Accounting 101 Tips for Startups

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Accounting for Startups

First Why Does Good Accounting for Startups Matter?

Why should you bother with all the work good accounting will entail? For high-growth startups, especially ones that expect to raise venture capital, management needs access to high quality financial statements. Not only are these necessary for running a highly functioning business, but companies that have a good accounting system, process and data de-risk VC due diligence (and improve the odds of surviving an audit by the IRS).

Now you can either do your own accounting, or you can bring in an outsourced startup CPA accounting firm to help you out and take this burden of bookkeeping off your shoulders.

We typically recommend that bootstrapped companies, or ones that have raised less than a quarter of a million dollars in funding, DIY their basic financial work until it becomes too burdensome for the founder to handle. Of course, having the right systems set up can dramatically lower the amount of effort required; we’ll get to those systems in a moment.

If you decide that you don’t have time for the minutiae of doing your own accounting, and know that you should focus your efforts on what matters — strategy, growth and, scaling — Kruze Consulting and our team of financial experts are here to help you every step of the way. Just leave your bookkeeping to us.

However, if you want to take a stab at your accounting, here are a few startup accounting tips that you can follow. We’ve got you covered; we’ve included everything from why and how to budget, to free financial model templates, to recordkeeping, to taxes and more … We like to call it accounting 101 for startups.

Accounting for startups - All you need to know

Why Budget?

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Budgeting is the first step in accounting.

Budgeting is the first step in accounting.

Budgeting will help you:

  • Plan your cash flows and cash out date against the progress and goals you need to achieve
  • Bring real accountability and scrutiny to your organization
  • Measure how you’re really doing vs. expectations
  • Ensure you’re hiring correctly

How To Budget?

Budgeting Tips

Here are a few basic startup budgeting tips for you as you're building a budget for your startup:

  • Headcount is going to be your primary expense in most cases, so this is the place to focus the most. Understanding why your different team members get hired, and how they help you get to the next milestone, is very important.
  • You should have a really strong opinion on the amount of revenue and the amount of cash burn that you'll have in the coming years. Don’t ask your department heads what they want to spend - tell them how much is available and ask them to work within the constraints.
  • Match the amount of cash you need with the size opportunity of the company that you're trying to build. If you are building a company with modest potential, don’t burn millions of dollars!

Financial Models

Here are a few basic startup budgeting tips for you as you're building a budget for your startup:

  • Financial models are typically spreadsheets that will help you create projections for your early-stage company. They also provide the information you need to your 409A valuation firm, help you think through your cash burn and, more. The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can use a simple template. We have created several financial models that you can use for free.
  • Simply click on the financial model below that you want to download to get started - they are free! And if you need help with your modeling project, reach out to us at Kruze Consulting and we’ll see if it makes sense to work with us on a consulting project.
  • You can also find helpful modeling tips, how-to instructions and videos here.

Budget Vs Actuals

Here are a few basic startup budgeting tips for you as you're building a budget for your startup:

We recommend doing budget versus actuals. This is when you take your financial model or projections and compare them every month to your actual results. For example, you compare your accounting numbers versus your projection numbers. The reason why this is so powerful is it brings a lot of scrutiny and discipline to the company. It ensures financial health. Especially as a founder, you need to know what your expectations are and how you’re doing against your expectations.

Recordkeeping

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Recordkeeping

Accurate recordkeeping - known as "bookkeeping"" in the accounting world, is important to ensure you are keeping track of how the company is growing revenue and spending it’s cash. It will be very important if a major corporation asks to acquire you for hundreds of millions of dollars, or if you are raising outside funding from a professional investor.

In the technology and biotech industries, early-stage companies that are playing for the big outcomes need to use GAAP accounting. Many inexpensive, non-CPA bookkeepers will simply do cash based accounting - which is likely fine for a small coffee shop or ad agency. But that’s not what the tech industry expects if you are “going big.”

What is GAAP Financials & Does Your Startup Need Them?

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles; it’s the accounting “playbook” in the US that ensures that we’re all applying the same thought process.

Do you need GAAP? Yes, venture-backed high-growth businesses should have as close to GAAP financials as possible.

GAAP is better for running your business, as it helps you match your expenses and revenues with the timing of those activities. It also makes forecasting and trend analysis easier. Finally, and very importantly for early-stage, VC-backed companies is that acquirers and investors will want to see GAAP financials. GAAP will make your due diligence process much easier, and reduce the chances that your exit or investment falls apart from financial statement issues.

Which Financial Statements Do You Need?

All startup projections should have an income statement and a running cash balance. You can also have the three, traditional financial statements in your model if you’d like; those are:

  • Income statement
  • Balance sheet
  • Cash flow statement

Having all three does increase the complexity of your projection work - remember, the balance sheet should balance, the cash flow’s ending cash amount should equal the cash position on the balance sheet, and the cash flow statement and the income statement are intricately linked! So we don’t recommend that level of complexity for your seed stage model - just the IS and the cash position (maybe working capital or inventory).

