When it comes to growing a startup, choosing the right tools for your tech stack is critical for scaling your business and putting efficient processes in place from the start.
That said, the most appropriate tools for a small SMB are likely different from those that will best serve an enterprise business. Knowing when to switch vendors to meet your business’ changing needs is just as important as making sure to select the right partners to begin with.
In general, the more that a business can automate repetitive finance processes, the better.
“There is so much accounting and finance work,” says Jeff Caron, Head of Finance at personal finance app Eco. “The day-to-day activity, payroll, and reimbursing employees. All of that is the lifeblood of a startup from the finance and accounting operational perspective. So to the extent that we can automate that activity and the entries that need to go into our books, it makes it so much easier for us.”
We spoke with numerous Ramp customers, across a wide range of business sizes, to find out more about the tools in their finance tech stack and how those tools provide an advantage in meeting their goals.
Tools when you are starting out (Small-SMBs)
The tools that you use when you’re getting started will depend on your goals. The growth financing firm Capchase, for example, is very focused on international expansion, so it relies on tools that can facilitate that as well as tools that can help manage its liquidity, following a recent funding round.
“A lot of our tools come together to make sure that we’re controlling spend and we have visibility into the future. These tools enable us to take action and tweak our position accordingly,” explains Jonah Remz, Capchase’s Head of Finance.
As your startup grows, you may find that your internal accounting and bookkeeping needs become more complex. While many micro businesses begin with QuickBooks for their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), they often transition to NetSuite fairly quickly as the business begins to accelerate. That was the case with Capchase, says Remz.
Making the switch has paid off recently, as the company is going through its first audit, a process that Remz says has been easier thanks to NetSuite.
“NetSuite really helped us throughout that audit process, allowing the auditors to access information from our eight different entities,” he says. “And NetSuite kind of forces you to do it the right way, versus how you can sometimes scrap it together with QuickBooks.”
Having an automated way to manage your expenses can help free up more time to focus on work that will actually have an impact on your bottom line. Cometeer, the hyper-fresh, flash-frozen coffee co. , has found that Ramp is a tool that makes it easy for their employees to track travel expenses. The flexibility of automatic uploads and categorization of expenses allows the team to focus on the things that matter most: the coffee.
“Ramp saves us a massive headache from all kinds of manual accounting work,” says Cometeer CEO Matt Roberts. “And anything that lets us spend more time on Cometeer’s coffee and customers is a huge win for our business.”
Business intelligence software helps to collect and process large amounts of data to help businesses unearth insights and make data-driven decisions. Capchase uses Looker for business intelligence, Remz says. He likes it because it provides a user-friendly, granular view of the business.
“It has various types of dashboards and visualizations, just lots of data pools,” says Remz. “It essentially allows business users like myself to interact with data, even though we don’t know tech or can’t code.”
HR and payroll
Setting the right early foundation for your hiring and payroll needs can help your business grow without experiencing unnecessary friction. Capchase works with a variety of vendors for HR and payroll, including Worksuite for freelancer management, Deel and Papaya Global for hiring, QuotaPath for sales compensation, and BambooHR for managing headcount and other reporting.
However, Remz believes that Justworks provides the best value.
“It’s pretty basic, but it saves a ton of time and money,” Remz says. “It’s so automated that you really don’t need to do too much and it kind of handles itself. I would pay so much money to not have to deal with any of that.”
Vendor management and negotiation
“When we’re signing up new contracts, having them represent us in negotiations helps us make sure that we’re getting market rates,” Remz says.
Tools for when you start to grow bigger (Large SMBs)
As your company grows and matures, it’s important to keep an eye on your tech stack and make changes as necessary. At Air, a creative ops system for marketers, much of the focus as the company grows has been on replacing single-function tools with more holistic solutions that can do multiple tasks at once.
“We recognize that we need to grow, but we also need to grow efficiently,” says Jeff Wang, who leads Finance and BizOps at Air. “Part of that efficiency is framework, and it’s the ability to have the right guardrails and controls on spend across the org without finance teams spending all day on it.”
The SMB stage is where more and more businesses make the transition to a more advanced ERP. Crypto platform Messari also uses QuickBooks, but the company is in the process of transitioning to NetSuite.
Many SMBs also rely on Stripe for their billing needs.
