Freelance-accounting Startup Paro Raises $10 Million

Paro, considered a matchmaker for freelance accountants and mid-market companies, has raised $10 million, led by a Silicon Valley venture fund called Sierra Ventures.

The Chicago-based company plans to double staff in the next year to provide corporate clients with on-demand experts across a range of financial functions. The company, which started three years ago, has grown to 65 employees from about 25 a year ago, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

Founder Michael Burdick, a former Deloitte consultant, says the company has thousands of freelancers and hundreds of clients, mostly middle-market companies looking for particular expertise. Paro handles billing for the freelancers and provides software to help them manage their businesses.

“Professionals want flexibility, but it really sucks to freelance,” says Burdick, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. “You spend 40% to 60% of your time doing business development, invoicing clients.”

Tech Crunch reports that Burdick calls Paro “a freelancer operating system.” Burdick says that Paro focuses on elite financial talent, leading to higher margins.

Online labor marketplaces targeting business functions have grown dramatically in popularity in recent years, observers say.

blumshapiro Announces Merger with SunBlock Systems

West Hartford, Conn.-based blumshapiro (FY18 net revenue of $83.4 million) has merged with SunBlock Systems as a division of blumshapiro. SunBlock is a cybersecurity, digital forensics, business intelligence and technology consulting firm in Reston, Va.

“With the addition of SunBlock Systems, we are significantly increasing our capabilities by providing clients with world-class expertise in the ever-growing area of global security and intelligence,” says CEO Joseph A. Kask. “SunBlock’s ability to protect clients’ key assets and further their business interests in both the cyber and physical worlds is integral in today’s digital world and complements blum’s cybersecurity, forensic and investigative services.”

SunBlock’s areas of expertise include digital forensics, eDiscovery, cyber intelligence and deep and dark web monitoring, due diligence and investigative support, cyber breach investigations and technology consulting.

David Sun, CEO of SunBlock Systems says, “With blum’s resources we will expand our cutting-edge technology to help our clients protect their organizations from cyber threats, gain a tactical advantage against litigation opponents and competitors, and assure regulatory and legal compliance.”

SunBlock consults on complex technical and legal issues, often serving as an expert witness for its clients. It has investigated or supported investigations into many of the best-known corporate malfeasance cases since the first Bush administration.

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Introhive, PwC Offering AI Services

Introhive, an enterprise relationship management (ERM) provider, is expanding its relationship with Big 4 firm PwC to offer AI-powered relationship intelligence.

The joint business relationship (JBR) began in the U.K. late last year, and has expanded to Canada and the U.S., with plans to expand into Europe.

The collaboration is intended to help increase employee productivity and grow revenue with the help of a more streamlined process, AI-powered data automation and relationship intelligence solutions for Salesforce Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Introhive reports.

“PwC is truly pioneering the way organizations drive digital transformation at a global scale,” says Stewart Walchli, Introhive co-founder and business development leader. “Not only are they delivering leading-edge solutions for their clients, but they are leading by example with their own global deployment success.”

The software eliminates data entry and fills the system with complete customer data and relationship insights. We’re eager to take our proven solution to market to help other organizations with their own transformation.”

“Introhive has been a key component to our front office transformation strategy. The power of relationship data science was evident from our first deployment five years ago and has helped us to drive a successful global deployment of Salesforce,” says PwC’s Global Centre of Excellence and consulting partner Philip Grosch. He adds that the software eliminates data entry and fills the system with complete customer data and relationship insights. “We’re eager to take our proven solution to market to help other organizations with their own transformation.”

IPA Vendor Spotlight On . . . LeaseCrunch

Name: Ane Ohm

Ane Ohm

Ane Ohm

Company: LeaseCrunch

Title: CEO

How is LeaseCrunch impacted by delaying the new lease standard implementation for non-public companies?

Interest in our lease accounting software hasn’t slowed. CPA firms are successfully using the software to work through implementations for both public and privately held organizations, with many more firms telling us they’re working to keep momentum going with clients despite the delay.

To help those firms encourage clients to start now – rather than facing a time crunch again next year – we’re actually offering a 2-for-1 pricing promotion until the end of 2019.  

What are some lessons learned by public companies that have already adopted the standard?

There are many. Here are the top ones that come to mind:

  • Completeness. Properly identifying all leases across all locations is more complicated than many expected. There are so many things to consider about each lease, including lease and non-lease components, lease and renewal term, common area maintenance, embedded leases, and more.
  • Timeframe. Due to the complexity of the standard, including the process of abstracting data from leases, I’m hearing the entire implementation process is taking about three times longer than most organizations anticipated.
  • Impact to Users of Financial Statements. Don’t forget about potential impacts to banking relationships. Now that you’re adding lease liabilities to your financial statements, it could impact loan covenants. The best approach is communicating with financial institutions early in the process.
  • Practical Expedients. The FASB provided a number of practical expedients and we strongly encourage organizations to adopt as many as feasible. It will simplify the entire implementation and adoption process.