Key Financial Metrics That Matter

There are a few important metrics that entrepreneurs should know about accounting for early-stage businesses.

Burn Rate and Cash-Out Date
Deferred Revenue
Accounts Receivable
Accounts Payable

Burn Rate and Cash-Out Date

The burn rate is how much money you are spending every month. The cash-out date is the estimated date you’ll be in business until given your monthly spend and the remainder of the investment you have sitting in your bank account.

Deferred Revenue

Are your customers paying you ahead of time? Deferred Revenue is when a client pays you ahead of you delivering a service. For example, if you charge a client’s credit card for a 12-month subscription, contracts - you just got 12 months of cash from that client! But you owe them the subscription, so Deferred Revenue gets added to your balance sheet as a liability. The offset to this on your balance sheet is cash - so you’ll have more cash flow than your income statement would “predict.” Not a bad problem to have… Watch our deferred revenue video here.

Accounts Receivable

Accounts receivable (AR) refers to the amount that your customers owe to you for the goods or services sold to them on credit. This lives on your balance sheet under liability because you haven’t yet received the cash for the item or service provided.

Accounts Payable

Accounts payable (AP) is the money your business owes to its vendors for providing goods or services to you on credit. These are bills that you haven’t yet paid. Different vendors have different payment terms, so you should use this to your advantage. But remember, in accrual accounting, if you use a service/get invoiced by a vendor, you’ll see it on your income statement even if you haven’t paid them yet - thus, making your operating loss different from your cash burn.

Get an Accounting System

We recommend QuickBooks Online (“QBO”) as the right bookkeeping software for startups and high-growth small businesses. It’s the leading small business accounting software in the US for small businesses, and interfaces nicely with other automated systems like payroll.

How Does Good Accounting Help You Prepare for Due Diligence?

Kruze Consulting clients have raised over $5.5 billion in venture capital funding, and on average one of our clients is acquired a month. We know how quickly investments and acquisitions can come together, and recommend that companies are ready for due diligence ahead of time. Startups with VC funding must have good startup accounting processes and systems to regularly report on the company’s financial position

We’ve put together the ultimate finance and HR due diligence checklist for startups. Read our downloadable VC checklist here.

Reminder That VCs & M&A Acquirers Want GAAP

VCs and Angels do want to be assured that their financials are presented in compliance with GAAP. So, again, you must have as close to GAAP financials as possible.

If you are going to be acquired by a publicly-traded company for hundreds of millions or billions, GAAP will be important. It is what M&A acquirers want. It also makes running your business a lot easier because you are going to see what is going on all the time.

How Does Good Accounting Help You Get Ready For Tax Season?

Tax season, two dreaded words for anyone, nevermind for a founder. You already have so much on your plate. It can be stressful. It can be a lot of work. However, if you are organized from the start, know what documents to have and keep good records, it may not be that bad. You could always hand it off to the professional certified public accountants (CPAs) if you just don’t want to deal with it.

Even unprofitable startups must file annual federal and state taxes every year.

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Get Ready For Tax Season

What Documents Do You Need To Complete Your Startup’s Tax Return?

You will need the following documents to complete your tax return:

  • EIN Letter from the IRS (this is the Employer Identification Number letter that the IRS created for you when you requested your EIN for your company.)
  • Vital Business Statistics
    • Business Address
    • Shareholder SSN/Address info
  • Prior Year Tax Returns (Federal and States)
  • Local Tax Returns (if any)
  • Financials
    • Full-year Balance Sheet
    • Profit & Loss Statement
    • General Ledger
  • Capitalization Table

Our web application makes it easy for you to share these files with us; simply login and upload the documents as you go through our tax software onboarding flow.

We’ve put together a calculator to help you estimate the cost of preparing your business’ tax return. Remember, your early-stage company is unique and this tool is intended to be a guide. You can always contact us for a free consultation. Let the professional certified public accountants do the heavy lifting for you.

Know Your Tax Credits

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Budgeting is the first step in accounting.

Do you know that you could potentially save up to $250,000 per year on your payroll taxes?

Yes, up to $250k! Payroll taxes are taxes that ALL companies with payroll pay - even money losing, early-stage companies. This is a massive tax credit that your company should take advantage of.

What is the Research and Development Tax Credit?

The research and development, or R&D tax credit, is a US government-sponsored tax incentive that rewards companies for conducting research and development activities within the United States. Even unprofitable technology companies can use this incentive to reduce their burn rate. Kruze has helped clients reduce their burn rates by over $10 million through our work on this government incentive program.

We'll explain how this program works, and how your startup can offset your expenses up to $250,000 a year. Visit our R&D Tax Credit Calculator to estimate how much your company can save. And if you are interested, contact us now to see how we can help your early-stage business!

