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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Mang-Git Ng of Anvil, on transitioning from paper to PDF-based processes and online workflows

Posted on: 12/29/2020

Mang-Git Ng

Mang-Git Ng

Founder and CEO - Anvil

Mang-Git Ng of Anvil - Podcast Summary

Mang-Git Ng of Anvil stops by to talk about his company’s mission of helping companies and governments transition from paper-based forms to PDF-based processes and online workflows.

Mang-Git Ng of Anvil - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Hey, it’s Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting, and welcome to another episode of Founders & Friends. And before we start the podcast, let’s give a quick shout out to Rippling. Rippling is the new cool payroll tool that we see a lot of startups using. Rippling is great for your traditional HR and payroll. They integrate very nicely, but guess what? They did another thing, they integrate into your IT infrastructure. They make it really easy for when you hire someone to spin up all the web services and their computer. Which sounds like not a huge deal, but actually we did the study Kruze, we spent $420 on average just getting a new employee’s computer up and running, and their web servers up and running. It’s actually a really big deal. It saves a lot of money, and the dogs are eating the dog food. We see a lot of startups coming in to Kruze now using Rippling. So please check out Rippling. Great service, we love it. I think we have a podcast with Parker Conrad, you can hear it from his own words. But we’re seeing them take market share, so shout out to Rippling. And now to another awesome podcast at Kruze Consulting Founders & Friends. Thanks.
Singer: So, when your troubles are mounting in tax or accounting, you go to Cruise. And Founders and Friends. It’s Cruise Consulting, Founders and Friends, with your host, Scottie Orn.
Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast, with Scott Orn at Cruise Consulting. And today, my very special guess is Mang-Git Ng of Anvil. Welcome, Mang-Git.
Mang: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Scott: Yeah, so I’ve been excited about this conversation, because a friend of mine in the accounting world had actually sent me your website and a little video tutorial probably, two months ago. And so, I’ve really been looking forward to talk to you. And I tried it out, and so I think people are going to be really excited about the Anvil as a tool. But maybe you can start off by retracing your career a little bit, and telling us how you had the idea for Anvil.
Mang: Yeah, absolutely. I think I was not always an entrepreneur, obviously. But the idea of becoming an entrepreneur was really seeded with my Montessori education. They definitely taught me to be very curious, and had also taught me a lot about responsibility. So, I think that seeded the idea. But after graduating from the University of Michigan, I came out to California to work at Cisco Systems. And this was during the recession. It was the only job offer I got, so you get what you get, right? So, I took it.
Scott: Which recession, ‘08 or 2001?
Mang: This was ‘08. So, dating myself here a little bit.
Scott: Okay. They both apply, they both apply.
Mang: They both apply. Yeah, and so I did that for about nine months, I believe. I actually interned there twice, and then worked there full-time for nine months before really kind of jumping into the startup scene. I was fortunate enough to be a very early employee at Dialpad as a software engineer.
Scott: Oh yeah, yeah.
Mang: There, I really learned a lot about starting a company. But I will say that it was pretty smooth sailing there. I mean, Craig was a third time founder, so he knew what he was doing. And you never really felt any of the imminent threat that you probably feel at other startups. So, I joined another startup. This time, it was called Loom. It was a [inaudible] company. And fortunately, within five months, we were acquired by Dropbox. And so, I was at Dropbox for a good two and a half years, and really built out my network then. After Dropbox, bounced around a little bit. But then, eventually, it just felt like it was time for me to start my own thing. And the network really helped me kind of get started. The people I met at Dropbox was really helpful and beneficial to that process.
Scott: That’s amazing. It’s almost like, I love working at those kinds of companies. I worked at H&Q and J.P. Morgan. It was like that for me where like, it kinds of sets your career up quite a bit. You know, and one of the things I’m excited about at Cruise is like, I think we’re not obviously Dropbox or J.P. Morgan, H&Q. But you have this really big extended network, and like you said, not only do you probably learn a lot of skills, but you built out your network and you know a lot of people. And it makes doing the next thing a heck of a lot easier.
Mang: Yeah, absolutely. And now, it’s a don’t undersell yourself. I’m sure that network is going to be very valuable.
Scott: Yeah, we’re getting there, we’re getting there. What was the thing that just sparked Anvil?