“We rely heavily on Stripe for everything related to revenue and billing” notes Wang.
Both Air and Messari use Ramp for expenses. Wang likes it because of the level of control it affords him on spending, without having to hire a controller and an accountant to reconcile receipts.
“Once I set up the approval workflow and expense policies, I can just let it run on its own,” he says. “For the spend management role, Ramp is integral to my ability to manage spend without having to spend a ton of time or money.”
Messari also uses Ramp for some specific purposes, such as sending a card to each employee for their work-from-home stipend and giving dedicated cards to those employees who don’t travel much when they do need to attend an offsite.
Stripe is also a popular SMB choice for payment processing.
“Bitwave essentially consolidates activity across our various crypto wallets and allows us to translate those transactions into journal entries, which get pushed into our ERP,” explains Brent Gerundo, Head of Finance at Messari.
HR and payroll
The SMB stage is the point at which some businesses begin to migrate to a human resources information system (HRIS).
“In my mind, Rippling is the platform that can eventually unite everything on the HR and payroll side,” Wang says. “So, I think that’ll be a really neat crossover between finance and HR.”
Caron concedes that Rippling, which the company uses for payroll, can be pricey for some but says it delivers incredible value for the company.
“It’s so critically important for everything that we do,” Caron says. “One of the biggest opportunities for a startup is hiring and that whole onboarding process can be a ton of work.”
Messari is also in the midst of a transition in its payroll tech. The company currently works with Justworks via their professional employer organization (PEO) relationship in the United States (and Deel for international employees), but it is moving to ADP to handle payroll in-house.
FP&A analytics/financial modeling
While many of the tasks in this function remain based in Excel, some SMBs start considering more advanced tools. Wang says he uses Mode for analytics and has also recently onboarded a new tool called Equals.
“It’s sort of the perfect marriage of Excel and SQL, where you get to build Excel model analysis with live SQL queries,” Wang explains. “It allows you to query live data from your data warehouse and merge that directly with your spreadsheet.”
Tools for when you’ve established yourself (Mid-Market)
As companies continue to grow, they may start thinking about their next stage, whether that’s an acquisition or an IPO. That puts an even greater emphasis on optimizing speed and accuracy with regard to financial transactions.
“If we were gearing up for an IPO in three or five years from now, there are a lot of things we’d have to button up before that,” says Alex Song, Ramp’s Head of Finance and Capital Markets. “We would be looking for increasing sophistication and robustness in terms of things like month-end close and multi-entity support.”
Like many growing startups, Ramp is in the process of switching over from QuickBooks to NetSuite.
“QuickBooks really only supports financial reporting for one legal entity,” Song explains. “And because we have many legal entities, the process of consolidation is pretty challenging with respect to QuickBooks. That’s probably the number one reason why we’re switching to NetSuite.”
Recurring revenue financing platform Pipe uses Ramp for bill payment, which has made a big difference for CFO Lukas Wagner. Mid-market companies often have an incredible amount of bills to track and pay, and these tools help alleviate this expense burden.
“We need to keep paying our bills for marketing and professional services providers,” he says. “So half of my Fridays were just paying bills manually, which is not a fun way to live life.”
HR and payroll
As Ramp’s hiring and payment needs have grown in tandem with its headcount, there’s been an increased need for tools to help manage this larger team. Ramp now uses several vendors within its HR and payroll tech stack. Those include Paylocity, as well as Sequoia for HR and benefits and Human Interest for 401(k) and other financial benefits.
Debt management tools help with financial management and planning, and are especially useful to startups who have gone through several funding rounds. Song says that Finley may be the tool that provides Ramp the most value.
“They’re a great bang for the buck,” he says. “We pay them a reasonable amount, but in exchange we receive the equivalent of several full-time employees worth of work.”
Equity, cap table management
Like every startup interviewed for this piece, Ramp uses Carta for cap table management.
“They’re very user friendly,” Song says. “And they have experience. They’ve done this for a while and have a lot of customers. There’s a great deal of scale and expertise in-house there.”
While choosing the right tech stack for your business can feel overwhelming, keeping your company goals top of mind and performing due diligence around the types of companies you need can help you feel confident in your decision. Keep in mind that even once you’ve selected the right partners, you’ll likely need to revisit the decision as the needs and goals of your company change over time.