Grant McCall is the Founder and Designer of Australian-based accounting App for freelancers and sole traders, Rounded.
10-years as a freelance designer and developer taught Grant a lot about running a solo business. But when every other aspect of his business was down to fine art, the elephant in the room was getting louder: he’d tried dozens of accounting platforms and caused himself nothing but hours of manual work trying to get his finances tax-ready.
The tipping point came one chilly Melbourne morning when Grant—quite literally—tipped a box of paper receipts onto his Accountant’s desk. Two hours later, Grant walked out of that office with a new mission: to build an accounting App that makes work better for the self-employed.
That App is called Rounded.
Today we're joined by Grant McCall, founder of Rounded, which is an Australian-based accounting App for freelancers and sole traders. Welcome, Grant. Tell us about Rounded? What's the story? Where did it start, and what does it do?Grant McCall:
Rounded is a simple accounting application that's built specifically for sole traders and freelancers. We have been around now for about four years while the early stages were where we kicked off about four years ago and have grown a lot since then. I got started on the idea as I've been a freelancer and sole trader for most of my professional career, and I become a bit frustrated with the lack of tools that were available for freelancers to run their business. They usually had quite a few limitations, or they weren't quite built for that market. So I kind of kept running into dead ends, especially on the financial management side. My background is in various creative things, with a lot of software design and development. I thought there was an opportunity there actually to create something that was tailored for that market.Nicholas Beames:
So four years ago when you say you were a freelancer yourself. Being a freelancer is, is in some ways, running your own business and in, in some ways not, still it would be fair to say there's a jump to become an entrepreneur and to start up your own business. How did you go through that journey and that transition?Grant McCall:
Yeah, good question, there are a lot of similarities between being a freelancer and running your own business, but I'll say that being a freelancer is running your own business because you are responsible for everything and at the end of the day you need to find your own work. The money coming in is entirely your responsibility most of the time as it is when you're running a business. And for now, having had a bit of experience in doing both, I guess I can sort of say to look at the two objectively and see where, where they differ and the similarities and through the pros and cons of doing both. But sort of how I made that jump was that I've always had a lot of my clients that were entrepreneurs themselves. And so I spent a lot of time working with software companies that were building products. I'm taking that idea, building the product, taking it to market and I've kind of build up a fair bit of experience in that. And then I had, again, it's sort of that perfect timing of these challenges I was having running my business and having been around that environment for a long time. I thought I had the skills to do it and the timing was right and I also wanted that have that experience of instead of building someone else's product, I really wanted to build my own. So it all just sort of, the timing came together pretty well.Nicholas Beames:
And how did you get going on Day One? Did you have funding? Did you work from your bedroom? What's the story?Grant McCall:
Getting started from day one, I mean, there are quite a few different stages to get to where we are today and so, but how, how it started, it was initially I built a prototype myself which was just in spare time around client work. So that it's not the starting in a garage kind of story. But it is just getting started in and around client work. Along the way and through various travels that I've done, I met a very talented engineer named Igor. Igor came on board very early and who really took the product to the next stage because my background's in creative and design with a bit of technical in there, but he was far more advanced on that side of things. Then, obviously, we got a bit of seed funding from yourself, which really helped us get to get to the next level and with that came the business experience as well that we lacked. Then from that point, we were able to grow the product, we brought Oliver onboard, and we were really able to fill in the other gaps that we didn't have. So I suppose it's a bit of both. You'll always believe with any sort of business that initial seed that has to get off, it has to grow through sweat really. You've got to get something. To be able to sell the idea you've got to have something. I think it's pretty hard to get funding and grow something without, especially in software if you don't have a prototype unless you've got huge connections and a significant track record which I didn't have at the time.Nicholas Beames:
And so four years in, are you, are you happy where you're at? Are you happy with your customer numbers? What's the feeling so far?Grant McCall:
Well, I guess when you're working in B2C SaaS, no one is ever happy with your customer numbers. One always wants more customers, in general, and to be better, but we are positive about where we are at the moment. We're a small software company. We face challenges like most of us do. We'd always love a few more resources in terms of hands-on keyboards and that kind of thing, and more money to throw at marketing. But look, I'd like to be perhaps to be a bit further ahead than where they are at the moment but given, given the resources, we've had at our disposal we are quite pleased with where we are now. But more importantly looking forward, which you always have to do, I'm more excited about the opportunities that we do have in front of us. We recently just launched our product in other countries and the initial interest there has been promising. We grow mostly organically at this point, which is very important for a software company. For each customer we get on board, we don't spend more money than we make out of it. So the signs there are healthy. Look, growth could always be more, but we're happy where we are, and we're very excited about the opportunities that we have going forward.Nicholas Beames:
Nice one. You mentioned global just now, so talk to us about the project and where you can buy Rounded?Grant McCall:
The project was to take an accounting software that was focused primarily on the Australian market. It solved all the problems relating to our financial and our tax system, but we realised that there was probably an opportunity globally to provide that same product and service. We started that a few months ago, and there was quite a bit of development involved. As I said, we have an excellent engineering team that took on a very large product and we've executed it. And we now have a product that is available in every country across the globe. So while we're still seeing most of our growth locally, it's early days, and we've had some great feedback from customers in other jurisdictions.Nicholas Beames:
Where are jurisdictions in particular where there's been a decent take-up?Grant McCall:
As one might expect, being in Australia our nearest neighbour, New Zealand, share most of our tax laws and, and those kinds of things for that with a few little quirks, but that was the closest fit, and obviously, Australia and New Zealand have a very close history. Naturally, most of our attraction has come from across the Tasman, but also in the UK which, again, obviously has all of our similarities there, both culturally, in terms of tax laws and that kind of thing, so we've been able to find a little bit of traction there. The cool thing is that we're seeing sign-ups from countries we were not expecting which is very exciting. With Malaysia, Canada, the USA, and a few in South Africa. One or two just popped up in the last couple of days from South America. It's happening. It's happening everywhere. Where we expected it to have been undoubtedly proved to be true, but yeah, it's happening all over the place, which is really cool.Nicholas Beames:
That's terrific. That's great news. And with that, global growth comes infrastructure and all the things that... What well, you tell us what's going to happen when that Nirvana moment hits and you have 10,000 new users from 50 different countries? Have you thought about how that looks?Grant McCall:
What a fantastic and reasonable thing to think about. An excellent thing to have and a significant problem to have. From an infrastructure perspective looking at how we set the business up, technically, we're very confident in the underlying infrastructure that we've got, and everything is based on industry standards. We run all of our platform across Heroku, which is a large company which provides cloud infrastructure for some of the most significant software products on the planet. We have that underlying confidence in our infrastructure that we can scale at that level. It will obviously come with challenges, and there's always going to be things that we hadn't thought of technically that might throw a few curve balls, but it's the cool thing is as well is that we're not the first ones to do anything like this. So the sort of the wealth of knowledge and the other experiences you can draw on from those in the tech community is vast. We're quite confident that it's going to scale very well.Nicholas Beames:
Fantastic. And moving away from Rounded as a product, what are your thoughts on the future of the GIG economy? It seems that in, I think the last report I read was that one in three and by 2025 it's one in two people will in some way be working for themselves. How do you sort of picture that in your head in terms of how society works, and why is it going that way?Grant McCall:
Well, the first thing is I think it's all very exciting and we look at how much work has changed in the last 15 to 20 years. And that's on the back of technology, right? It's been fuelled entirely by technology, and the amazing thing is that it's given people in all kinds of places access to income that they probably never would have, even 20 years ago. There's not a chance they would have had access to this sort of income. Just by having access to a computer or even a mobile and a bike can open up a whole other revenue stream. It's kind of, this is exploded, but regulations haven't entirely caught up and taken into account some of the things that happen when you, when the Gig economy is brought with it. A lot of opportunities, but also a lot of things that need to be looked at and thought about. But, it's pretty clear that that's it's a, it's a boon for society, right? And it's just providing opportunities for so many people that they, they didn't have. And I can't see how that's not going to, not going to progress. And that's all, it's all very exciting, and it's why I'm taking part in a way, why we're doing what we do is, it's often people working for themselves or sole traders or freelance, which technically are in the gig economy hasn't sort of been looked upon all that favourably in the past. People will get a freelancer and say, oh, you're freelancing until you find another job or so forth. But now, like that's just not the case. Freelancing and the Gig economy is a way of life for people now and can provide them with a real and, and lucrative existence, and it's just no longer something people do in between jobs, and we really want to provide the tools and the tools and community to, for that economy to thrive.Nicholas Beames:
Nice. And where do you see traditional companies that primarily engage full-time employees? Do you see a blended workforce coming about?Grant McCall:
Yes definitely. Contractors have been a thing for a very long time but I think there are quite a few ways to look at it, but I choose to look at it positively in that I believe there are benefits on both sides, for both the employer and the contractor. When you say blended workforce, there's always going to be that traditional job market, and that's not going away anytime soon. But we have people who are preferring the freedom and flexibility that comes along with being a contractor, and they can say, well, all right, I'll do a two to three-month Gig, and then I might take three weeks off, and then I'll go and find another one.Nicholas Beames:
And that would come, I guess, with the confidence that there is that, that work available when they want it?Grant McCall:
Yes, exactly. And that obviously requires that you need to be quite good at what you do and build relationships. And that's the business part of being afraid of being a freelancer. But in terms of the blended workforce, I think there are benefits for both sides. An employer can say, right I need a specific set of skills for a project that's going to take three to six months? Maybe they can't afford to put someone on full time for a minimum of 12 months. So a blended workforce works quite well, and I think it's only going to become more and more blended as time goes on. These people choose to have more control and freedom over their lives and work is the primary thing in most people's lives. So they are going to want flexibility over traditional employment.Nicholas Beames:
And being a startup, the number one or number two topic on people's minds when they are startups is raising cash. What's your journey, if you can tell us, and what are your thoughts on how it goes and what would you like to see in the future with your business?Grant McCall:
In terms of raising money, I think it is such a polarising thing. Companies that just you would not survive and wouldn't exist without raising capital, right? Some items only require that capital to get started. If you're building a product, right, it's extremely difficult to fund a product yourself. You need to bring in outside capital, but when you have a software product like ours, there are many arguments for and against and they're all valid. They're all perfectly legitimate. You have people on one side that say you have to be the commander of your own destiny and bringing in outside cash can create problems, which it certainly can, if not spent correctly. And if you're spending too much to acquire customers and yeah, you do create a bit of a hole for yourself, but looking at it from the other side as well, if managed correctly with, and I think the big thing that I stress is with the right people, right.Nicholas Beames:
As in the right funders .Grant McCall:
The right funders:
Not just money.Grant McCall:
Not just money, it needs to be the right kind of investor for your business. And for the founders of that business, there obviously needs to be the relationship. Not everything is going to be entirely in agreement, but they need to align with your vision. So I think if you can get the right investors in with favourable terms for everyone and you can align on the same vision for the business, then I think it definitely works. You have an opportunity there too, to fill the gaps that you currently have. But I think those things are, those things are crucial. If things don't align, then you may be setting yourself up for failure, or you might be setting yourself up for difficult times ahead if you don't get that initial alignment correct.Nicholas Beames:
And we were chatting before this that you've had three rounds of funding and you seem to have got it right on all three. What do you think is the commonality there? That they were the right people?Grant McCall:
I think so. I believe in business generally, and it's not just in business, but even freelancing. It usually is about the people, right? To go all the way back to yet to the freelancing level. I think people work with people that they're like.Nicholas Beames:
Oh, sure people do business with people they like.Grant McCall:
Yeah. People work with people that they like and then that sort of just continues as you go through different stages. So from freelancing up to a career sort of running a startup, yeah, I think the common theme here is it's about the people. Obviously in there are the people throwing money into your business. They're going to do their due diligence and forensic accounting on your books, which is the right thing to do, but I think at the end of the day, especially in my experience is, it is about bringing on the right people at the right time.Nicholas Beames:
Nice. Well, look where we're running out of time so let's finish off by saying thanks for chatting with me Grant.Grant McCall:
Oh, likewise. And thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure. Have a good day.Speaker 1:
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