have yet to make an investment.
A misconception that has prevented movement toward AP automation can be explained by the old adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” When it comes down to it, many accounting teams simply don’t understand the better life that they are missing out on. One thing that every accounting team can understand is potential benefit of more time for value-added projects that move their business forward, and adopting AP automation is the often-missing piece to reaching this potential.
Another misperception of fraud risk is a driving factor behind the sluggishness of its adoption. While it’s tempting to think sharing financials with a third-party vendor automatically increases risk, MineralTree actually reduces the risk of fraud in the Accounts Payable process by building financial controls, segregation of duties and a dual payment authorization process into its software.
A third unfounded fear that has held up the widespread adoption of AP automation is the notion that accounting software like MineralTree is positioned to replace existing teams of employees. In reality, AP automation software is best positioned as a complement to accounting teams that can eliminate the drudgery of boring and manual tasks, shift team member’s focus to more innovative and forward-thinking projects, and improve employee satisfaction across the company.
Are there any key trends and/or technologies that you feel will be game changers this or next year within the Accounts Payable and Payment Automation space? And why?
With so many companies moving their accounting systems to the cloud, we’ve reached a point where the decision to adopt an AP automation solution is approaching the status of “No-Brainer.”
It doesn’t make sense to go through the process of relearning how to execute the inefficient process of Accounts Payable through your new cloud ERP, and put off an investment in AP automation until later. Rather, it makes so much more sense to integrate that ERP with a cloud AP Automation offering, and immediately reap the benefits a more efficient and cloud-based process all at once. The mass migration to cloud-based ERPs represents a golden opportunity for business to start thinking more strategically about how they want to be executing the processes around those ERPs. With Accounts Payable standing out as one of the accounting processes with the most economic upside, you can expect a big year for AP automation in the forecast.
Outside of the Accounts Payable and Payment Automation space, are there are any aspects of the payments ecosystem that you feel are in need of desperate re-engineering / innovation – by FinTechs, incumbents or both – and why?
An aspect of the payment ecosystem that transcends the Accounts Payable and Payment Automation space, but is also in constant need of attention, is fraud detection. MineralTree’s leadership is well-versed in this particular area. I myself have previously founded a fraud detection company – Memento which was acquired by FIS and hold three patents for detecting fraud in business applications.
At the moment, many organizations are approaching fraud detection with the attitude, “What’s the least I need to do to keep my data safe?” This makes sense because a return on investment in fraud can only be measured by the downside of things going poorly. However, this creates a terrible cycle of under-investing, suffering the consequences of a security breach, and then needing to over-correct as a result of their mistake. Over time, more pressing investment opportunities show up, and fraud detection inevitably slides back down the list of priorities until another breach inevitably occurs. A major fraud vulnerability in the payment ecosystem that is plaguing nearly every business today is the use of paper checks to make vendor payments. While it is simple to understand how paper checks work, it can be difficult to grasp all of the different ways they open the door for a business to fall victim to fraud. A transition to digital payments can mitigate a lot of this risk. Until a more proactive approach to assessing investments in fraud is established, it is likely we will see organizations continue to suffer in this downward spiral.
What plans does MineralTree have on the horizon for 2018?
This year, MineralTree is focused on continuous refinement and improvement of its groundbreaking software so it can continue to deliver unmatched service to its customers. This is going to be delivered in the form of an advanced PO Matching feature that will wipe out another long-standing pain point from the manual AP process, and a continued focus on expanding the number of accounting systems that MineralTree integrates with.
What is the one pearl of wisdom or candid advice you would share with anyone starting their journey as a FinTech and why?
Remain laser focused on your customers. It is so tempting to start running with a vision for your product based off initial adaptation patterns, but make sure you keep your customers in the loop at every stage of your product’s development. At the end of the day, it is your customers’ expectations that serve as the moving target you are trying to hit with your design. With all of the disruptive technology hitting finance and payments on a regular basis, there is boundless opportunity to innovate with your product. You are going to have many epiphanies and incredible ideas, but if they can’t stand up to the expectations of a handful of customers in a wireframe, then they likely won’t pan out in production either.
And finally, what is the one pearl of wisdom or candid advice you would share with Financial Institutions in regards to selecting or working with FinTechs ?
Think holistically about the partnerships that you forge with FinTechs. If you’re looking for a truly fruitful partnership, your relationship with the FinTechs that you work with are going to run much deeper than your initial partnership agreement. Especially in sell-through partner channels, investing time up front to familiarize your sales force with your partner’s product and typical troubleshooting instances can go a long way with keeping both you and your partner’s support teams on top of all customer feedback and help tickets. Remember, a swamped partner support team is bad news for both parties.
About the Author:
BC is the founder and CEO of MineralTree, Inc., an accounts payable (AP) automation and commercial payments company serving middle-market businesses. MineralTree’s Invoice-to-Pay solution brings efficiency, simplicity, and greater security and control to everyday AP.
Over the course of BC’s career, he has been a software engineer and an entrepreneur. He has started three venture-backed software companies, and enjoys the challenge of building lasting enterprises that attack hard problems to define new business categories and yield large multi-billion dollar market opportunities. His past companies include FutureTense (acquired by Open Market), one of the first to create software for Web Content Management and Memento (acquired by FIS), which delivered the first product to enable financial institutions to systematically monitor employee fraud. BC is an avid reader, runner, squash player, amateur chef, and lover of dogs. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Media Lab, Cambridge, MA), and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (Computer Science, Pilani, India).
More about FinTech Vantage:
This post is part of the FinTech Vantage series by KAE that provides a fresh perspective and hears first-hand from various players across the FinTech ecosystem.
KAE will be posting a number of interviews with FinTechs that share their candid viewpoints and to really get under the skin of the FinTech world.
If you would like to share your views and participate in the FinTech Vantage series, feel free to reach out to us at FinTech@kae.com