90% of the businesses fail during their first year of operation Why? Because they collapse due to financial difficulties associated with poor financial management. Eccountant is a no-brainer accounting software designed for startups and small business owners to help them manage their accounts and finances without learning accounting. Few people start a business thinking about accounting, invoicing, payroll, CRM and everything else that is required to successfully run a business. Eccountant makes your job easy by managing these functions with its smart features.
Muhammad Gohar Shafique and Zain Ashraf Mughal are the great brains behind this successful venture. The duo describes their entrepreneurial yearning in a conversation with Startupily.
Hi, I’m Muhammad Gohar Shafique a young entrepreneur, Consultant, Philanthropist, and Speaker.
I have co-founded several successful companies including Ivoke Pvt, Eccountant, and Heal Pakistan and serve as the vice president of Seedout. I also blog on passive income, SaaS, and startups.
Eccountant is a cloud-based invoicing, accounting, project management and payroll software designed for small business owners. It is not just “another” accounting or project management software but can be described as a “Swiss army knife for finance automation”.
One major challenge was to hire a great team, the second was selling the software and third was to get approval for the payment gateway system. Coming from a marketing background, hiring a tech team was a real challenge but with my prior experience with managing a digital agency, we were able to overcome this challenge. I was always fond of technology and I always believed in self-learning therefore, I taught myself several technical things like usability design, PHP, photoshop etc. All this helped me for the Eccountant product development and hiring a great tech team aligned with a similar vision.
I always loved selling, And I believe every entrepreneur should learn to sell themselves and their ideas. When Eccountant was started, I remember going with my business partner across the roads of Lahore to pitch our software to small business owners and onboarding initial users for beta testing. And without any marketing budget, we landed more than 300+ users to test our product.
Targeting International users is easy because there are no payment hassles. However, due to the lack of payment gateways and PayPal in Pakistan, payments can become a hassle that should be solved in first place when you are developing your product or service. We have local payment gateway system as a solution and we are looking forward to integrate Easy Paisa Easy Pay in our software for local customers.
The idea is not new itself. The Genesis of the thought to put Eccountant into being came from the problem that we faced. There are plenty of options out there for invoicing, accounting and project management. But none of the solutions worked for us. When we started building our first company “ivoke” from our basement and scaled it to a private limited company with an increasing number of employees, We started to foresee the difficulties. We used Excel for bookkeeping, another app for invoicing, another app for managing our team members, and Gmail for exchanging our accounts, invoices , tasks, and we were struggling. Email is built for communication, not collaboration . In the start it all made sense but with a growing business and increasing team members it was a huge burden to track and difficult to collaborate. A lot of stuff was slipping through the cracks and we started to lose our customers. None the less we had to keep track of all the logins for all these different apps we were using.
Both I and Zain run multiple businesses and we travel a lot, therefore we needed something that can be used as a “one app” to manage our most difficult business tasks. Where we can keep track of everything, automate complex stuff and see what is really happening under the hood.
So we looked for a better solution. But we failed. Everything was so complex packed with features that did not made any sense. So we decided to build our own solution.
When we started Eccountant, we wanted to focus on several things that our competitors did not provide included:
– Usability design of the software (every inch of the software is pixel perfect with proper UX specifically for SaaS-based software)
– Software for the business owners not for the accountants (We hated accounting yet it is one of the vital aspects to manage your business therefore, we focused on making it user-friendly)
– Smart features for automation and control checks for transparency
– Localized version for payroll, taxes, vouchers etc
– Select modules that are only required for your business, not jam packed with useful features and e.g if you a sell specialty cakes you will only need invoicing, basic accounting to record expenses, inventory for costing and database of your customers and suppliers.
– Adding features like multiple users and companies
– And it should be affordable for small business owners and startups so that they can focus on their business and not on the accounting.
Our biggest strength was our sustainable approach to develop the product without any initial sales. We also have a great team and culture that is aligned with our vision.
The excitement and satisfaction that comes with building something of a long lasting value are very addictive and this is what I love about entrepreneurship that a job can lack. Becoming an employee is very easy and entrepreneurship is very hard.
I support entrepreneurship, however, I recommend that you should at least get a minimum 5 years of working experience before starting your own company. Working under someone can teach you a lot of things and it can give you a reality check.
I believe that Pakistan can produce billion dollar companies and we want to be that company in the next 10 years. We did it with Ivoke and we are confident enough that we can achieve more for Eccountant.
– I am eyeing a similar valuation of our company in the coming years
– Taking Eccountant to IPO (Not in a hurry as we have many offers from the investors and we may get into a acquisition deal from a foreign investor)
– Passion (working relentless hours)
– Learn and read (learn new technical skills like designing etc and read self help books)
– Focus and Resilience
I am a hardcore believer for “doing things that don’t scale” by Paul Graham. For Eccountant we went on foot to acquire our initial beta testers and recruited our first paying customers from “word of mouth” referrals and leveraging our connections from Ivoke.
However for recurring customer base we rely of SEO and Social Media, we have outsourced this part to our sister company Ivoke (they know it better than us). 60% of our new users are through this channel.
We will start ATL and BTL campaigns locally and internationally after achieving $100k in monthly revenue.
Providing good design experience with easy user on boarding. We invest so much time and resources on the design and UX part because it can really make a huge difference to sustain your customer base.
Second is Providing Quality Support. We are in a process of creating a local sales and dedicated support team through phone, email and in-person visits. We are also creating video trainings for new users and Blog for small business owners and startups with startup and accounting tips and tutorials.
I try to read and learn a lot therefore I am inspired from many though leaders and mentors like Sam Altman, Noah Kagan, Elon Musk, Grant Cardone, Pat Flynn, Derek Halper, Neil Patel, David Wolfe and so many others.
Muhammad Gohar Shafique