When To Outsource Your Accounting

Outsource Your Accounting

Outsource Your Accounting

Handling your company’s accounting is a very important duty and a full-time responsibility. It is critical for your startup’s financial health and ultimate success. As mentioned before, as a startup founder, you may not have the time or knowledge to handle it properly. Many founders decide to hand-off the startup accounting responsibility to the CPA accounting experts. If you are looking for a startup accountant, here’s what to keep in mind:

What to Look for in a Good Accountant for a Startup

Startups need more than a robot to reconcile the accounts, they need a trusted advisor who is in tune with their unique growth path. When choosing a startup accountant, keep this in mind:

Speed
Accuracy
Reliability
Expert Advice
Low Time Commitment

SPEED

We know that as an early-stage business founder, you are busy. You need to get the information you need to make decisions and to ensure the utmost of financial health. Kruze's team of professional bookkeepers will work with you to find the financial delivery date that meets your needs.

ACCURACY

Early-stage companies raising venture capital require professional, accurate books and specialized financial advice. Because Kruze Consulting only works with funded startups, we understand the nuances required to get the numbers right and know what advice you and your investors need. And because we are one of the leaders in accounting automation, we've seen the mistakes the automated systems make. We are different “from the other guy” in that we go beyond automation and also provide you with white-glove service as well. If you are aiming for your early-stage company to become a unicorn, you need accurate books!

RELIABILITY

Startup CEOs and founders don't have time to proof their books, nor should they have to. This tedious job should be left up to the experts. Our CPA team is meticulous. You can rest easy knowing that it will be done right. We are familiar with early-stage companies' business models, we understand the complexities (and importance) of issues like revenue recognition, ARR, capitalized vs. non-capitalized development costs and, more.

EXPERT ADVICE

Our team loves working with startup companies, not only that, but Kruze cares more! We've got the experience to help you make critical financial decisions. We have former VCs on staff to help prepare you for your next funding round, and former IRS agents on hand to assist you as you think through the tax ramifications of selling your company. And our advice can grow with your company, from simple startup CPA accounting to part-time CFOs.

LOW TIME COMMITMENT

CEOs of early-stage companies have a tremendous number of things to accomplish. You juggle many hats and managing the books shouldn't be one of them! Kruze's CPA accounting team strives to handle all the minutia so you can focus on what matters when growing your business like, strategy, networking, achieving product-market fit, advancing your R&D, hiring, etc.

PRICE

When making a decision to go with a vendor or service partner, fitting into your budget matters. Kruze Consulting offers a variety of pricing plans to help early-stage companies afford accurate startup accounting services. Check out our pricing page to learn more.

How Good Accounting Pays for Itself

Founders who try to skimp on accounting can find that poorly kept books can end up being super-costly for several reasons. Here are some of the reasons why good startup accounting matters to early-stage companies:

  • Know where you are spending your money so you can manage costs, control your burn and look good to investors
  • Good books mean you can move fast during VC and M&A due diligence - and being able to share your financials quickly with strategic partners inspires confidence
  • A good certified public accountant (CPA) helps you make sure you’re collecting your revenue and not over-paying vendors, reducing your burn rate
  • Solid recordkeeping means you can cut your burn by capturing an R&D tax credit - this could save your startup up to $250,000 a year

Kruze Cares More!
Ready to Work With The Best Accountant?

Work With The Best Accountant

Work With The Best Accountant

How Are We Different?

We know you are busy. So, we have developed highly automated systems that we use to quickly get the job done for you. However, we don’t just stop there. We go above and beyond automation and always have a team of certified public accountants (CPA) experts ready to provide you with white-glove service. This is the Kruze way!

Don’t take our word for it. Check out our client reviews and testimonials.

The Best Funded Startups Trust Kruze

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$5.5B+ in Funding

Our clients have secured over five billion dollars in seed and venture funding; close to a billion in the past year alone. Top tier VCs trust our clients’ books, and Kruze knows how to prepare startups’ financials for VC due diligence. Our clients know that they’ll be ready for their next round.

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Successful Exits Every Month

On average, one to two of our clients are acquired every month. Our team has experience producing accounting and tax due diligence requests for the biggest public companies. Every month we help founders navigate the most important transaction of their life.

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$8 million in Cash Burn Saved

Right now, our clients are saving almost $8 million in cash expenses from our R&D tax credit work. Our startup tax experts know how to help startups navigate taxes to reduce their burn. Hundreds of funded startups trust Kruze to deliver the right advice, on time, at a reasonable price.

Contact us today for a free consultation!

Startup Accounting

Bookkeeping for Startups

Startup Bookkeeping

Kruze is a leader in bookkeeping services for startups

VC Due Diligence Preparation

VC Due Diligence Preparation

We get your startup ready for the VC process

Startup Financial Models

Financial Modeling

Projections, budgets and FP&A help for seed venture funded companies

Startup CFO

Part Time CFOs

Outsourced CFOs to help manage your growing startup

Industry Specialization

Industry Specialization

Industry specific expertise in bookkeeping, tax, FP&A and beyond

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