I’ve always successfully managed my leases in a spreadsheet. Can I do the same for the new lease standard?

Unfortunately, no – at least I would strongly recommend against it. And I’m not just saying that as the CEO of a lease accounting software platform. I’m also a former PwC auditor and I can’t imagine having to audit all those complex calculations in a spreadsheet. 

Here are the main reasons that spreadsheets simply aren’t feasible for implementing the new lease standard and managing your leases thereafter:

  • Complex calculations: There are many complicated components of the new lease standard, particularly with the quantitative footnote disclosures that include a weighted average discount rate and weighted average remaining term.
  • Navigating nuances: Another benefit of using software over spreadsheets is the guidance you get to add context or explain more complicated parts of the new standard. Spreadsheets don’t offer that assistance.
  • Enormously time-consuming: It is much more time-consuming to manage the new lease standard in a spreadsheet as it has no pre-built calculations or workflows. 
  • Version and calculation control: When multiple departments and people are responsible for lease data, it can be difficult to share spreadsheets and have confidence that everyone is using the latest version.
  • Lack of validation or security: A spreadsheet has no built-in data validations and minimal security options.

How does LeaseCrunch work?

LeaseCrunch is an easy-to-use lease accounting software built specifically to simplify the new lease standard. We designed it to be both affordable and scalable for CPA firms to use with clients of all sizes. Features include:

  • Simplified policy election templates
  • Lease classification and lease term wizards
  • Easy, quick data entry
  • Tool tips to guide the user through the process and answer questions about the new standard
  • Error- and worry-free calculations (verified by an Agreed-Upon Procedures report)
  • Automated journal entries and qualitative footnote disclosures

What are people saying about LeaseCrunch?

Here is a case study from a regional bank and another one from an IPA 100 CPA firm. Other clients and observers have shared the following with us:

  • “Very user-friendly.”
  • “This looks like what we need.” 
  • “I close my eyes and this is what I picture when it comes to lease accounting software… extremely intuitive.” 
  • “This is outstanding, very impressive.”
  • “You just relieved a lot of my stress.”
  • “We wanted a software solution to make our life easier and someone we could lean on for help… LeaseCrunch fits that bill.”

Survey Finds Consumers Not Yet Comfortable with Disruptive Technologies

A new survey says that consumers are seven times more likely to use their credit card on a weekly basis than a mobile wallet.

This suggests that consumers are adopting disruptive technologies slowly, according to Global X ETFs, which provides exchange-traded funds, and recently released a survey of 500 consumers.

“Overall adoption and comfort level with many disruptive technologies remains low across generations,” the survey says. “This could be due to consumers waiting for the technology to become more established, for prices to fall or they are simply entrenched in their current habits.”

Consumers have embraced online shopping more than any other digital disruption, but 1 in 5 say they’re not comfortable purchasing almost anything online without having seen the item in person first.

Adoption of other disruptive technologies, such as the internet of things and electric vehicles is just beginning. Respondents indicated that less than 1 in 10 operate smart home devices like home security cameras (8%), lighting (7%), climate control (6%) or kitchen appliances (3%) from their smart phone. Also, less than 5% of consumers use an electric vehicle on at least a weekly basis.

“What stands out is that we’re still very clearly in the early stages of these technologies fully disrupting the legacy segments of the economy,” says Jay Jacobs, head of research and strategy at Global X. “Technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that consumers are still familiarizing themselves with these revolutionary products.”

On the whole, Millennials are most comfortable with new technologies. They are much more likely to use mobile payments platforms on a regular basis, with 31% indicating weekly usage of mobile wallets, and 27% for peer-to-peer payments. By contrast, only 6% and 1% of Baby Boomers used these services weekly, respectively.

Millennials again showed more comfort with the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence on job prospects. Over a third (37%) expect any automation in their job to be a net positive, and just 18% expect a negative impact. Baby Boomers were the most negative, with 19% expecting a positive change, and 17% expecting a negative one.

Sikich Forms Intelligent Automation Services Team

Naperville, Ill.-based Sikich (FY18 net revenue of $168.7 million) recently formed an intelligent automation services team to offer advanced technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA), to middle-market clients.

The firm will deliver custom RPA bots to clients to help them cut down on repetitive, manual tasks, reduce errors and optimize processes. Additional services include machine learning, optical character recognition and natural language processing.