Mang: I think paperwork is generally viewed as a universally hated process. But people kind of just deal with it, right? You as a consumer, you only have to fill out forms every once in a while. It’s pretty episodic. So, you just deal with the pain. For myself, the realization that there was something here was when I was applying for a mortgage. And the banker emailed me a pdf form that was asking for my social security number, asking for my address, phone number, birth date. And said, “Please fill this out and email it back to me.” And as any software engineer, the first thing …
Scott: I’m starting to laugh, because the social security one is such a no, no. Yeah, keep going.
Mang: Exactly.
Scott: That’s one reason I like Anvil in the first place, so keep going.
Mang: Yeah, so it was just such a security issue. And then on top of that, the pdf …
Scott: Yeah, crazy.
Mang: It’s terrible. The pdf was impossible to fill out on my computer. It was not a fillable pdf. So, it was just easier to print it out and take a picture of it, and then attach it. And that’s when I really started thinking about this problem and digging into this problem.
Scott: Because we have the same thing. I think we’re super security focused. So, I’m sure in the past when we were first getting going, we were winging it and sending pdf’s, like, a W-9 for example would be something where people would request a W-9. But we really have religion around not sending social security numbers around through email. Especially as an accounting firm. We’re a registered CPA firm, so we’re regulated. So, we just can’t do that kind of stuff.
Mang: Right.
Scott: And so, that was actually one of the reasons I saw you guys was my friend had done this online demo using the other Loom. And it showed populating a W-9 form. Which for the audience, every time you pay a contractor or an individual or an LLC/S corp, you have to see if they should get a 1099 or not. And so, the IRS has this form on the website. And the demo I saw at Anvil was pretty slick. Because you could basically use, you pulled the IRS document down and then used Anvil to send it out to people. And people would fill it out securely, which I really like. I think that’s a really great use case. And I love to talk about more use cases, but that was secure. I got exactly what you were doing in that moment.
Mang: Yeah, definitely. I think security is a big, big focus for ourselves. Because that was an experience that I had personally. And we go to great lengths to try to encrypt all the information and make sure, especially PII is removed from the browser and not accessible. So, we do go to great lengths to make sure our system is secure.
Scott: Yeah, it’s really amazing. So maybe you can talk … Before we turned the mics on, you had this really interesting way that you, for lack of a better word, seeding the market, or helping people get on Anvil and actually experience Anvil.
Mang: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott: It’s almost like a hack. Do you want to say how you do it?
Mang: Yeah, sure. Here’s our secret sauce, everybody. So, when we think of the market today, there’s a lot of companies out there that are digital first. They help you build forms, like the Google Forms, the type of forms. And those are great, and we honestly think that’s where the future is going. But what we realized in talking with some of these legacy industries is that, paperwork is actually the underpinning of almost all of these industries. Paperwork and specifically, pdfs. So, our thought was, if we’re trying to get somebody to move off of pdf into the digital future, saying, “Here’s a web form builder, just go build your web form,” is a little bit of a logical leap for a lot of these people. So, we wanted to create a way for anyone to upload a pdf into Anvil. And Anvil will help you extract the fields that need to be filled out, and then help you generate a web form from that. And then we also, on the back end, when you send out that web form, we help you interface back to your existing processes, which is we fill that pdf, we send it to Signature, so you can continue operating as you have been. You just have a nicer interface to do that with.
Scott: Yeah, which is really smart. Because I’m technologically literate, but I’m not a developer. So, you’re kind of doing the dirty work for me in that, I’m giving you some form I need, and then you’re basically building the web form for me, which then can take information and put in the pdf. I thought that was really smart, because maybe a last adept … You’re really thinking of your end customer in that respect. Which, I really like because for better or worse, there’s a lot of technology literate but not developer type of users out there like me that want to use your product. And so, getting us kind of, getting us going and making it easy for us is really cool.
Mang: Yeah, thank you. I think the one thing that we’ve found was really important was a lot of the people who have to fill out these forms don’t actually have control over those forms. So, they still need to fill out that form. Like the W-9, for example, that’s a government mandated form. You can’t really get around not filling out that pdf. So, putting it to the pdf is still a valuable part of the process until we modernize the country.
Scott: Yeah. And there’s nothing more depressing, as you said, than having a pdf and not being able to fill it out, and having to print it out, write it in by hand, and then taking a picture of it and sending it to people.
Mang: Exactly.
