Date posted: 13/11/2019 4 min read

Lessons from CA Catalyst: Startups say early advice from CAs saves pain

Will Camphin is thriving on the enthusiasm of the startup founders he has met through the CA Catalyst CA in Residence program at Fishburners Sydney.

Entrepreneurs may be passionate about their ideas but to be successful, they need the skills and resources to make the business viable. That's where CAs come in, says Will Camphin.

He loves seeing the joy in startup founders' eyes when he listens to their ideas and responds with constructive advice:

"Often CAs only access these businesses once they're already established, but there's so much value you can give to them in these early stages, from how they structure their businesses, making sure they don't give away too much equity when they're trying to raise money, and being that steady head and hand when they're struggling to get through tough times."

Camphin also gains satisfaction knowing his contributions benefit the broader community. "Micro businesses are the engine room of our economy. If the micro businesses and startups actually kick, we all prosper," he says, adding that many of the startups at Fishburners are working to improve people's lives."

Sana Health Intelligence is a good example. It's using mobile technology to create wearable devices that help older people track their own health and activity levels. The data can also be transmitted to caregivers and family members.

The market potential is huge. Sana's founder Man Yui Lee estimates that if current medical trends continue, by 2040 the average life expectancy will exceed 90 years.

Through Fishburners Camphin has been acting as a sounding board for Man on big topics from capital raising and engaging with stakeholders, to launching the product.

"Will knows how to ask the right questions," Man says. "He may not have all the answers but he helps me probe things deeper and reflect on things … That is the best value add to me so far."

Man expects to continue to seek Camphin's guidance as his business develops.

The average age of a startup founder might surprise you

"Most people's perception of startups is that it's young people initiating them, but my experience is usually they're people who are mid-career, have subject matter expertise and are solving a problem they know intimately to help the community around them," Camphin says.

In fact, a 2018 study by MIT found the average age of startup founders who went on to hire at least one employee was 42 years.

Seeing startups innovate has motivated Camphin to keep up with innovations such as data modeling tools that allow him to take control of data, rather than needing IT staff to load, extract and transform it for him.

Business intelligence tools are becoming more user friendly, making it easier for him to create data visualisations for his clients to help them understand where to focus their efforts.

"Often CAs only access these businesses once they're already established, but there's so much value you can give to them in these early stages."

Technology can free CAs from their offices

"A lot of people are concerned about technology taking over the role of accountants, I'm actually finding we're pushing back into the realm of IT," he says.

And with cloud computing, a tablet, a laptop and an internet connection, Camphin is free to work on the go, dramatically cutting the amount of office space he needs.

"I have not spent two consecutive days in the office since February," he says proudly, adding that video conferencing helps him 'see' clients more often, even on the road, and having eye contact in a meeting, even via a screen, helps build relationships.

The relationships Camphin developed through his work at Fishburners have brought mutual benefits: Camphin has learned a lot about nimble businesses and Man is grateful for the support he has received, noting there are plenty of other startups like his that deserve help too.

"Startups need a lot of good advice and a lot of good coaching from CAs," Man says. "I encourage all CAs to join this industry as early as possible. Get in there, help startups accelerate the economy and maybe some of the CAs will sooner or later be the CFO and CEO of some of the big Unicorns from Australia."

The CA Catalyst Immersion Programme

The CA Catalyst Immersion Programme gives Chartered Accountants a taste of life as an entrepreneur and discover innovative approaches to using technology in practice. CA ANZ members can apply for a scholarship to participate in the programme.

Learn more and register your interest

Search related topics