XU: Before we talk all things Receipt Bank, how did your journey lead you here?
AB: I love using technology to improve how people do things. And I love working for companies that are the best at what they do.
I started my career in consulting then joined Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com) right in the middle of dot-com bubble. At the time it was the leading search engine in the UK. Fast forward a year and Google overtook us. I quickly realised that was where I should be. I moved to Silicon Valley and worked with them for the next six years.
Then a friend of mine joined Spotify. As a passionate musician I was intrigued. From Google I appreciated the difference between downloading music and streaming it. Essentially, one was based on desktop and the other on cloud. I joined Spotify and a year later got the call from Just Eat. It was bizarre to leave the glamorous world of Spotify and celebrities to essentially help sell kebabs.
Just Eat was all about digitising an old-school industry where we still ordered takeaways on the phone from flyers stuck to the fridge. I joined as COO and took it through many stages of growth from a start-up to a FTSE 100 company over seven years. When I joined in 2011, it was generating £25 million in annual revenue. In 2019 that’s now a billion.
Nowadays there aren’t many industries where things are still manual. But in accounting, many small business owners are still walking into their accountants’ office with a shoebox of receipts. It’s like having a pile of paper menus in the kitchen drawer. Like Spotify and Just Eat, Receipt Bank is the best solution to this problem. And a similar opportunity of global growth is clearly ahead of us.
XU: Has anything surprised you about Receipt Bank since you joined?
AB: The biggest surprise has been how personal the feedback we get from partners is. I expected them to say ‘Thank you for saving me time’ or ‘It’s a great productivity solution’. Instead, it’s ‘One of the best things I’ve ever done in my business’, ‘This app has transformed my life’ or even ‘My life’s now complete since I got Receipt Bank’.
The level of love out there for our product is incredible. It’s a tribute to what our remarkable team and community have achieved over the years, and a reflection of a company that cares about the details.
XU: From your experience working in rapidly evolving industries, what advice would you give to accountants today?
AB: Keep a positive and proactive attitude to the future. It’s about thinking about what technology can do to make life easier for you, your team and clients. Rather than fearing technological change, embrace it and help others benefit from it. That’s what Just Eat, Google and Spotify had in common: a fundamental optimism. It’s an evolution rather than revolution, so change takes baby steps rather than leaps.
XU: What’s been the proudest moment of your career so far?
AB: There have been many. If I picked just one it would be the Just Eat IPO in 2014. It was a public recognition of the value we’d built and the many, many challenges we’d overcome over the years. We’d built a company that investors had valued at £1.5 billion. That moment was a great sense of achievement and pride in what we as a team had built.
XU: Who’s been your biggest inspiration to help lead you to this point in your career?
AB: In business terms, it would be the founders of Google: Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They always put the customer first and thought incredibly long-term about the business. Doing that consistently is really, really hard. They built a company with a distinctive culture and didn’t follow any precedent or textbook. They designed it from their own principles.
XU: Have you set yourself any personal goals on what you want to achieve?
AB: For me, the hardest thing is getting the balance right between my job, which I love, and my family, who I love even more. I have a wife and three young children and the balance is never straightforward.
My goal is to compartmentalise more: to be fully at work without worrying about home and, when at home, not check my phone or worry about work. It’s much easier said than done but that’s what’s what I aspire to. It’s also something that ties into our mission at Receipt Bank.
XU: What’s next for Receipt Bank?
AB: We want to build something that lasts and deliver even more to our partners. Our focus has always been around saving more time. Time is the most precious thing there is. Money’s important yet you can always make more of it. But when it comes to time – nobody can make more of it.
Today our product does a fantastic job of it. Yet there’s so much more we can do to save more time tomorrow. Our focus will certainly be on ease of use and the power of our integrations. We can’t do everything ourselves; if I played “Imagine” on piano, you’d still want to listen to John Lennon.
That’s why we’re lucky to be a part of the Xero Ecosystem and work with specialists who are incredibly good at what they do.
XU: And finally, what does success mean to you?
AB: Success for me is doing what you love, to the best of your ability. Currently, we save a lot of people a lot of time. We have a quarter of a million small businesses using Receipt Bank. For me success means helping many more.