Scott: I just did a mortgage refinance application thing too, and I had to do a lot of that. And it was depressing. There’s something you said, which I thought was really amazing, which is that, before we turned the mics on, you’re like, “Anvil adapts.” It sounded like that’s kind of like one of your corporate mantras.
Mang: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott: Maybe you could talk a little bit about that.
Mang: So, when we think about Anvil, we really like to think of Anvil as a toolbox or Lego pieces for anybody to modernize and digitize their paperwork process. And so, if you have a paperwork process in place and it’s worked for you for 50 years, let’s say, and it’s worked great, Anvil just adapts to that existing process by digitizing the pieces that makes sense. We’re not prescriptive about how you use Anvil. We don’t say, if it’s an account opening workflow, we don’t say, “We created the best account opening workflow. Take your process today and adapt to our account opening workflow software.” We really are about taking the pieces and reassembling it in a way that makes sense for your business and how you run your company.
Scott: What are the industries that this really works for? Where are you guys having success so far?
Mang: There are a handful of industries, kind of all across the spectrum. But we’re pretty targeted towards banking and financial services institutions today. There’s just a lot of paperwork, a lot of sensitive information. We actually, we’re working with a bank out in Minneapolis for the PPP application and [inaudible] process. That was a crazy time, I would say. We went from first meeting to deployment of our software in six days, and underwritten … We underwrote over 127 million dollars in PPP loan applications.
Scott: Wow, that’s amazing.
Mang: It felt pretty good.
Scott: I was actually telling people around that time, it was probably the most challenging two weeks of my career, in a bad way, in a bad challenge. Because it was like, the world was on fire. It was actually a great program, I think. I think it helped a lot of … Like, I can see, we have 300 clients. So, I can see all the companies it helped. And we were, I think we did … Not all startups did PPP, so we did about 150 applications. But it was like, not only did we have our own company stress and own company issues or planning and things like that, but then we had to help all these other companies, which is our job, and we did it gladly through their stressful process. And the government made this huge mistake by saying, “Hey, the money might run out.”
Mang: Yeah.
Scott: Before everyone gets it, and so people were insane. It was not everyone. Like, 95 percent of our clients were amazing. But there were enough people who were just not really the greatest to work with at that moment. And so, thank you for actually helping to alleviate some of that pressure for that bank. I mean, we worked with a couple, we worked with the big FRB, SVB, the two big banks in Silicon Valley and New York and Santa Monica. But you probably extended some people’s lives in that point of time. The stress was so great that, I wouldn’t be surprised if people weren’t having heart palpitations left and right.
Mang: Well, thank you for that. I will say, it was definitely a group effort. And the bank we worked with, I’ll name them, Sunrise Banks, they’re an amazing bank and actually a B corp out in Minnesota. So, they’re one of the few banks that I would say actually opened the application to people who were not at their own bank.
Scott: Oh, wow.
Mang: And that felt really good, which is, we were actually helping people that would otherwise not have access to the PPP Program.
Scott: Yeah, that’s really amazing. I mean, for those that don’t know, because I was on the front lines of this, there was a bunch of banks that were not SBA verified lenders, basically. And so, they were telling their clients, including some of our clients, that they just weren’t going to do it.
Mang: Yep.
Scott: And then, the banks who were SBA lenders, like Sunrise, it sounds like, were helping as many as possible, but they were flooded from the customer bases of the banks that weren’t going to do it. So, it was just like, real kind of messy swamp there. And so, kudos to them. I wish I would have known about them at the time. Because that would have, I probably live until I’m 80 instead of 75 or something like that now, because that was some tough time. But that’s great. And they probably, because your software, because Anvil went in there, it automated so much of the form filling and the signatures, it probably really helped them scale their process.
Mang: I like to think so. There was a statistic in an article, American Bank article that was written about the process between us and Sunrise, and that the number was before implementing Anvil, so round one, they were doing, I think it was like 45 or something, 80 applications a day. And then after Anvil, it was like 485 applications a day.