“Implementing intelligent automation can be cost-prohibitive for many middle-market companies,” Sikich CFO Ryan Spohn says. “We aim to fill this void by combining our deep technology expertise with innovative solutions. Our team will enable more companies to not only access these advanced technologies and speed their digital transformations, but also enjoy a meaningful return on investment.”

Sikich’s national technology consultancy helps companies across industries – including health care, finance, manufacturing, distribution and professional services – improve productivity and performance with innovative digital strategies and technology solutions.

“Intelligent automation is a natural extension of our digital transformation and emerging technology services,” says Sikich CIO Scott Sanders.

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Marks Paneth Announces New Service

Dean Nelson

New York-based Marks Paneth (FY18 net revenue of $136 million) has announced the addition of a new technology and digital services group.

Led by PIC Dean Nelson, professionals in the practice will focus on client needs in the areas of technology assessment, data analytics, enterprise integration and architecture, business process consulting, IT due diligence, cloud enablement and digital transformation plans.

Nelson brings decades of experience in developing and implementing digital solutions for for-profit and not-for-profit clients of national public accounting firms and major corporations.

“Expanding our service capabilities in the digital space supports our firm’s highest priority, which is helping clients achieve long-term business and personal success,” says MP Harry Moehringer. “Along with our tax advisors and attest professionals, Dean Nelson and his team will serve as key resources for clients as they continue to face evolving risks, regulations and compliance requirements.”

Based in the firm’s New York headquarters, Nelson will oversee a team of technology professionals who will advise clients across all of the geographies and industries that Marks Paneth serves, including manufacturing, construction, real estate, nonprofit, retail, restaurants and health care.

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Former AICPA Chair Joins Business Learning Institute

Former AICPA Chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, global executive director of finance thought leadership for Oracle, has joined the Business Learning Institute to offer a variety of courses on the intersection of emerging technologies and the future of work and finance.

Among her BLI course titles are:

  • Are We There Yet? Why Not?
  • Fingers Crossed Is Not A Path To Double-Digit Revenue Growth
  • Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
  • Inclusive Leadership: Does It Really Work?
  • Leading From The Middle
  • Why Standing Still Is Not An Option
  • Will SkyNet Become Self-Aware?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor

“Her depth of knowledge is nearly unequaled, and her devotion to teaching and lifelong learning will help BLI clients master the skills they’ll need to succeed in a changing and complex world,” says Tom Hood, president and CEO of the Business Learning Institute and the Maryland Association of CPAs. “The skills she brings to the Business Learning Institute are exactly what we need to help our profession become more future-ready.”

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Ellison-Taylor, who was born and raised in Baltimore and served as chair of the Maryland Association of CPAs’ board of directors during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Ellison-Taylor’s career achievements include leadership roles at Oracle, Motorola, KPMG, Prince George’s County Government and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her leadership in the profession and serves as a member of the AICPA Assurance Services Executive Committee and as vice chair for the AICPA’s National Commission for Diversity and Inclusion.

Moore Colson Joins Technology and Startup Incubator

Atlanta-based Moore Colson (FY18 net revenue of $26.6 million) has joined Digital Ignition of Alpharetta, Ga., an incubator that provides services to new tech companies.

Digital Ignition was first launched in 2016 as a co-working space, but over the last year, officials have expanded the offerings to include attorney, accounting and other incubation services.

Moore Colson says firm experts are on site during regular office hours to assist startups and established companies with accounting-related support. Staff are experts in the specialized financial reporting, tax and IT control requirements facing tech companies, the firm says.

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Armanino Begins Accepting Cryptocurrency Payments

San Ramon, Calif.-based Armanino (FY18 net revenue of $267.2 million) is accepting payment in more than 1,000 cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP, Litecoin and many other altcoins.

Armanino is also offering the firm’s proprietary block explorer and associated audit tools to clients, who include virtual currency exchanges, custodians and blockchain companies. Block explorer works with top public blockchains to analyze transaction and wallet details as well as digital signature validation tools to obtain independent and credible audit evidence, giving clients the most powerful and trustworthy platform for successful audits.

“With more fintech companies, banks and brokerages exploring ways to mainstream cryptocurrency, it made sense for Armanino to build the infrastructure necessary to accept cryptocurrency payments for what we expect to be a growing form of payment,” says partner Andries Verschelden, blockchain practice leader.

He adds, “As digital asset use and adoption increases and new types of transactions are made, such as security token offerings (STO) on public blockchains, the need for third-party assurance tools continues to grow. That’s where our block explorer and associated tools are already proving value to our internal teams and our clients alike.”

Armanino offers a breadth of industry-specific solutions to the blockchain and cryptocurrency communities. The firm has implemented a crypto onboarding service that includes preparing and consulting clients on the best practices, as well as the means to perform transactions in the new digital asset economy.

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