Scott: Oh, my God, that’s amazing. Good for you. That’s really cool. Hey, it’s Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. And before we get back to the podcast, quick shout out to ChartHop. ChartHop is one of my favorite new SAS tools on the market. And basically, what ChartHop does, is it puts your org chart in the cloud. And I always like to say, it brings transparency to your organization. And so, everyone in your organization can see who they report to, they can see the full org chart of the company, and how their group relates to other groups. It also has a lot of information on the individuals in the company. And so, you can click on the ChartHop profile and just get where people live, their experience, Slack handles, all this kind of stuff. And it’s just a really great tool. The other thing is ChartHop has started doing some cool stuff around compensation and budgeting planning. And so, you can actually start seeing what the cost structure of the company will look like during certain kind of scenarios. So, I’m loving ChartHop, check it out We use it at Kruze, really like it, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Mang: Yeah, so in building out our workflow automation platform, we’ve created all of these pieces that help manage both information gathering, pdf generation, signature requests. And we’ve opened up those pieces to technology companies so that they can interface with them over API.
Scott: Oh, cool.
Mang: Yeah, and this was actually, it was really interesting. With this not an initial target market of ours, but our friends kept coming to us and asking, “Hey, I need to generate a W-4 for my HR on-boarding tech startup. Can you help me through that?”
Scott: Yeah.
Mang: And we realized we had all the tools, and we had written API’s for ourselves We just had to bundle it up in a nice manner for other people to consume. So now, we have pdf generation API’s, signature API’s, we have workflow API’s if you want to have maybe, like an operations person build workflows, you can then interface with that workflow over API.
Scott: Can you take a second to talk about the signature aspect of that? Because I think that’s pretty … A lot of times, when I end up filling out a pdf, I was actually printing out and signing it. I was able to get all the info in except for the signature stuff. And so, that’s the moment I have to print it out and sign it. How does your signature work? Is it robust? Does it recognize? Is it secure?
Mang: Yeah, absolutely. So, I would say our platform for signatures is extremely robust. We’ve tested it and stress-tested it many times. The way it works is, we actually have a valid and recognize a security certificate. So, when you sign using our Anvil signature platform, and then open that pdf in Adobe or in any other pdf system, you’ll see there’s this signing certificate in there. And it says it’s a valid signature. So, we definitely try to follow all of the rules around implementing eSignature, and then also, went and got the eSignature certificates that make it [crosstalk].
Scott: Awesome, that’s really cool. That’s really great. What have you seen on the accounting firm front? Obviously, I’m kind of surprising you, telling you about my friend.
Mang: Yeah.
Scott: Have you seen some good workflows that Cruise should be adopting with using Anvil?
Mang: Anything that has to do with paperwork.
Scott: We still do … I mean, we’re super digital, but we still do paper …
Mang: Yeah.
Scott: Last night, I was … You know who you need to talk to is LegalZoom. Please get in the, please sell something to … We incorporated LegalZoom like, six years ago. Yeah, six years ago, and probably were too young and naïve, and didn’t know what we were doing. And so last night, I actually found myself scanning a giant corporation important papers book and sending it to our lawyer.
Mang: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott: And so, that’s one. Get in there, please get them on the horn.
Mang: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to get LegalZoom in. Actually, we incorporate using Stripe Atlas.
Scott: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Mang: So, if any listeners out there are plugged into Stripe, please let us know. Because we want to help Stripe generate those incorporation documents. Right now, they provide you a library to fill out. But I think we can do a lot to generate those incorporation documents, make those signatures instant, and hopefully make that process just nicer for everybody.
Scott: I’ll call them. We actually have some, you can probably imagine, we have a lot of clients using Stripe. So, we have some friends over there. So, I can, we’ll take it offline and make a few intros for you. That’s fantastic. Where do you see, what problem are you most excited about in the future to use Anvil to tackle?
Mang: Yeah, this is going to get a little bit meta here, and I apologize.
Scott: No, I’m with you. I like what you’re doing.
Mang: So, when we view paperwork, we really think of it as the old school way of collecting data and interfacing with clients, right? It’s the, before there was a digital online experience, it was pdfs. People come and fill out a form or printed a form. So, we actually view Anvil really as a more of a data collection platform. And right now, today, we’ll generate pdf’s as part of that process, because the world still runs on pdf’s. But going forward, we really want to enable this ability to share data between businesses, between clients and businesses, in order to help and provide a service more efficiently. And the need for the pdf kind of goes away, because the pdf is really just the medium by which you transfer that information.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, that’s almost like, that’s great. That’s almost like a Netflix style pivot or jump. Like, the physical DVD’s were a way for them to get the streaming. And what you’re saying is like, unfortunately, pdf and paper and things like that are still part of our world. But eventually, it’ll all be digital. And you guys will be the glue in between a lot of services collecting that data.
Mang: That’s the hope. We’re happy to fade away into the background, but keep the system running.
Scott: That’s awesome, I love it. I love it. You said you worked at Dialpad, which Dialpad owns UberConference, right?
Mang: Yep, that’s correct.
Scott: We were an UberConference user for a long time. Really liked UberConference. You said it was like pretty smooth sailing. Is there something that you took for granted there that now that you’re running a company, you’re like, “Holy cow, I can’t believe that was that easy, and I can’t believe how spoiled I was working for that smooth ship at Dialpad.”
Mang: Yeah, absolutely. I think in my time at Dialpad, so it was really early. Around, I think I was like the seventh person, somewhere around there. I was just a young software engineer that, they took a chance on me. And I was super lucky to learn how to be a professional software engineer from all of these Google engineers.
Scott: Yeah.
Mang: But I think a couple of things. One, at Dialpad, the engineers really understood engineering process and how to be a good engineer. So, I learned a lot of my engineering chops there. It was really a learning environment. And then also, a lot of startups, you’re always worried about running out of money, or you’re always worried about not having a benefit that you would have at bigger companies. And at Dialpad, I never felt like that because I guess Craig just did such a good job running the company, I never had to worry that my job was on the line, or the company wasn’t going to be there in a year. It just felt like I got all of the benefits of a big company, but all of the ownership that I would have gotten at a smaller company. And it was really empowering.
Scott: That’s a great way of saying, because I know when we hire people at Cruise, we’re 70 people now. But I still remember when we were five people, and 12 people, and 20. And I still think this applies to us. But you’re right, you come in and we’re willing to give you just so much responsibility and so much leeway, and we understand you’re going to be learning. And I’ve worked at places where that was, you know, I’ve been very fortunate in my career. Pretty much everywhere I’ve worked has been like that. But I’ve worked at a big bank after we were acquired, after H&Q was acquired. And it was not the same mentality. And that’s what led me back to the startup world. And it’s really cool that you experienced that, and now can bring that to Anvil, put your own fingerprints on it, but have that same kind of core value of letting people discover who they are and how to be an engineer, and how to build amazing products.
Mang: Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that. I think probably one policy at Dialpad that really exemplified this, and we’ve carried on in Anvil was, very early on, we had the two-day work from home policy. And it was great, because it meant the days that we were in the office, we were all in the office together. And it was extremely efficient to do the planning, to do the meetings. And the other days, you just had heads down time to build and work on what you needed to work on. I think that just gives people the flexibility, but also the ownership and the time to be their own person and work on the things that they need to work on.
Scott: Yeah, I can totally relate to that. We’re a distributed company. So, and we’ve been like that for two years. So, we got kind of lucky doing that before COVID. But accounting is kind of like software, like writing software in that you’re super focused. You’re in the weeds. And so having that time, like you said, for at least a couple of days where you could focus is really, really valuable. And I’m a pretty big fan of that. That’s amazing. Well, you built a really cool company. I’m excited to use you guys in more stuff. And I’ll probably be the annoying guy who emails you and says, like, “How do I do this?” But, we’re an early adopter, so coach me, and I’ll probably coach a lot of people on how to do it.
Mang: We welcome those emails. I think those emails are honestly, a great window into the minds of our users, and helps us build a better product. And so, those are all welcome.
Scott: Yeah, awesome. Well, maybe you could tell everyone just how to find Anvil, how to reach out to you or the company if they’re interested in being a customer, or just learning more?
Mang: Yeah, absolutely. If you’re looking to reach out to Anvil, check us out at That’s U-S-E-A-N-V-I-L. You can also email us at Currently, that email will go out to like, 90 percent of the company, so somebody will see it. I guarantee you that.
Scott: That’s awesome.
Mang: Yeah, and we look forward to hearing from everybody.
Scott: Cool, yeah. And like I said, I was introduced to you by a friend, Jason Statts, who’s a CPA who’s a friend of mine. You’re doing something right when you’re getting in front of those super early adopters. So, congratulations to you. And I’m excited to see where you’re taking Anvil.
Mang: Thank you very much. And it was great being on the show today.
Scott: All right man, I will catch you later. And I really appreciate your time. Thanks.
Singer: So, when your troubles are mounting, and the tax or accounting, you go to Cruise. And Founders and Friends. It’s Cruise Consulting, Founders and Friends, with your host, Scottie Orn

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